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

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.

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

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.

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

2nd coworking open day at Shhared

Shhared is a recently-opened coworking space in Bahrenfeld with a distinctively international atmosphere. Alex (whom you can read about here) has announced a second coworking open day on Thursday 23rd April.

The date was chosen to coincide with St. George’s Day, which is the English counterpart to St. Patrick’s Day – albeit not as well known internationally.

Shhared is open Monday – Friday from 8am to 6pm and the open day is no exception. For those who haven’t been before: there is an open area for flexible coworking, a quieter area where you can rent a fixed desk, some offices for rent (one or two are still available) and meeting rooms.

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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 the the point, namely: Why Hamburg?

Continue reading Paul Watmough’s ongoing creative journey

Coworking in Copenhagen

As many of you will already know, some of us are planning a coworking trip to Copenhagen. The idea is to keep it simple: book transport, accommodation (e.g. Airbnb) and get over there. Then we will spend the time in a coworking space, where we can get some work done and hopefully get to know some of the locals.

When we’ve confirmed travel and accommodation arrangements, as well as numbers, then we can organise a programme for the evening and during the day. The idea being that we don’t just turn up in Copenhagen and feel like a bunch of strangers but have some kind of greeting when we’re there.

For more information and to confirm attendance, see the Facebook event. Stay tuned!