When your Heimat leaves you

Only a few weeks are left for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. While the EU as well as the British Parliament continue to navigate through unclear waters, British citizens living in Hamburg are burdened with the insecurity of the looming deadline, the 29th of March. And German-British shopkeeper Alexander Kittel still does not know which Brexit to prepare his “Fine British Goods”-store for. 

Hamburg has often been labelled one of the most British cities in Germany and some Brits in Hamburg proudly remember their beloved “Notting Hill” when roaming the streets of Eppendorf. But Hamburg’s Britishness also means that a significant British community is now nervously waiting for some guidelines to follow when the Brexit finally takes place. Many of them have started organizing in Facebook groups, anxiously asking questions to the online community about their passports and the chances of a dual citizenship.

Alexander Kittel’s “Fine British Goods” store caters to the needs of Hamburg’s Anglophiles.

Since the referendum in 2016, the city of Hamburg has registered a growing interest of Brits in Hamburg who want to apply for the German citizenship. 308 people from the United Kingdom have been nationalized in Hamburg in 2018, as compared to only 47 of these nationalizations in 2015, before the referendum. The city of Hamburg has tried to reach out to all of the British people living here to inform them about possible procedures to apply for a dual citizenship.

Ellie Sellwood, a former British Master student in Hamburg, works for the organization “British in Germany” and even sees health consequences of the Brexit back-and-forth: “Brits across Europe have been living in limbo since June 2016 and this is having an adverse affect on their mental health and it’s pulling families apart.”

Due to the uncertainty about an “orderly” or “unorderly” Brexit, many British nationals in Hamburg still do not know to what extent their status as a UK national in Germany will be changing.

Shopkeeper Alexander Kittel does not have to worry about his citizenship just yet, he already has both nationalities due to his family background. But for his little British goods store, the Brexit could have consequences. Kittel imports many of his goods from producers in the UK. So far, the entrepreneur still does not know which scenario to prepare for and plans to start stocking up his shelves with imported goods to be safe for a couple of months. In his opinion, especially smaller producers from the United Kingdom could suffer from the Brexit’s effect on their export business.

When you enter Kittel’s little store in Hamburg-Eppendorf, you are immediately transported to the streets of London or to a little village in Devon. From cream tea to gin tastings – Kittel knows how to serve his mostly German customers a proper dose of ‘Britishness’. They have started asking questions, some of them joking during shopping that they now “need to support our British friends”. Kittel laughs with them, his British humour is still intact. He hopes, his little store will pull through. A Brexit version of the ‘Famous Five’ book series is already anxiously waiting in his shop window.

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