This site is now archived (but hopefully still worth a read)

I realised a while ago that I’d done all I wanted to do with the “Why Hamburg?” project – I think I’ve got as close as I ever will to understanding why people move to Hamburg, short of studying a PhD in urban development.

That’s why I decided to archive this website. By “archive”, I mean stop adding content to it but continue to make it available as a static website.

I’m glad I embarked upon this project at the end of 2013: I’ve met so many great people by doing so, been asked my opinion as an “expert” on the topic, and it’s helped me understand better how international people – of whom I am one – fit into Hamburg. My broad conclusion on that topic is that “international” isn’t really a separate category but something we can dip in and out of, an identity if you like, when it suits us. Trying to identify exactly what it is is like trying to nail jelly to a wall.

Anyway, that’s all from me for the time being. Thanks to everyone for reading and sharing my articles over the past couple of years – and of course a big thank you to everyone who let me interview them.

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

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

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.

Continue reading Gute Leute – Hamburg’s first English language magazine

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.

“Hamburg is a family friendly city” – Andre from Jakarta

Andre Sasongko is a freelance database developer from Jakarta, Indonesia. He is an entrepreneur, freelance database developer, and father of two. I met up with Andre at Shhared coworking space in Altona, where he told me what brought him to Hamburg.

I first met Andre at a Hamburg Startups mixer event and was curious to hear his story. After leaving his native Indonesia, he studied in Wisconsin, USA, and worked there for several years. The world was his oyster. He chose Germany, then Hamburg, and hasn’t looked back since. His positive outlook on Hamburg and life generally make him an inspiring conversation partner.

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Paul Watmough’s ongoing creative journey

I know from my own experience that life can be hard for a Brit in Hamburg. Whilst we are admired for our teapots, phone boxes, red buses and royals, we are laughed out of the kitchen, played off the football field, and on the Autobahn we were overtaken a long time ago and hitched a ride with the Germans instead.

So it was a pleasant surprise to find that one of the people shaping the brand identity of leading German car manufacturers – almost an Ersatz for the flag that Germans are very reluctant to fly – is my compatriot Paul Watmough, from Bradford, UK. He had a lot to say that cheered me up.

My first meeting with Paul is exactly what you would expect of two Brits: we meet in a pub (or at least a café that serves beer). Paul orders a Rotbier (a dark beer that at least optically resembles an ale). Neither of us thinks twice before ordering half a litre (only sixty-eight millilitres short of a pint). We exchange the short versions of why we are in Hamburg whilst beating about a bush as rich and voluminous as Paul’s luscious beard.

At our second meeting we get to the point, namely: Why Hamburg?

Continue reading Paul Watmough’s ongoing creative journey

Two lovers in Germany’s loveliest city

Rebecca, a rocket scientist (yes, rocket scientist) from near Cambridge in the UK, met Dutchman Reinier, a grid analyst at Vattenfall, by chance in summer 2013. At the time, Rebecca wasn’t even living in Hamburg and Reinier had only lived here for just over a year.

Today, they are a happy hard-working couple enjoying the Hamburg urban hubub and their international lifestyle.

I wanted to know what brought each of them to Hamburg in the first place, and what keeps them here. Why Hamburg?

Continue reading Two lovers in Germany’s loveliest city

Second “Why Hamburg?” meeting and UPload at Shhared (19th February)

Following our first meeting, it would be great to have another informal meeting to talk about ideas in a quieter but nevertheless informal atmosphere. I think we’re still at the “norming, forming and storming” phase so let’s keep it simple again this time.

Time and Date

Alex organises monthly UPload meetings at Shhared which are very informal networking events with a bit of beer and food so we can descend upon him. I have asked him, and he said yes. (Thanks Alex.) The event starts at 6pm, but it’s fine if you come from 7pm if you’re coming in from somewhere else.

It’s on Thursday 19th February.

Agenda

The official part will start at 7pm:

Firstly: some news from Shhared and “Why Hamburg?”

Secondly: lightning talks (3 minute spontaneous talks) BUT strictly alternating between male and female speakers. If the supply of either gender dries up, then – too bad! – we move on to …

Thirdly: Informal chat, heated debate (as always at Shhared).

The last WH? meeting

At the last “Why Hamburg?” meeting we had people from Indonesia, Spain, Japan, France, UK and of course Germany. The aim of the community is to think (and ultimately act) about making Hamburg more international, for the benefit of both locals and expats. That’s why this is an invitation to everyone.

Getting to Shhared coworking space

Daimlerstraße 71c, Bahrenfeld, Altona.

Usually you can park in the car park next door (although strictly speaking, it’s not allowed so at your own risk).

By public transport, I find it’s best to get the M3 bus which takes roughly 10 minutes from Feldstraße and goes every 5 minutes. Or S-Bahn Bahrenfeld, served by the S1 and S11.

Use the HVV planner to find what’s easiest for you.

See you there!