Get an insider's view into Hamburg cultural landscape
To the rest of Germany, Hamburg’s residents are known as a cool-headed, stubborn bunch ─ but we’re not all that bad. Greet a Hamburger with “Moin!” in the streets and you can be sure to get a cheerful grunt in return.
The local mentality is heavily influenced by the city’s Hanseatic legacy, which resulted in flourishing trade and economic prosperity. And, don’t forget that Hamburg was an independent city until it finally joined the German Federation in 1815 ─ even today it remains a “free city” as a separate Federal State. Freedom, whether it be of religion, fashion style, music choice or political orientation, still is one of Hamburg’s major cultural markers. But, despite a healthy sense of pride, Hamburgers greatly value a no-nonsense attitude, perhaps because the city knows it has the “common folk” ─ harbour workers, market vendors, fishermen and sailors ─ to thank for its place in the World.
Work hard and play hard ─ seems to be the motto of our bustling port city, home to Airbus, NIVEA, Montblanc and numerous other businesses. The entertainment district of St. Pauli is an excellent place to experience the latter: here you’ll find the infamous Reeperbahn, the Red Light District and traditional bars where sailors and students alike sip on shots of Kümmel, a local hard liquor.
You'll quickly make new friends if you casually drop these names in a conversation:
Hans Albers (1891-1960) was one of Germany’s most famous singers and actors, known for his humorous songs about drunken sailors and nightlife in his hometown of Hamburg.
One of Hamburg's most charismatic residents, West-Germany’s former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (1918-2015) remained in the public eye until well into his 90s, always surrounded by his signature cloud of cigarette smoke.
Film maker Fatih Akin, known for award-winning movies such as Short Sharp Shock (1998), The Edge of Heaven (2007) and Soul Kitchen (2009), was born in Hamburg-Altona and still lives there, just like actress Sibel Kekili does.
Fashionistas will be interested to know that fashion designers Karl Lagerfeld and Jil Sander have their roots in Hamburg.
Hamburg was the first home to composers Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), famous for composing his Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).
In the early 1960ies Hamburg’s music clubs became the launchpad for The Beatles’ stellar career. Their energetic live performances won them their first ever recording.
The hip-hop music scene in Hamburg brought forth artists such as Jan Delay, Dendemann, Fünf Sterne, Samy Deluxe and Deichkind and, in terms of quality, is still second-to-none in Germany.
Last but not least, there is the eternal and hard-fought rivalry of the two big football clubs HSV and St. Pauli that has shaped the city for decades. You haven’t been to Hamburg if you don’t know St. Pauli’s Jolly Roger skull and bones symbol. Respected by supporters of both clubs, Uwe Seeler (born 1936) is Hamburg’s most famous striker and regarded as one of the best German footballers ever.