“We’re glad we gave Hamburg a second chance!”

Crouching in front of María and Lucas, trying to get the perfect photo. The right composition, a bit of flash to lighten up the foreground. Using the flash limits the exposure time to 1/200s, meaning the aperture has to be as small as possible. Which increases the depth of field, but I can live with that.

The Spanish couple stands in front of the huge Kampnagel logo, smiling down into my camera; I negotiate with my Nikon, apologising with each release of the shutter. Presented with the finished object, you might be oblivious to the balancing act that goes into producing the photo, or the options that were discarded along the way.

Similar, you might say, to the decision for or against a place to live. María and Lucas, both from Valencia in Spain, live in Hamburg. But how did they end up here? What factors did they weigh off against each other? Or, in other words: why Hamburg?

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Mélanie came to an unknown city for work. Six years later she tells us why she loves Hamburg.

Mélanie was desperate to live in a city. A city – any city – would be preferable to living in the middle of nowhere. Having studied Food Industry in Rennes, most jobs that fitted her profile were anywhere but in the centre of a bustling metropolis. So when she had the chance of a job in Hamburg, it was quite literally a case of “any port in a storm”.

If, like Mélanie, you have lived in Lyon or spent time in Sydney, you are likely to have high expectations of a city. Your first night in a gloomy, rainy, northern German city – far from the Alps, not a sunny beach in sight, away from your friends and family – might be enough to make you turn tails and head home. Perhaps she would have, if her car hadn’t been towed away that evening.

Six years later, she’s still here. Either they haven’t given her her car back or there is something about Hamburg that makes it worth staying. So on a grey and gloomy, windy and wintery Sunday afternoon we meet up in a café next to the lake in the centre of Hamburg and I ask her: why Hamburg?

Continue reading Mélanie came to an unknown city for work. Six years later she tells us why she loves Hamburg.