About Hamburg Culture
Get an insider's view on the Hanseatic mentality and find out what distinguishes Hamburg from the rest of Germany.
Culture - find out what distinguishes Hamburg from the rest of Germany
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!' on the street 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 its own Federal State. Freedom, whether it be of religion, fashion style, music choice or political orientation, is still 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 that its place on the world stage is thanks to the labour of everyday people ― harbour workers, market vendors, fishermen and sailors.
Work hard, play hard. This motto has been taken to heart by many major cities, and Hamburg is no exception. Our bustling port city is home to Airbus, NIVEA, Montblanc and numerous other businesses which contribute greatly to the local economy and the 'work hard' mentality of the city. And the entertainment district of St. Pauli is an excellent place to experience the 'play hard' half of this motto. Here you’ll find the infamous Reeperbahn ― home to 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 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.
Filmmaker 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 lives there still today ― as does local actress Sibel Kekili.
Fashionistas will be interested to know that designers Karl Lagerfeld and Jil Sander have their roots in Hamburg too.
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 1960s, Hamburg’s music clubs became the launchpad for The Beatles’ stellar career. Their energetic live performances on the Reeperbahn 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, the eternal and hard-fought rivalry between the two major Hamburg football clubs, HSV and St. Pauli, 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 of all time.