Precise Germans go British

Postbank branch in Frankfurt

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”

Six things I am beginning to love about Frankfurt

Skyline of Frankfurt (Foto: Haiko Hebig)

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.

The next step was pretty straightforward: We tried the Waitrose delivery service and later Ocado. Getting a delivery slot on short notice seemed to be easier with the latter. And from that time we were very happy online shoppers. Continue reading “Six things I am beginning to love about Frankfurt”

10 things I already miss about London

finsbury park2
Me and my Brompton in Finsbury Park

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”

Getting on the Frankfurt property ladder

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.

Our Frankfurt fact finding mission in May 2017

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”