As the second largest German city and the second largest port in Europe, Hamburg is no stranger to trading and entrepreneurship. Its perfect geographical location has allowed the harbor city to be one of the main trading centers of the Old Continent, setting a good ground for Hamburg to be a strong player in German economics. There has been a recent boom in the startup ecosystem, with massive investments (for example, the seven-digit investment for eBlocker), a growing number of coworking spaces, and more entrepreneurs moving here to explore the hip soul of the city.
Before you come
One of the most important things to do before your arrival is to arrange a suitable accommodation. Finding an apartment or a shared flat is quite tough in Hamburg, but once you’ve found one, registering a new address is usually quick and easy. This can be done at one of the many official Customer Service Centers around the city. All you have to do is book an appointment online at hamburg.de/kundenzentrum and bring all the required documents with you to the appointment. If you’re coming from outside of the EU, make sure you have a proper work visa. If you have a job contract, your employer should be able to help you out with the paperwork involved in getting an employment visa. In general, the website hamburg.de is a helpful resource for newcomers to the city. It explains everything from how to look for housing to where to learn German.
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Hamburg’s long and colorful history as a member of the Hanseatic league has not only shaped its economic prosperity and cityscape but also the local mentality and business etiquette. Hamburgers are generally open-minded but are also very proud of their city and quite patriotic on a local level. The typical Hamburg resident is calm, reserved and unostentatious, with a no-nonsense attitude. Contrary to popular belief, the weather in Hamburg isn’t only rainy and grey; it’s rather volatile. When the sun does come out, you’ll see Hamburgers flooding the streets with their sunglasses and crowding cafe terraces. One word you’ll definitely need to know is ‘moin,’ a popular greeting that can mean ‘hello,’ ‘good morning,’ ‘good day,’ or ‘good evening’!
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Cozy bars in the Schanzenviertel and Gängeviertel (like Daniela bar, Berliner Betrüger and Kleines Phi) are usually packed with locals and could be good starting points to get to know Hamburgers at night. If you’re into sports, try checking out the stand-up paddling club SUP CLUB, a climbing spot like FLASHH or the Hamburger Sport-Verein (a German sports club) to strike up some conversation there. Poetry slams, museums and weekly markets on Grundstraße are also great events to hang out and potentially meet new people.
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Cost of living
For the past two years, Hamburg has made it into the top ten of The Economist’s annual list of the most ‘livable’ cities in the world. As one of the more affluent cities in Germany with a high quality of life, it can be quite costly to live in Hamburg. However, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to live in the city if you’re on a budget; you’ll just have to be more careful with your lifestyle choices. Housing may be the highest expense, but choosing certain districts that are more affordable can help you save. The fundamentals like groceries and public transport remain competitively priced.
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Renting an apartment
Renting a room or finding an apartment in Hamburg can be a challenge. Rental prices range widely depending on the neighborhood but are generally on the higher end in comparison to other German cities. Hamburg is made up of seven boroughs that are divided into 104 quarters. For areas with lively culture and entertainment, check out St. Pauli and Schanzenviertel. Winterhude and Blankensee are more affluent residential neighborhoods, while Wilhelmsburg and Harburg are considered working-class districts. To start your search, try looking for apartment postings online or in the newspaper. Websites like wg-gesucht.de or immobilienscout24.de are very useful. There are also local Facebook groups for people looking for flats that can be quite helpful, so it doesn’t hurt to post an ad on there either. If you’re up for trying out a new living concept, check out coliving-hamburg.de, a place where founders and creatives live and work together.
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Finding a coworking Space
You won’t have any trouble finding a coworking space in Hamburg. From artisanal makerspaces to swanky business hubs, there’s a diverse selection of spaces to choose from. Freelancers, digital nomads, creative types and small companies typically congregate at “hanseatic style” (read: honest, reliable and understated) coworking spaces like betahaus, FilmFabrique or Shhared. If you’re looking for more corporate-minded work environments, check out WeWork, Mindspace and rent24. Take a walk in the lively neighborhood of Schanzenviertel and you even might stumble upon a smaller coworking space with its own characteristic flair.
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Visas and work permits
When it comes to visa and work permits, EU citizens have it easy and can work freely in Hamburg. However, if you’re from outside of the EU, you’ll need a residence permit with a work permit. To get more information and learn more about the requirements, visit the nearest Germany embassy or consulate in your own country, or check out the Hamburg Welcome Center website english.welcome.hamburg.de.
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Starting a company
When getting started, it’s useful to book an appointment and register your company with the Chamber of Commerce, which offers various services for startups and businesses in Hamburg and is considered the go-to organization for the local business community. Whether it’s launching a startup or dealing with problems with your business, the Chamber of Commerce can help. Just remember that, unless otherwise stated, most programs, tools and advice are offered in German. Hamburg Startups— founded by Sanja Stankovic and Sina Gritzuhn—is a helpful online platform in German and English that provides startup news, practical information for newcomers and real-time data about the city’s entrepreneurial community. Last but not least, getting out and meeting people at coworking spaces and events is excellent way to get first-hand insights on how to start a company in Hamburg.
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Founded in 2014 by Sissel Hansen, Startup Guide is a creative content and publishing company that produces guidebooks and tools to help entrepreneurs navigate and connect with different startup scenes across the globe. Startup Guide books are in 18 different cities in Europe and the Middle East, including Berlin, London, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Vienna, Lisbon and Paris. It also has two physical stores in Berlin and Lisbon to promote and sell products by startups.