Why is Germany's second biggest city so relaxed?

Hamburg: a metropolitan city located in northern Germany that was bombarded in world war II and reconstructed for its inhabitants needs. It is characterised with a high life expectancy and well-being and is called the gateway of the world due to its large harbour situated next to the Elbe river. I had the chance to do a 12 months internship in one of the largest companies in Hamburg (Airbus) and during my stay I not only learned something about airmechanics, I learned that the attitude of people in Hamburg is way different from London, the place I grew up.

                                       Hamburg City view Credit: Stefan Korff


During my stay in Hamburg I was amazed by the relaxed and stress free attitude of its inhabitants, people seemed to be living slow-paced and never rushed. I remember getting late for a meeting and started to run towards the subway station to catch my train. While I was running I was attracting looks of people around me that where actually scared of me, as if I was a criminal, running from a crime scene.
This led to my first idea; why do people never run here? The answer became clear to me after a few months; they had no reason to. It's a common thing to be treated as an indivdual who has respect for the city and its rules and germans are known to be very punctual and time driven, yet whenever I was late at an appointment, noone seemed to mind at all, it was nothing that I would have expected from one of Germany's largest cities. So why is it that people in Hamburg seem so relaxed, have a good work life balance and nearly never rush or are stressed?

After living in Hamburg for 12 months some things became clear to me, things that were different from the life i knew in london, things that must partly explain this:

Reason #1: Population Density

Although Hamburg has nearly 2 million inhabitants, people are living more scattered and the amount of people living per square surface area is way less compared to other major cities.


                                                  Population density per square surface area

Whenever a place is densely populated and crowdy, people tend to be more stressed and life seems to be more hectic. Everyone who has visited Paris will agree on this fact and its situation is comparable to New York or London. In Paris, its impossible to annoy you on the traffic or people rushing to meet an appointment. cars ride around like it's the end of their life and people yell and curse when trying to cross the traffic light.

In Hamburg no matter how safe it is, people never ever cross the traffic light.

This brings me to the next reason why people in Hamburg are less stressed, they tend to follow the rules of the city and have high moral values.

Reason #2: Moral values

There is a lot of respect for rules in Hamburg as mentioned before and social acceptance seems to be the controlling factor in everyday's life. You are responsible if you are late, you are responsible for not having a good work life balance and you are responsible for your own happiness. Criminality is virtually non-existent and even people from a low social background seem to be well-behaved. Its just not accepted as an individual to spit or throw your garbage on the ground. This lack of criminality and high moral values make people lower their guard and feel more safe and relaxed.

Reason #3: Transportation 

Transportation with the famous U and S-bahn train system is very popular and different from other cities such as Paris, London or New York. The HVV German rail and subway system is one of the most efficient in the world and during my 12 months stay in Hamburg I only encountered one (!) train delay. Every 9 minutes, no matter where or when a train will take you to your destination and this is why there are little to no cars or bicycles in the city, everyone just uses the U and S-bahn system to go to work and I never ever had to worry about not having a seat.

Reason #4: Life Index and Well Being 

Hamburg scores high in a large-scale survey on well-being in germany. Although Frankfurt and Munich score higher on a global most livable city ranking, Hamburg is rated the top city in Germany for people's well-being.

happiness germanyCredit: Stefan Korff

                                                         Life happiness scale in germany

This figure ranks well-being of germany in a scale of 1 to 10 (0 = not happy at all, 10 = completely happy). Hamburg score's the highest score (7,38) of all regions. 

All these factors have their influence of the relaxed attitude of the inhabitants of a metropolitan city, this list is not limited but can surely partly explain why people in Hamburg are less stressed and live a more relaxed life.