Why did you leave Catalonia?
After years of attending the German School in Madrid, and later in Barcelona, and learning German, the opportunity to study in Germany appeared logical and corresponded perfectly to my wanderlust. I was looking forward to the adventure, to testing myself...
Why did you choose Germany as the place to live/work?
In the beginning, when I still went to school and made my first trips to Germany, it was just longing for more in terms of language and culture. Later, after graduating from university, I was also attracted by the career prospects.
How long have you lived there?
I came to Germany (Münster) in autumn 1991, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, at a very exciting time of upheaval. It was, to be precise, on the day of Barcelona’s Mercé festival, on September 24 1991. So far, that adds up to 27 years of living in Germany, although in Hamburg only for 11 years – with a seven-month break in New York.
Are you happy with the job opportunities you found in your adoptive country?
Yes, I am fine with it, but it doesn’t exclude the possibility that it could have worked anywhere else. On the other hand, due to my multilingualism and personal background, I have had some special opportunities! Stable contracts at university are not easy to get and very much in demand, so I am particularly happy because I am still thrilled to do my job as a teacher and educator of German students!
What do you think is the best thing about living there?
First of all, for the high quality of life, which for me mainly manifests itself in the fact that the daily scheduling here in northern Europe is a bit more effective: more family-friendly, leaving more time for activities, and for enjoying life in general. And Hamburg is a very vibrant metropolis that has many interesting options for spending your leisure time: music, culture, sporting events, and so on.
What would you most like to change?
I guess that I’m now expected to say the weather! But the truth is that I do like the weather here in Northern Germany! I always love to feel exactly the season we are in: in winter it is cold, and in summer it is warm, but not too much! And having snow can also be great... I would change the German attitude of always counting on security: planning everything, insuring oneself against all eventualities... A little more spontaneity and more willingness to take risks would do us good here!
What do you miss most from home?
My family and my friends in Catalonia, the Mediterranean Sea, and not to forget certain homely traditions, such as the never-ending “sobretaules” ...
What do you take with you as a present from your new home when you go back to your own country?
After so many years and in times of globalisation, no one is any longer expecting me to bring along the typical gifts. However, at this time of the year, German Christmas cookies won’t be missing in the suitcase when we fly to Catalonia!
What characterises your neighbourhood?
It is an exciting mixture of contrasts, due to the variety of people from different backgrounds, being placed close to the vibrant city of Hamburg and at the same time the nearby nature, the so-called Black Mountains and the Lüneburg Heath. We even live close to a recreational area including a lake and thus feel very privileged.
What is the best experience you had in your adoptive country?
An incredibly exciting and educational time studying at university with so many new experiences and human contacts.
Do you plan to go back to Catalonia?
I stopped asking myself that question years ago. You never know where life will lead you, so I’m quite open and I’m sure there will be more changes. But above all, I prefer to live in harmony with my yearning for home, with my homesickness, rather than giving myself a definitely negative answer. And de facto, what exactly does it mean to go back? I do not feel like I have ever completely gone away!
CATALANS ABROAD Hamburg (Germany)
Where are the best places for visitors to stay?
Just follow the water! The whole area around the waterfront promenade on the Binnenalster lake and down to the Elbe river and to the warehouse district at the free port (World Heritage Site) is unique and charming.
What do you consider the highlights for any brief visit for the first time?
There are some activities you should put on your list: visiting the great concert hall Elbphilarmonie, a Harbour Boat Tour through the waterside districts, Northern Germany’s most famous Baroque church of St. Michael, Hamburg’s City Hall with its Neo-Renaissance façade, the Kunsthalle, the modern gallery and contemporary art museum, the famous entertainment district Reeperbahn and St. Pauli, the urban park Planten un Blomen and the Stairs Quartier Blankenese with the Elbe-Beach.
And if visitors have more time or make a return visit?
Then I would recommend coming back during another season in order to experience a completely different Hamburg. The city illuminated by the winter light decorations is very different from the one during long summer days.
Are there any places to avoid at all costs?
Not at all. Hamburg is considered to be a safe city, so just behave as you should always do in a big city and be careful!
Can you recommend a place to have lunch with friends?
I would recommend having lunch at the Bullerei (bullerei.com) in the Sternschanze district – it’s trendy!
Where would you have a special dinner for two?
Probably at the Japanese restaurant Matsumi (matsumi.de) in the heart of the city – which is swanky!
When is the best time of year to plan a visit?
If you want to have a nice time outside, I would recommend visiting Hamburg in spring or in early summer. But if you come from southern Europe and want to see something different you should be brave and come in December, so that you can walk around the Christmas markets and get the Christmas feeling all around!
What is the best kept secret about the area?
The 426-metre Elbe Tunnel is a modernist charm, opened in 1911 and still in use today. There are two parallel tunnels for cars and pedestrians and cyclists. Go on foot taking the steps, get a sense of the impressive dimensions of the construction, and when leaving the tunnel enjoy the view of the beautiful city of Hamburg from the other side of the river.