It has been a tough transition to Hamburg but I don’t want to create the impression that I dislike my new city! So I have decided to share some of the things I like about Hansestadt Hamburg (the city’s full name, often called HH for short) and some of the little differences between Germany and my home country England. Hope you enjoy reading and if you think I’ve missed anything, feel free to add it to the comments. And remember I’ve only been here eleven weeks! 😉
I’ll do a separate post comparing Italian and German cuisine (spoiler: they are vastly different!), so now I’ll leave you with a short summary. Traditional German food can be heavy and stodgy (lots of meat and root vegetables) but it’s tasty, there is an excellent international food scene here, good coffee and great cakes! I am very amused by the nation’s love of bread. Brot glorious brot! Sandwiches seem to be the sixth food group and all day along – from morning, noon till night – I see people in the bakeries buying loaves of bread, bread rolls, pastries, cakes and donuts. For 75 cents, you can buy salty pretzels and delicious franzbrötchen (pastry twists baked with cinnamon and butter). They are addictive!
By thia, I mean the citizens and not delicious meat patties! I’ve only lived here a short time but the random people I’ve interacted with – in shops & train stations – have been pleasant and patient with me (as I don’t speak much German). I like how they use “Moin!” instead of hello, and how modest they are about their English skills. In my first few weeks, I asked a lot of people for directions.
Me: “Hallo! Sprechen Sie Englisch?”
Helpful stranger: “Errr….yes, a little”
Me: “Do you tell me where X is?”
HS: “Oh yes! If you go straight ahead then….” *cue descriptive, detailed step-by-step instructions in near-perfect English*
They are SPECTACULAR.
Amusingly, in HH, you can be charged for standing on the train platform without a ticket – even if you are just there to see off a relative or help someone put their bags onto the train for twenty seconds. The platform tickets are only 30 cents and I’ve not seen anyone get busted for not having one….yet! In general, the transport system is very punctual, reliable and easy to navigate. Unfortunately it is expensive – I pay €65 for my monthly travel pass, which covers me for two zones. However I only need the central zone in which we live and the majority of my classes are. Yet you can’t buy a monthly pass for just one zone so the second is just redundant!
There are some beautiful examples here. I’ll be doing a separate post on this, but for now, enjoy my favourite piece so far – found in St Pauli.
I like how wet it is here! I don’t mean the rain, but how much water there is – canals, the inner and outer lakes and the River Elbe. The ferry boats are included in our monthly travel passes and although we haven’t rented canal boats yet, we will over the summer! After eight years of living by the sea in Portsmouth, England. I’m definitely a water baby. Hamburg also has a lot of parks and green spaces and although the trees are still looking bare, I know when spring comes, the city’ll look even prettier.
A lot of people have asked how my German students compare to my Italian ones. Some of the stereotypes are true – in general, my Italian students were chattier and more exuberant, sharing details about their families and not worrying if they made mistakes (or were talking absolute gibberish). Whereas my German students are more cautious and concerned with accuracy, but they have also been friendly and shown interest in me. They are also very motivated. Whereas I rarely managed to convince my Italian students to do homework, my German students not only ask for additional work, they actually do it!
The architecture and street style
Hamburg may not be as beautiful as Rome – there are fewer grand monuments, intricate statues and ancients relics – but I appreciate Hamburg’s own beauty. The buildings are tall, imposing and often red brick, which I particularly like. The designs sometimes include subtle details like zigzag brick patterns or ornate balcony features. I went on a free walking tour about Jewish history in Hamburg and learnt about a stolperstein, a cobblestone-sized brass plate which the names and life dates of victims of Nazi persecutions. The art project was initiated in 1992 by Gunter Demnig as a tribute to all the people who were taken away from the city and never returned home. Since participating in this walking tour, I have come to notice more and more of these brass plates and am reminded of their significance.
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow