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I commute 5 hours from Hamburg to London so I can live with my partner. It's not sustainable.

Alexandra Bacon   

I commute 5 hours from Hamburg to London so I can live with my partner. It's not sustainable.
  • Seb lives in Hamburg, Germany but works in London.
  • After his team switched to more in-person work this year, he started commuting five hours to the office.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Seb, 32, about his commute from Hamburg to London for work. He chronicles the commute on TikTok. The following has been edited for length and clarity. He wishes to keep his last name anonymous, but Business Insider has verified his identity and his employment.

After meeting my partner while traveling a few years ago, my being English and her being German meant that we spent a lot of time flitting between both countries.

When Brexit rules came in, restricting the number of days UK residents could spend in the European Union, I made the choice to become a resident of Germany. It meant I could spend time in the EU without stressing that I was overstaying.

But I didn't want to quit my role as a director of a company in London.

Immediately moving back to London wasn't an option. My partner is a doctor in Germany, so it's a lot harder for her to up sticks and come to work in the UK.

However, my team was switching back to in-person work, so it wasn't particularly fair for me to work completely remotely.

My company and I decided that I'd switch to coming into the office three days a week, two or three times a month. That way, I'd be able to collaborate with my teammates and take meetings in the office.

So, around January of this year, I started doing my super commute— a five-hour journey that takes me from my home in Hamburg to my office in the UK and then back again after 3 days.

And then, as a bit of fun to add some enjoyment to the long commute, I decided to start documenting it on TikTok and challenge myself to beat my time. There was a lot more interest in the videos than I thought there would be.

The travel day

I usually don't bother booking too far in advance.

My fastest time so far has been four hours and 44 minutes, and the longest has been close to six hours. Luckily, I've managed to avoid any big travel delays so far.

Monday is always a long day, especially considering Germany is one hour ahead. I wake up at 4 a.m. (3 a.m. UK time) to begin my journey to work.

Of course, I pack all my belongings the night before. Being an efficient packer is a necessary part of having a super commute.

It's a waste to bring a checked bag just for three nights. I can be a bit of a nerd about this sort of thing: I've got a carry-on roller suitcase that converts to a backpack, so I can cycle to and from the station in Hamburg. I also keep things in the office, like a toiletry bag and gym sneakers.

All that forward planning means I'm out the door within 30 minutes. I hop on an hour-long train to the airport, and at this point, I only bother arriving an hour before takeoff.

My many frequent flying miles have earned me enough British Airways airline points to access free fast-track security.

I rush through security, grab a coffee, then go through passport control. I aim to spend as little time there as possible without missing my flight.

I'm still one of the first people to arrive at the office in the morning

The flight typically takes off around 6:40 a.m., and it takes just one hour and 20 minutes to get to London Heathrow — unfortunately, there aren't any flights from Hamburg Airport to the more convenient London City Airport.

You may think that I'd be more productive during the five-hour commute. But I usually just take the time to watch Netflix or something on the flight.

By 7 a.m., I've landed in London. I speed through passport control. Then, jump on whichever train is available to hop onto the tube straight through to Canary Wharf.

That adds another hour to the journey, so I tend to get to the office in time to clock on at 9 a.m.

To the annoyance of my colleagues, I'm often the second or third person to arrive.

Then after all that, I have to start the working day.

I work until around 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. and head to check in to a nearby hotel. Now that I go so often, I've found a favorite — just a 10-minute walk away from the office

It's not cheap, but I wouldn't change the situation

The 3-night trip comes to slightly over £500 ($636). Return flights are around £150 ($190), and the hotel is £120 ($150) per night, plus some extra money spent on public transport on either side.

I negotiated with my company to have them foot the bill for the commute, but it is then reflected in my salary. If I lived in England, I definitely would earn more.

It's a temporary measure. The plan for the future is to move back to England, so ideally, it'll be a maximum of one more year doing this long commute.

I get to live the best of both worlds, even though it can't last forever

At the moment, I get the best of both worlds: experiencing living in a different country, immersing myself in a new culture, and learning a new language, all while being able to keep my job in London, which is my home city and a city that I love.

I try to make the most of my time in London; I meet friends and family after work to catch a football game or go for a drink, even if I'm tired. But living between two countries comes at a cost financially and timewise as well.

Hamburg is a lot cleaner than London, and the roads are a lot quieter. But there's not a huge draw for me to stay in Hamburg — the taxes are still high, and the weather is equally bad. It's not like I ended up with someone Spanish and got to live in a sunny beach destination in Spain.

Ultimately, my life is in England, and I miss my friends and family. It's not sustainable to keep with the commute forever.

For now, it's fun to document my journey on TikTok and experience living in Germany, even if it's inconvenient. But a five-hour commute is not something I'd recommend to others.

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