My Time in Hamburg By Phil Zeni

As our four year adventure draws to a close, my wife Debra and I look back on our time in Hamburg with great fondness.

The city is beautiful, of course, and the range of cultural and social opportunities has always seemed unlimited, but what really has made this time so special are the people we have met and grown to know and love.

Hamburg boasts that it is an international city. We found this to be absolutely true. From our earliest involvement in several expat clubs, to active membership in the Anglican Church of St Thomas Becket, to service as an officer and board member of the Amerikazentrum, the national and ethnic diversity of Hamburg has been emphatically confirmed.

The work with the Amerikazentrum has been especially rewarding since it provided a chance to assist with several projects celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Hamburg-Chicago Sister Cities relationship in 2014. Having previously lived in Chicago and as I now depart for a return to that great city, my work here has provided a springboard for deeper involvement once I have relocated.

There were numerous events as part of this 20 year celebration, but the two that I had the most involvement with were the Chicago Blues Night at the Park Hyatt Hotel and the Chicago Film Festival at the Savoy Theatre. Both of these events were enthusiastically received by their audiences. Here again, these offered the opportunity to meet and work with numerous people, several of whom have become good friends. It has also brought me closer to the staff of the Sister Cities office in Chicago and I plan to continue to grow my relationship there upon my return to the Windy City in early 2015.

Phil Zeni
Phil Zeni


It has been very gratifying to experience the openness and warmth from dozens of Hamburg’s organizational leaders across a very broad range, including business, governmental, political, religious, social, cultural, expat, educational and the list goes on and on. There was never enough time to accept and attend all of the events to which we were invited. When we reflect on the numerous consulate, military and business receptions; lectures; concerts; Hafenfests; openings; seminars; book readings; teaching opportunities and parties that we were able to attend it is with the realization that many were once-in-a-lifetime-experiences and we are filled with gratitude. They created memories that will never be forgotten.

Phil posing with students after his presentation to a class at the Amerikazentrum taught by Dr. Elmar Lüth

So it is with no small amount of sadness that we depart the Free and Hanseatic State of Hamburg and the many people who have touched our lives during the swift passage of our time here.

Tschuss HH we will miss you!
Biographic information:

During the couples’ four years in Hamburg, although working full-time as a Global Manager at the ADM A.C. Toepfer office, Debra found time to be President of the Mothers’ Union of the English Church and a special hostess for the International Womens’ Club. She was also active in a number of expat clubs along with Phil, including the English-Speaking Union, the British Club of Hamburg and the American Club.

He served as the Schatzmeister and a board member of the Amerikazentrum, President of the American-German Business Club, a Churchwarden of the English Church and Vice Chairman/National Communications Director of the Republicans Overseas in Germany. Phil even managed to squeeze in occasional work assignments as a voiceover talent for projects with Audi, Volkswagen, Siemens, P.E.TA., BASF and Lufthansa among others.

The couple are natives of Decatur, Illinois and graduates of the University of Illinois at Springfield.