Moin Hamburg

6 February 2019

After spending term one in Mexico, Emanuela heads to Germany for the second half of her year abroad. We join her as she settles into her new life in Hamburg.

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No matter how many times you move abroad, every time is different. You feel different. I had mixed feelings about moving to Hamburg. After spending a semester in Mexico, I feared that Northern Germany, so different from the culture and lifestyle I had gotten used to, just could not possibly be a home for me. I do tend to look for "new homes" when I move to a new place: I want to feel like I belong there although I know I will only be there temporarily. I have now been in Hamburg for three weeks and despite it being a short time, there is already a lot to share. 


To begin with, the Welcome Week organised by Universität Hamburg demolished my scepticism. It was great and it really helped me get off on the right foot in my Exchange 2.0. In fact, in only four days it condensed just about the right combination of useful how-tos and ever as useful breaking the ice and laid back activities for us Erasmus students of the faculty to get to know each other. After all, understanding how things work and making friends are the two main worries when moving to a new place. If you get that sorted out, then you are on the right track for a nice time. 

Furthermore, the range of activities on offer is overwhelming. Thanks to the buddy-programme and the PIASTA programme students can take part in a variety of cultural events, leisure activities and day-trips. Most importantly, all of them are free, you just have to make sure you register fast to get a place. Both programmes organise events throughout the year, once or twice a week, and while the first is only for Erasmus students, the second one is open to all students of Universität Hamburg, making it easier to escape the “Erasmus bubble”. 

On top of this, if you are a sports lover, Hamburg has got you covered: paying only 52 euros for the whole semester you can get a sports card that will allow you to try out as many activities as you can possibly fit in your schedule. Also, if you leave before the end of the six-month period, you get back the money for the remaining weeks. 

Last but not least, Hamburg itself is quite special: with a network of canals that reminds of Amsterdam, lakes, huge parks and pretty neighbourhoods, this city makes you want to stay outside all day long. Weather permitting of course, and that’s a sore subject, but with summer around the corner I know that soon enough it will be possible to fully exploit Hamburg’s great barbecuing and canoeing potential. 

Hamburg Canals

Despite having been badly damaged during World War II, Hamburg has still maintained a sort of retro style. From the neo-Renaissance town hall to the bohemian neighbourhood of Sternschanze to the neo-Gothic, red brick buildings of the Speicherstadt to the wavy-shaped Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg is a fascinating blend of old and new. 

On a final note, Plattdeutsch deserves a mention. It’s the dialect spoken by people from Hamburg, Low German as it would be called in English, and it’s still widely used and cherished. Because of this, Hamburgers will greet you with “Moin” rather than the classic Hallo or Guten Tag and it’s not unusual to hear or see a “Watt mutt datt mutt” (what must be, must be) while wandering around town. Northern German wisdom, some might say. Might as well make it my motto for this semester. 


By Emanuela Conti