We met in Munich, one of the many cities you have lived in, though you have recently moved to Hamburg and plan to keep there your home-base on a long-term. What makes Hamburg so special to you?
I have been really fond of Hamburg even before I moved there. It just feels like home, I have many people I love very close to me and I just think it has so much to offer. I have lived in quite a few German cities before and I like Hamburg the best by far. It is incredibly beautiful and full of contrast, too. It can be really chic and posh, but also very relaxed and casual. Since I find both of these opposites in my personality as well I feel that Hamburg really suits me as a person.
You grew up on the most remote piece of land facing the island of Sylt, near the border to Denmark. I can very well figure the fascination of such a surrounding far from civilization. It makes a pretty romantic, picturesque scenery and sounds like the place you’d go to for writing a novel. But it is probably not all poetry when you actually live there. Looking back, what are your memories? How do you feel the place of your upbringing has influenced you?
I can see how a place like that would be appealing from a literary point of view, but my thoughts and feelings back then were a lot different. It is kind of hard to appreciate the picturesque beauty of a landscape when you are a teenager, stuck in the middle of nowhere. I guess I did have a very peaceful childhood and youth, but these aren’t exactly the things one is looking for while growing up. So what I definitely do remember is my desire to live in a city (or at least closer to one). But as the same time I have to admit that it had its perks as well – for example, I had my own horse – so there are fond memories as well. I think growing up in a place like that might have influenced me more than I would like to admit, because since I am pretty shy, I often have to make an effort to be open and outgoing.
You have since then been living in cities. Last year you spent some time in Shanghai for work. How do you adjust from our European city size to living in one of the most populated cities in the world?
The mass of people can be overwhelming at first, although since I was there as a model, it wasn’t all that challenging, because a lot of people were taking care of us or at least tried to do so. The thought of having to use public transportation in Shanghai was pretty scary to me – I suppose as a foreigner one could get lost quite easily. Luckily we had cars and drivers taking us to castings and jobs most of the time. I remember one or two instances of being completely lost though and those experiences were not very pleasant. All in all, I found Shanghai fascinating – simply driving through the city was really exciting and no European city compares to the vastness of Shanghai. But living in a space that crowded and busy can be stressful as well, especially when you are confronted with a culture that is not your own on a daily basis and not as a tourist, but in a working environment. I am glad that I had the chance to do that and I would like to come back one day, but I would never choose Shanghai as my home.
After Shanghai came Singapore. The young republic is a global player with a strong economy and very diverse population. On the other hand, media tend to focus on its strong regulations and severe punishments. What was your experience? Did your studies of law influence your perspective during your stay?
In my opinion, Singapore offers an amazing quality of life that can rarely be found throughout the world. It is a melting pot, because cultures from everywhere in the world come together in one city and create something entirely different and very special. To me it perfectly combined what I love about Asia with a somewhat European atmosphere and I found that very appealing. The other side of the coin would be indeed the very strict regulations that are made. I didn’t stay long enough to really make a profound statement as to how that might affect the lives of the local population, because all I experienced were the positive effects, for example the immaculate cleanliness of the city, but I’m sure there is a downside as well. I started studying law only after I returned, so that didn’t have much impact on my perspective back then, but I am definitely interested in Singapore’s future political and constitutional development. My mind is set on visiting this city again and it is a place I even could imagine living in for a longer period of time.
Shanghai, Singapore, Hamburg. Very different settings and cultures, and yet they are all important commercial ports. It seems like scale and latitude may change but you are still living right in front of water. Coincidence or purpose?
This unifying feature never occurred to me like that, but now that I come to think of it, it is definitely something more than coincident. Maybe on a subconscious level I picked all those places, because I only feel really at home when I have water close to me. I find the sea has quite a calming effect on me. In my opinion, life is so much better with water nearby and I feel truly blessed because as of now I couldn’t think of a better spot for me to live in than my home.