Frankfurt (Frankfurt am Main) is a large metropolis in the Western part of Germany. Cost of living in Frankfurt is high as compared to other German cities. Despite being a European hub and an economic powerhouse, it is not the capital of its state (Hesse). Frankfurt is a very liveable city, even if has a strong focus on finance, and fewer options of entertainment or academic studies.
There is absolutely no doubt that the top industry of Frankfurt is the finance industry. It is the headquarters for many national and international public banking institutions, including the European Central Bank.
Many private German banks also have their headquarters in Frankfurt, the same can be said by international banks which have European headquarters in Germany.
The second strong economic engine of Frankfurt is logistics, especially due to the Frankfurt Airport. The airport is the biggest in Europe in terms of cargo traffic and also one of the biggest in terms of passenger traffic.
Despite not being the most expensive city in Germany, Frankfurt has a high cost of living. Housing is rather expensive, but Munich in Bavaria, for example, is considerably more expensive.
Let’s check some data for the cost of living in Frankfurt, Germany below:
Cost of Living for Students in Frankfurt, Germany
Despite having an extremely high cost of living in general, being a student in Germany has huge advantages. Firstly, in many cases, you are not required to pay for tuition fees in many German higher education institutions. This fact alone makes of Germany far more attractive than the UK in terms of cost of living. Secondly, it is possible to get a resident permit for up to 18 months following the end of your education, and you can search for jobs during this period.
Germany has by far some of the most relaxed policies for foreign students in the world. Even if Frankfurt is not considered as a student city like Berlin, Aachen or Cologne, it is still possible to find many opportunities for foreign students in the city.
Here are some of the main higher education institutions in Frankfurt:
Getting a Job in Frankfurt
Due to its financial role in Europe and global markets, Frankfurt has some of the best employment possibilities in Germany, if not in Europe. Most of these jobs are available for high-skilled professionals, in banking, IT and other finance-related fields.
Wages in Frankfurt are high, as so is the population purchasing power.
Here are some websites for job hunting in Frankfurt:
Quality of Life in Frankfurt
Like most cities in Germany, Frankfurt enjoys good standards of living. However, the city may lack entertainment opportunities, depending on your taste. Crime can also be a problem in Frankfurt, and the city is one of the least safes in the country.
Transportation in Frankfurt is one of the best in the world, and there is no need to own a car (unless you want to). The city has an excellent urban public transport infrastructure. You will also benefit from the German railway network. Finally, with Frankfurt Airport you can directly to most of the biggest cities in the world.
English is widely spoken in Frankfurt. Due to its international business vocation, the level of English in Frankfurt is above the average for Germany.
Frankfurt, located in South West Germany and sitting on the Main river, is only the 5th largest city in Germany. But don’t be fooled by its size: the metropolis, also known as Mainhattan, is one of the most important economic centers of the world.
Frankfurt has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Germany and attracts thousands of expats every year. So let’s take a look at what life in the financial capital of Europe is really like – based on the views of an expat who actually lives there: me.
Pro: multicultural town
In Frankfurt, you are more likely to hear English, Spanish, Hindi, or Turkish than German. Roughly 30% of inhabitants have a foreign citizenship. Making international friends and getting to know other ways of living is easier here than anywhere else in Germany. Besides, with around 180 different nationalities represented in Frankfurt, you are sure to find someone who shares your culture and/or language.
Con: inequality is the order of the day
Frankfurt is the second richest city in Germany, but the uncomfortable truth is that disparity between haves and have-nots in Germany have risen sharply since the 2008 financial crisis. Frankfurt is quite rich and not too big, so here the so-called “hidden” gap between rich and poor is especially visible.
The most obvious example is Frankfurt’s Bahnhofsviertel (area around the train station), just a 5-minute walk from the heart of the financial district. In the past, the city’s red light district was an area to be avoided due to sex shops, bordellos, crime, and drugs. In the last few years, the area has been rapidly gentrifying with Instagram-able locations, fashionable clubs, and top-notch restaurants.
Despite the übercool gin & tonic-bars, some corners of the Bahnhofsviertel still show a sharp contrast between bankers in suits, hipsters, homeless people and drug dealers – painting a highly-shocking, but also a representative picture of inequality.
Pro: in the center of Europe
If you live in Frankfurt, all major German cities can be reached within a 4 to 6-hour window. Large European cities like Amsterdam, Paris, Luxembourg City, Bern, or Brussels are less than 5 hours away.
Additionally, the airport in Frankfurt is Germany’s largest commercial airport and a renowned international air hub. It serves almost 300 destinations with direct flights, making it the leader in that category.
Con: housing and a high cost of living
The Hessian metropolis suffers a demand for affordable housing that far surpasses the available supply. The consequence? Housing prices are going nowhere but up (+17,1% between 2011 and 2016) and Frankfurt is now the second most expensive German city to rent an apartment in.
For this reason, the rental market in Frankfurt can be incredibly competitive. Be prepared to wait in a queue of dozens of people at open-house viewings. Fortunately, most employers offer expats professional assistance in finding suitable accommodation.
The cherry on top? Rented housing in Germany usually comes without furniture. There is roughly a fifty-fifty chance that the kitchen – abbreviated as EBK in most listings – is included. The good news is that the second-hand market in Germany is growing rapidly and the consumption of used-goods has already become a lifestyle choice for many locals.
So if you’re moving to Frankfurt and are looking for affordable furniture to fill an apartment short-term, it’s worth shopping around the local flea markets or checking the most popular second-hand classifieds sites.
Pro: not just another cider
Your life as an expat in Frankfurt is not complete until you have enjoyed a glass of traditional Apfelwein (Apple wine) in a Kneipe (bar) in the historic district of Sachsenhausen. Apfelwein is Frankfurt’s signature drink par excellence.
In summer, most people enjoy a refreshing glass – mixed with sparkling water (Apfelwein-Schorle) or served hot along with various mulling spices, such as cinnamon or anise (Apfelglüwein).
Con: no one likes payday surprises
Salaries in Frankfurt are considerably higher than the German average. For this reason, many expats can barely hide their excitement when they land a job here and get to know how high their gross salary will be.
Unfortunately, their enthusiasm lasts exactly one month, until their very first paycheck arrives – accompanied by a nasty surprise.
In Germany, income tax is progressive, starting at 14% and rising incrementally to 45% for very high incomes. In addition, everyone has to pay a solidarity tax. Furthermore, if you are a member of a church, you will also have to pay tax. Finally, the costs for compulsory social insurance will also be automatically deducted from your salary.