In Hamburg by accident or design?

Sihavann’s very first impression of Europe was the descent into Hamburg airport. The parks and gardens, the trees, the houses with their colourful roofs. “I couldn’t believe that the houses really look like that. It was just like I’d seen on TV. Really cute!” says the Cambodian design student.

A world away from the concrete jungle and surrounding paddy fields that he left behind in Phnom Penh, I met Sihavann – or Vann for short – in Eppendorfer Baum where we went for a coffee followed by a walk through the Isemarkt, a weekly market under an iron bridge.

I was curious to find out whether the design student is in Hamburg by – excuse the pun – accident or design. In other words: why Hamburg?

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Loving German culture

Seeing a jogger running around the Alster or along the Elbe for the first time might provoke a little giggle, if not bring you out in a fit of laughter. The tight, lycra trousers. Hair overflowing out of a headband like a neglected pot plant. Set off by a pair of steamed-up glasses, held perfectly in place by the practical headband. There’s no need to feel awkward in your amusement because the German jogger either won’t notice you laughing, or won’t care.

To put a positive spin on it: Germans are not usually worried about what other people think of them, but do what it takes to get the job done. At their best, they are non-conformist and persistent. Nearly every German job advertisement asks Durchsetzungsvermögen of its applicants: the ability to get your way.

Leticia Sigarrostegui García says she has grown as a person since coming to Germany, citing Durchsetzungsvermögen as one of the German character traits she has adopted. On top of this, I would say there is certainly something non-conformist about her story. Leticia lives in Hamburg, is the author of two books, teaches Spanish and Danish, has lived in Madrid, Cologne, Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Hamburg, and works for XING, the biggest business networking website in the German-speaking world. Who better to tell me about German culture and the comparative merits of cities like Hamburg?

So in a café around the corner from her employer, I deprive Leticia of her lunch hour to find out: why Hamburg?

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