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Taking Roots in Hamburg: Professional Life

Hamburg is mainly a tourist, maritime, aviation and banking hub in the region. Other fields such as shipbuilding and aerospace, media, medical technology, biotechnology and research in physics and chemistry are also considered its economic pillars. Progressive sectors such as renewable energies, life sciences, logistics and food are also on the rise in the city, ensuring a growing labour market and a wide range of employment opportunities. A dynamic start-up culture is evident in the Hanseatic City, with around 10,000 companies expanding to, or being newly founded in the Hamburg metropolitan region every year. 

Indian Professionals in Hamburg

Indians have been migrating to Germany, and in particular to Hamburg, for a long time on account of factors such as education and skilled labour. This trend especially picked pace with the introduction of a “green card” in August 2000, which was targeted at IT professionals. According to a 2018 report by the Centre for Developmental Research at the University of Bonn, “a completely new phase of Indo-German migration started in 2000. This phase is characterized by a steep increase of the migration volume and the emergence of two new groups: highly skilled professionals, mainly from the IT sector, and students.” 

Official figures of the Hamburg Statistical Office show that the number of Indian citizens working in Hamburg more than doubled between 2016 and 2019. There were 1,298 Indian nationals employed in Hamburg and subject to social security contributions at the end of the year2016. By 2019, this figure grew to 2,723 Indian employees working full time with an addition of 218 part-time registered employees by the end of 2019. The actual figures could be even higher since the data does not include persons of Indian origin with German nationality as well as those working outside the city limits in the metropolitan region of Hamburg. At the end of 2019, there were 8,304 persons with roots in India living in Hamburg, a little over 37% had acquired German citizenship. The city expects these numbers to continue rising in the coming years and is keen on expanding the professional ties between India and Hamburg. 

The intensifying presence of persons of Indian-origin in Hamburg is not limited to working professionals, but also includes students. Statistical data shows that there were only 27 Indian students in Germany in the Winter term 1998/99, of which 14 were enrolled at the University of Hamburg, 12 at the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), and one at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW). By the Winter term 2019/20, this number had reached 522, with a large majority enrolled at TUHH (63%), followed by the University of Hamburg (26%) and HAW (8%). Many Indian students remain in Hamburg after completing their studies, as is confirmed by Dr. Stephan Buse, who is Deputy Director of the Institute for Technology and Innovation Management (TIM) at TUHH and is also an honorary deputy head of the Hamburg Section of the German-Indian Round Table (GIRT). In his decades of experience, Dr. Buse has noticed a growing trend of Indian students who continue working in Hamburg after finishing their studies.

Prof. Dr. Rajnish Tiwari is an example of Indian students who have made Hamburg their home after completing their studies. He teaches business administration and global innovation at Hochschule Fresenius and at TUHH in Hamburg and is an alumni of the University of Hamburg and TUHH. Prof. Tiwari came to Hamburg in 1998 and studied business administration with a focus on international management and business informatics at the University of Hamburg. He received several awards for merit and social engagement during his studies. In an honorary capacity, he leads the Hamburg chapter of the German-Indian Round Table (GIRT), which is an informal initiative to promote bilateral economic ties between Germany and India, and has been a co-initiator and co-organizer of the India Week since its inception in 2007. According to him, “if you are coming to study or work in Germany, or any other country for that matter, you should try to absorb as much of the local culture and language as you can. This is only going to  benefit you since language opens up many doors that might have otherwise remained shut due to sheer lack of communication avenues.”

This view is concurred by a study conducted by Gottschlich in 2013, according to which, Indians represent a higher proportion of highly skilled workers compared to other South Asians in Germany. Furthermore, their educational achievements have increased from generation to generation (Gries, 2000). Over the past two decades, good education has helped Indians secure stable skilled jobs and become part of the German middle class. However, a majority of the Indians that were interviewed for the research believe that they could have been even more successful if they had moved to Germany with prior knowledge of the German language.

Thus, the primary reasons why Indians opt to immigrate to Germany as professionals are quite clear. The Work-life balance, competitive salaries, high standard of living and an international work environment rank as the top motivations. Yet, it may be challenging to find one’s bearings in the German work culture, which may be perceived by some as being “strict”. For this, Prof. Tiwari urges that it is important to step outside one’s comfort zone and network with people. “Go out of your bubble and seek other internationals, locals and interesting communities. If you only stick with fellow expats, it won’t let you take roots in the new city or country. A network of your own can help you navigate problems that might seem beyond you.”

Eshani Sarma who hails from Assam in India, is an alumni of TUHH and has been living in Germany since 2012. She has established her own company in Hamburg in 2015, specialising in recruitment. She says: “Networking is the first step. I really think that who I am today is based on the network I have built. Some of the most important turning points in my life and career were always supported by people I had met and had developed working relationships with. Nobody is going to come and hand things to you on a platter. All the help I have received is because I went out and talked to people. Also, one good thing about German culture compared to Indian culture is that people respect your personal boundaries. So you can be sure that work and personal life can be kept separate unless you want to open up.”

While pro-activeness and self-motivation is key to professional success, it is sometimes not enough to reach the right opportunities. “The City of Hamburg has some dedicated events for professionals and budding entrepreneurs but not many people know about it. The information on funding opportunities, setting up your own business and navigating the legal and bureaucratic aspects in Hamburg is available, but it is not widely known. As such many people cannot make full use of the benefits of these offerings by the city,” says Eshani. This statement shows the relevance of events like the India Week Hamburg, which provide a valuable platform to bring institutions and people together.

Summarizing, we can say that the Indian population in Germany and Hamburg in particular is characterised by a large presence of highly skilled men and women. The Indian and German governments would, therefore, be well-advised to take these trends into account when designing diaspora policies aimed at promoting professional exchanges between the two countries.


  1. “40,000 millionaires in Hamburg” 
  2. Page 6, 9, 10
  3. According to the OECD 2020 report, Germany is the most popular country for immigration after the USA. And with reason: the quality of life is high, the economic situation is stable and career prospects are good.)
  4. EU-India Cooperation and Dialogue on Migration and Mobility