Event at the Social Media Week Hamburg 2016

On 26th February 2016, I’ll be talking about my blog at the Social Media Week Hamburg. I’ll simply be talking about the project, and what I’ve learned so far. It’s at 3pm in the Markthalle – full information and registration on the event page over on the Social Media Week website.

While you’re there, have a look at some of the other events on the schedule. All of the events are free, but some of them get booked out so it’s not a bad idea to get in there early.

I hope to see you there!

Mahmoud Aldaas from Damascus

Mahmoud Aldaas, a web developer from Damascus, arrived in Hamburg in October 2014. Neither quick nor easy, his journey took in Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Hungary and Austria with several months waiting in some countries. He and a friend eventually arrived in Bremen, before presenting themselves to police and being allocated to Hamburg.

Even then he wasn’t sure about his status: for almost a year, Mahmoud was waiting to find out whether he would be returned to Hungary.

Mahmoud has since been able to settle in a little bit more, although he is still waiting for a decision on his asylum claim and work permit. I spoke to him about how he’s managing to contribute his skills and expertise in difficult circumstances, how he arrived, and of course: why Hamburg? If you want to listen to the full interview, subscribe to the podcast.

Continue reading “Mahmoud Aldaas from Damascus”

Episode 4: Mahmoud Aldaas from Damascus

Welcome to the 4th episode of the “Why Hamburg?” podcast. After speaking briefly about all the news of any relevance to international people I could find, we swiftly move on to talk about how and why Mahmoud Aldaas ended up in Hamburg. We spoke a lot about his work at DeepBlue Networks, where he has just finished his orientational internship and will start work as soon as his work permit comes through. We spoke a little bit about the process for getting a work permit, so that may be of use to other people.

(Note: this is a slightly edited version. In the previous version I got Brigitte Magazine mixed up with Emma Magazine. Doh!)

Episode 3: Talking to Ryan Scharfer about the Olympic referendum and why he came to Hamburg

Ryan Scharfer came from Chicago to Germany in 2009. Originally he only planned to stay for a year but returned in 2011. I spoke to him about why he came to Hamburg, but also about the big topic everyone in Hamburg is talking about: the referendum on Hamburg’s Olympic bid.

India Week – talking to Anita Shukla

When I first started this blog, the plan was to do interviews just with non-German people, asking them why they came to Hamburg. Well not for the first time, I have decided to interview somebody from Germany: Anita Shukla.

This is because Anita Shukla is able to give a unique perspective from her own experience working with internationals, in particular Indians. And with India Week coming up (block your diary from 2nd to 8th November by the way), what better time to take a look at Hamburg’s ties to India?

What is it about India that makes it such a sought-after trading partner? Anita Shukla told me a bit about India, herself, and Hamburg’s relations with India.

Continue reading “India Week – talking to Anita Shukla”

Who’s allowed to vote in Hamburg’s upcoming Olympic referendum?

I was doing a bit of research for the latest episode of the “Why Hamburg?” podcast and wondered whether the referendum on 29th November regarding Hamburg’s Olympic bid would be open to everyone. And by everyone, I mean people like us – many of whom don’t have German citizenship.

There are plenty of (German-language) articles about the referendum, but it was quite difficult to find anything regarding who is allowed to vote and, specifically, whether non-German citizens are included.

The short answer: unless you have German citizenship, no you aren’t

You got it: you can be as Feuer und Flamme as you like – either for or against – but you won’t be able to have a say as to whether your money should be spent on the Olympics. It is stated quite clearly in the PDF announcement on the Hamburg website. Unless you’re German, not a sniff. To add insult to injury, the announcement is dated 2nd October, my birthday!


Why would our adoptive home city treat us like this? Well the reason is that the voting procedure that applies to the Bürgerschaftswahlen also applies to the newly introduced referendum. I suppose it is logical that only the same electorate that puts the decision-makers in power can overrule them.

In most cities, EU citizens are allowed to vote in city level elections, but not Bundesland, i.e. federal state, level – and of course general elections are taboo too. In places where the city and state administration are one and the same, EU citizens are deprived of any influence at city level whatsoever. And that is the case in Hamburg. So because the electoral law for the city/state legislature applies, we are excluded.

It’s still a scandal though

I can understand that we are not allowed to vote in general elections without being German citizens. But it is very disappointing that, for such an international event with all the supposed promise of internationalising Hamburg further, it is precisely international Hamburgians who are not allowed to have our say.

This is clearly an issue that affects us and our city – if it were a national issue, then all Germans wherever they are in the world should be asked.

The referendum as an instrument was only introduced in June and as such, it was clearly specifically brought about with the Olympic referendum in mind. So while they were changing the constitution, they could easily have made it possible for international people (not just EU citizens in my view) to take part.

I think those of us who are now aggrieved by this missed a trick – and perhaps it shows that we should have our ear more to the ground in future to pick up political issues that are relevant to the international community before it’s too late.

Podcast episode 2 – with guest Irene Broer from Gute Leute Magazine

Wahey! The second edition of the new podcast.

Today, Alex Ahom (Shhared founder) and I spoke to Irene Broer. Irene is from the Netherlands and has been living in Hamburg for two years. In the podcast she tells us about why she came to Hamburg, and about the upcoming Gute Leute Magazine – Hamburg’s first English language print magazine – that she and Sabela Garcia are publishing at the end of November.

We also talked about the Olympics, including the – OUTRAGEOUS – fact that Hamburgians (or Hamburgites, or Hamburgees) who are non-German are not allowed to vote in the upcoming referendum. And then some other bits of news.

The podcast, as ever, was recorded using Google Hangouts on Air and the audio was then uploaded here as a podcast.

How to subscribe / listen on your phone

You can subscribe to the podcast by searching on iTunes (i.e. in iTunes on your Mac/PC or the Podcast app on iOS) or adding this link directly to your favourite podcasting app: feeds.feedburner.com/WhyHamburgPodcast

“Why Hamburg?” podcast in English

This is the maiden episode of the “Why Hamburg?” podcast. Alex Ahom and I were sat at Shhared and I asked him whether he would be interested in taking part … and he said “yes” – which he had to really, considering he’d just written an article about the power of “yes”.

So within about an hour, we got started. The idea is to talk about issues, in English, that international people in Hamburg face and to update them on some news. Considering how spontaneous the whole thing was, I don’t think we did a bad job!

What we talked about

In this episode, we talked about some news – including Sabela’s new magazine “Gute Leute”, Hamburg’s loss and Mozilla’s gain of Katharina Borchert (previously Chief Editor of Spiegel Online), India Week, the recent announcement of the dates for the next Social Media Week Hamburg, and more.

How to watch / listen / subscribe

You can tune in in a number of ways: either watch on YouTube, listen here on this website, or add the feed to your favourite podcasting app on your mobile.

To do that, add the following URL in your podcasting app (e.g. Apple Podcasts or DoggCatcher) – http://why-hamburg.com/feed/podcast.

Or simply go to iTunes by clicking on this link or search for it.


Gute Leute – Hamburg’s first English language magazine

Sabela Garcia has already featured on this blog. At that time, she was working for a startup and told me how she came to Hamburg.

Now, she is starting a venture of her own – and as a permanent fixture within the startup scene, a Hamburgian with an international background, and a natural-born connector, she had the idea to start a print magazine about the international scene in Hamburg.

Within the past few days, Sabela and her team (Irene Broer, Theresa Grotendorst, Carolin Seng and Guillerno D’Antin Alarcia) have cracked their €5k crowdfunding target which means that at least the first edition – which will be distributed for free – can go ahead. After that, they are planning to publish quarterly but the magazine will no longer be free of charge.

The English-language magazine will contain stories about inspiring people from Hamburg, both from Germany and abroad. The aim is to make Hamburg’s international community more visible.

You can still support the campaign on Hamburg’s crowdfunding platform Nordstarter.org. I for one am looking forward to reading the first edition and I’m sure this will be another step forward for Hamburg’s identity as an international city.

A warm welcome for refugees makes Hamburg more pleasant for us all.

This blog is about people who choose to come to Hamburg, and most people whom I have spoken to so far have been young professionals, often from within the startup scene. While some people I speak to have difficulty acquiring permission to live within Europe, many others are lucky enough – as I am – to enjoy freedom of movement within the European Economic Area.

In recent months, an increasing number of people have sought to gain access to fortress Europe. Many are fleeing civil wars, such as in Syria, and are seeking sanctuary within our borders.

Now is the time to remember that, however ill-defined the group of “internationals” we talk about is, anyone who comes from a different country is in. This has to be said because it is all to easy to think of the creative class as the designers, developers and creatives who have gone to western universities and cross borders in the priority lane.

Continue reading “A warm welcome for refugees makes Hamburg more pleasant for us all.”