It’s a question I’ve been asked often. By my friends in Italy who were baffled that I was leaving Rome (for Northern Germany, of all places!). By every student, friend and acquaintance I’ve met in Hamburg. By my British friends who hadn’t even heard of Hamburg before. To be honest, the city wasn’t on my radar before we moved here. I knew nothing about it, except that hamburgers possibly originated from here (not yet confirmed to be fact or fiction…).
So why did we choose Hamburg?
As you may know, my boyfriend and I want to live in different cities around the world. We are very flexible with the time frame. After two wonderful years enjoying la dolce vita in Rome, we were growing restless. We had become very comfortable; I had a steady contract job, we had lots of friends there and knew the city well. We had explored a lot of Italy, visiting cities and towns across the country. My boyfriend was ready for somewhere new and I knew if I didn’t push myself onto the next place, I could stay in Italy indefinitely. Which would be fine except there are so many more places we want to live and we are only at the beginning of our worldwide adventure.
So we sat down and brainstormed. We wanted somewhere different from Italy to enjoy some contrast. Germany was immediately a contender; we liked the country, having visited Berlin & Dresden together in 2014. I also went to Cologne last year – part-holiday, part-recce and had a good feeling about Germany. So I started to research good language schools in numerous cities. I thought we’d end up in Berlin but it quickly became clear that Hamburg was a smarter choice. Berlin has lots of language schools but is apparently over-saturated with English teachers, to the point that the hourly wage is becoming lower and lower. Whereas Hamburg pays its teachers well and the market is less competitive. There are lots of opportunities – businesses are expanding or merging with English-speaking companies, start-ups popping up left, right and centre, parents wanting their children to learn English and employers demanding their employees do too. Whereas schools in Berlin were quite vague with me (“If you move here, once you’ve registered and found a place to live, we might have some work for you but can’t guarantee anything….”), the schools in Hamburg were really keen! “When do you arrive? How soon can you start? We have courses for you! Come in and sign a contract”. I started teaching the day after we landed and have worked everyday since (except on all those public holidays which – as a freelancer for the first time in my life – I don’t get paid for. Boo).
We moved to Hamburg with no idea whether we would like it or not (Our backup plan was to put our suitcases on the first train to Berlin!). As it happens, we like Hamburg a lot. It is a very easy city to live in as a foreigner; the city is very compact and easy to navigate and the public transport system is very regular and reliable. It is busy without being too crowded. Many expats live here and there are lots of meetups and events, every week and weekend. The Germans and expats here are sociable and restaurants & cafes are busy every day and evening, regardless of the weather! Many people speak English – especially in shops and at train stations – and 99% of people have been helpful and patient with my questions (and mistakes!).
Rome is a dream holiday destination – an incredibly popular city which attracts people from around the world. Unsurprisingly, we were popular while living there, having a steady stream of visitors. However, Hamburg has proven attractive in a different way. It’s not somewhere people automatically think of for holidays (unlike cities like Berlin or Munich which are more touristic). So our friends and family who have visited get to experience a city they may not have otherwise gone to. When asked to describe the city, our visitors have volunteered ‘charming’, ‘sociable’, ‘dynamic’, ‘organised’ yet ‘easy-going’.
We wanted contrast and….we got it! Hamburg is incredibly different from Rome. In an upcoming post, I’ll be sharing some of the difference I’ve found, from food to the weather, from public transport to the cost of living, from the locals to restaurants.
Ciao for now!
The Curious Sparrow