It’s a fun place to visit, it’s fantastic and magical. Those were some of the compliments for a big wooden tower in the southern part of Frankfurt, close to where we live. The iconic tower was named after the writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe since it was dedicated to the public in 1931 – shortly before the centenary of Goethe’s death. Unfortunately the tower burned down a few weeks ago and we had not visited it beforehand. The firemen had no choice but let it burn. The cause for the fire was probably arson.
And now the good news: The Goethe Tower will be rebuilt and it will be made out of wood again. I could not believe this when I heard this recently. Why on earth would somebody want to rebuild a wooden tower exactly the way it was and make it again so easily flammable? But that’s what according to a survey 78 percent of the people in Frankfurt want. And that’s what the politicians in Frankfurt approve of as well.
In early October, I told the story how fiendishly difficult it was to tell Postbank about our move from London to Frankfurt and update the address. After several attempts and branch visits, I though the issues were finally sorted. Little did I know.
A few days after a joint foray to a branch with my husband, we received a letter from the Postbank customer service in Hamburg. They asked us sign yet another form to get the address finally changed. Since it was a joint account they needed the signature of the two of us.
That struck us as odd. Why had none of the people serving us in the branch told us so? Had they not been aware of the fact that signatures of every party were needed when updating the address of a joint account? Anyway, we signed the form, posted it to Hamburg with gritted teeth and seriously considered leaving Postbank for good. But as we had already invested so much time in the Postbank experience, we wanted the reward.
The German financial hub it tiny relative to London and lacks the city’s cultural buzz. Yet mounting evidence suggests that it will still turn into one of the biggest beneficiaries of Brexit. Much to the chagrin of its ordinary citizens, and of some anglo-saxon bankers already enjoying Frankfurt’s high quality of living.
Believe it or not, but there are anglo-saxon bankers who are deeply in love with Frankfurt. I met one a few days ago, and he was raving about my the town I have been living in since early September.
In London I only heard mockery and scorn. Frankfurt was tarred as too boring, sleepy, completely unglamorous. Nowhere could match London’s unique financial centre, many argued. Why would you want to leave London and live there, they asked? Since the city is more than ten times smaller than London, doesn’t it feel like being sent off to a desert outpost?
The other day, I came across a British banker making a slightly different point. “Frankfurt is like a small jewel,” he told me. “I never want to work anywhere else.”
Germans have a passion for precision. I don’t know how often I have heard that cliché during my eight years living in London. And I have to admit I did miss a bit of German precision when dealing with mechanics and handymen. That was particularly the case with regard to the first flat we were renting in Islington, which suffered from a rain water problem. The balcony’s drain was located at the highest point. Fortunately it rarely rains in London, but when it did, gravity took its toll and the rain water dripped into our bedroom underneath the balcony. A fair number of “engineers” tried to fix the issue in the year we were living there. Each and everyone failed.
After my first full month back in Germany, I am getting the feeling some Germans are going English precision-wise. One example is the German Post Office and its retail bank, the Postbank, which these days is owned by Deutsche Bank, the country’s biggest lender. We’ve had an online account with the Postbank for donkey’s years and needed to update our new address in Frankfurt. Unfortunately you cannot do that online, so I tried to do it in person. Continue reading “Precise Germans go British”
My second week in Frankfurt after eight years in London is almost over. And guess what, the two of us, the city and I, begin to become fond of each other. And there are already six reasons for this. I am sure more will follow.
1. Supermarkets and their opening hours
It took us a while to get used to it, but in London we did 90 percent of our grocery shopping online. When we first heard of online supermarkets, we were rather sceptical. Why on earth would we need this? There were supermarkets close to our offices and on the way home. But grocery shopping, especially buying heavy stuff such as water, other drinks and cans, gradually became a nuisance. We did not own a car and had to haul everything home on the bike.
It’s less than a week ago that I left London, where I lived for the past eight years, and moved to Frankfurt. The final cardboard boxes are just emptied, but I’m already starting to miss the big smoke. Or at least certain parts of living there.
1. The London way of cycling
It sounds strange to write this. When I moved to London in 2009, I was full of praise for the German cycling culture. Here, cycling is much more part of everyday life rather than a sporting activity where you dress for. However, back in Germany, I do actually miss the London way of cycling. It’s more purposeful, maybe a tad agreessive and certainly speedy. Sometimes too speedy.
While there are more cycling lanes in Frankfurt than in London, they are usually rather narrow, and often nothing more than a line on the pavement. People often are cycling next to each other, often almost in walking speed and frequently on the wrong side of the road. Sometimes people are pushing buggies on the cycle lanes, walk in them, and motorists love to use them as handy parking space for their car.
Another big problem is that – unlike in Britain – cyclists are legally required to use properly signposted bike lanes. While the police usually doesn’t care if you don’t, motorists expect it and often honk at you if you’re riding on the road.
In London I was one of the rather slow cyclist. I did not want to hurry on my way to the office to avoid sweating too much since I was cycling in my regular clothes. Here I am constantly cursing about the cyclists in front of me slowing me down and rambling along without being aware of anybody behind them who might be looking for an opportunity to pass.
2. Sorry – what a hard word to say
Yes, Brits use the word “sorry” way too often, and rather mindlessly. After eight years in Blighty I know pretty much when they they really mean: not a lot. However, it’s still nice to hear it, and helps to take the edge of everyday life. Not so in Germany. Continue reading “10 things I already miss about London”
Making the first first step on the Frankfurt property ladder took us – a mere weekend. We arranged ten viewings for two days, and number nine has become our new home: in Frankfurt Sachsenhausen, the ground zero of apple wine south of the river.
The battle plan for buying a flat wasn’t rocket science. I had started to scan the property portals quite regularly a couple of months earlier and concentrated just a few parts of Frankfurt: the Nordend and surroundings as well as Sachsenhausen. My husband and I had lived in the Nordend more than 20 years ago during an internship in Frankfurt, and we loved it. And several Frankfurt-based colleagues of mine recommended Sachsenhausen strongly. (Make sure to restrict the search on the northern bit north of the railway tracks – everything south is suffering badly from noise pollution from the airport!)
We were looking for flats in old buildings with high ceilings, double doors, wood floors and a balcony or garden – in something what is called an Altbau. We were willing to compromise on the part of town if we found the Altbau flat of our dreams. And we also included one newly built flat because we fell for the area. It was built in a backyard in a street which was lined with lovely Altbau houses in Rödelheim. Continue reading “Getting on the Frankfurt property ladder”