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Hamburg lies in the North of Germany and is the second biggest city after Berlin. It spreads a cosmopolitan feeling also thanks to his background in Hanseatic trading. Still today Hamburg harbour plays a dominant role in the city’s economic situation, although over the recent years Hamburg has developed into a major media centre where many leading German and international publishing houses have their head offices. Culturally Hamburg has a lot to offer but the cultural taste differs quite from the South German customs. People are in general very modest, open-minded and helpful. The city is very compact and it is easy to get around also thanks to the well constructed transport system. Nevertheless, Hamburg is not a traditional touristy city with many sights. There are only a few landmarks and only the red-light district of St. Pauli has a so-called iconic status as it is known across the borders of Germany. Although nightlife has developed immensely in this region, the old reputation of its wicked existence still sticks to the area. During the weekend the streets around the Reeperbahn are filled with life and activity. But as one of the city’s characteristics is the water and the harbour it is recommendable to make a boat trip and explore the parkland fridges.
Hamburg has a mild climate due to its location close to the sea. The warmest month is July with an average of 18 °C, the coldest month is January with about 1 °C. During summer times temperatures can climb up to 28 °C and sometimes even higher. The climate is humid throughout the whole year with approximately 774 mm of rain a year. In winter months are characterised by fog and storms.
The language spoken in Hamburg is German but English is widely understood. Until the 19th century Low German was spoken but it disappeared from the public usage in the 20th century and was replaced by Standard German. But nevertheless, Hamburg’s locals speak and understand Platt (Low German dialect) and even use it in newspapers and literature. Due to the immigration wave in the 1960s other languages are very common in some parts of the city for example Portuguese in the Harbour region, Turkish and Kurdish in Altona, St. Georg, Veddel and Wilhelmsburg as well as Russian and Polish.
Hamburg is a Protestant city but also the Catholic Church has a constant number of members. About 43% of the population belong to one of the two Christian churches, 57 % are undenominational. But due to the high amount of foreign people living in Hamburg, there are also other religions present such as Muslims or Jews.
Usually, invoices in cafés, bars and restaurants include service costs; nevertheless, it is common to give a 5 – 10 % tip, anyway. Other services such as staff in hotel or taxi drivers also expect a tip of 10%.
From January 2007 taxes for purchased products and services rise from 16% to 19%. Not included are staple foods, magazines, books and tickets. Some shops which show the sign “Tax Free” refund taxes to people whose residence lies outside the EU. At the time of purchase a “Tax Free Shopping Cheque” needs to be filled and must be presented to the customs authority. After that you will receive your refund either cash (at the airport) or via bank transfer (to the quoted address).
To call Germany you first have to dial +49 and then for Hamburg (0)40. On most of the inner city places are public telephones which can be used with telephone cards or coins. Telephone cards are available with a value of € 5 or € 10 Euro in post offices, telephone and train station shops as well as kiosks.
Hamburg has numerous internet cafes all over the city but also public libraries and facilities for youths have an internet connection which can be used. There are also hotspots in different parts of the city. Free internet access is guaranteed at the “Alex am Jungfernstieg” and “Sushi Factory Grindelhof” as well as at the restaurants and cafes from Wandsbek to Othmarschen. Here you just need your laptop or pocket-Pc and a W-LAN card.
Opening times for shops differ and depend on the shop. Bus supermarkets and department stores might be open between 9 am and 10 pm, smaller shops might already close at 7 or 8 pm. Banks are usually open on weekdays from 8 am to 6 pm. Most of the banks in the city have 24-hours ATM’s. The exchange rate at the ATMs is very good, so the only extra fee you''ll pay is whatever your bank at home charges for international withdrawals.
Usually the post offices are open from 8 am - 6 pm. After that there are some counter for late selling. If you just need a stamp there are machines next to some offices.
Hamburg is a more or less safe city like every other big city in Europe. All central and historical places are not only safe during the day but also during the night. And also the harbour area which had a wicked reputation or St. Pauli are not frightening locations. Of course it is always recommended to watch out for pick-pocketing and minor crimes. So leave worthy belongings at home.
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