“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.

Continue reading 2nd coworking open day at Shhared

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

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!

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.


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!

Learning the language: someone’s got to give

Given the topic of this article, I should quickly explain the word play in the title. When you say “something’s got to give”, that can mean that there are two opposing interests or opinions and one person has to compromise, or just give in. Until yesterday, I thought this to be the case for the language issue.

The language issue?

Yes, the language issue. I mean this apparent paradox: people come to a foreign country, usually wanting to learn the language. But in order to survive here long enough to learn the language, they need to get up-and-running – getting a job, getting registered, finding a network of friends – without speaking German so that they can support themselves long enough to stay here and … learn the language.

So on the one hand, we shout at everyone here: “speak English!”

But everyone who has ever learnt a foreign language knows that you can’t learn a language without speaking it. So: “speak German to us!”.

I can imagine this gets confusing for the locals. They must think: “Can these people please make up their minds?”

German for beginners

Yesterday I interviewed Rebecca from the UK, who works near Johannes-Brahms-Platz (named after the world-famous composer who was born and lived a long time in Hamburg). The article will be appearing in the next couple of weeks – please be patient!

Rebecca came up with a great idea: how about events that are in German, but aimed at people who are non-native speakers? This makes expectations clear from the start of the event: everybody is there to speak German, including during the networking afterwards; it’s ok not to understand everything (and to say so); and you don’t have to worry that people will snap into English as soon as you look puzzled.

We’re in this together: someone’s got to give

Hence the word play in the title. Not “something’s got to give” because we’re all in this together. In return for help learning the language, we can provide immersive environments for non-native speakers. This is a big advantage for people who do business internationally. It’s also just nice.

By having events for English learners and German learners, and making expectations clear, I think we can make Hamburg a better place for international people, and do our bit to make our city more successful internationally. We’ve all got to give – and can only benefit by doing so.

First WH? meeting. What did you think?

Yesterday (22nd January) was the first ever WH? meeting, and I was impressed that so many people came along. I think there were about 12 of us in total from Indonesia, Spain, Japan, France, UK and of course Germany.

The meeting showed that there are enough of us to move on to bigger things, and now we’ve got to know each other we can think about other formats and topics that we want to address.


From the conversations I had, the topics we talked about were:

  • Attracting highly-skilled people that work in technical professions is important, but what about the rest? (In my opinion, this is a topic we need to discuss more)
  • How Hamburg Marketing can engage the community of international people in Hamburg to help convey a positive image of Hamburg abroad
  • Visa restrictions for people coming from outside Europe – there’s a lot of bureaucracy which makes it difficult for companies to recruit
  • Non-Europeans have different issues from Europeans. E.g. they can’t move around Europe as easily.
  • Related to the previous point, people coming in from abroad have lots of different issues meaning that they may need advice from a range of people – so as well as European / non-Europan, issues like whether they speak German already, or whether they are looking for full-time employment, freelance, or setting up a business make a difference.
  • What common interests/problems do we have? How can we make progress on these? How can we have a stronger voice within Hamburg? How can we convince the city that they need us?
  • On the previous point: how can we reach out and help projects and organisations within Hamburg? Just one example would be to encourage international applications for dpa’s new media accelerator. We could also encourage friends and connections from abroad with specialist skills to work for Hamburg companies that need them.
  • … and much more.

Showing the world that Hamburg is where international people can succeed

I want us to become a strong community who can help each other be successful, and thus show the world that Hamburg is a place where people from all over the world can succeed and enjoy life.

Specifically, a big priority should be helping Alex make Shhared a success because this is a huge example of someone rocking up in Hamburg, setting up a business and making a big contribution to our city. I think Shhared is also an important resource for our community – as a meeting place, a place to share ideas and make Hamburg the place we want it to be. No, Alex isn’t paying me to say this 😉

Feedback and next steps

Feedback from yesterday was that the next event should be somewhere a bit quieter where the drinks are cheaper and we can also get some planning done. As Brian said, we should bring our notebooks next time!

So what did you think of the meeting, and what should we do next? Answers on a postcard, or in the comments on this post.


After publishing this article, I got this response from Sabela on Twitter:

“Why Hamburg?” meeting on 22nd January 2015, 7pm – Paddy’s Irish Pub

Recently I have been speaking to a lot of people regarding “Why Hamburg?” and all things related to the lives of international people in Hamburg, how Hamburg can attract more of us, and what we can do to fly the flag for our city.

Anyway, I’d love to get a small group of people together to talk very informally about topics such as Hamburg’s international image, startups, and attracting not only tourists but also skilled workers to Hamburg. You don’t need to be an expert to come along and have your say. It’s more about getting to know each other and talking about next steps.

So if you’re up for it, drop me a short email on john [at] why-hamburg.com and come to:

  • Paddy’s Bar (Schauenburgerstraße 40, 20095 Hamburg)
  • at 7pm
  • on 22nd January

I look forward to seeing you there!