Home » Dialogue in Silence Exhibition | Hamburg

Dialogue in Silence Exhibition | Hamburg

The Dialogue in Silence Exhibition, Hamburg, Germany | The Halcyon Years


When in Hamburg we were invited to attend the Dialogue in Silence exhibition in the Speicherstadt (Warehouse District) of the city. I was a little dubious about this at first because exhibitions aren’t really my thing – unless they are talking about something old like the Empire State Building (ever the geeky Geographer!). However we were so impressed with this one, I wanted to write a separate blog post about it to give it the coverage it deserves.

As you might expect from the title, the aim of the exhibition is to get the audience thinking about how we communicate with one another, particularly through the use of non-verbal communication. It sounds quite straight forward but was actually harder than it looks and I left the whole experience with a much greater level of understanding of what life must be like for those deaf and hard of hearing. I think that’s why I enjoyed the experience so much, because it provided an insight into a world that I shamefully hadn’t given much thought about before and I found it really thought provoking.

The Dialogue in Silence Exhibition, Hamburg, Germany | Ettie and Me

The Dialogue in Silence Exhibition, Hamburg, Germany | Ettie and Me

Dialogue in Silence

The hour long tour began in a large room, with activities dotted around on tables which participants were asked to complete without talking. No insight into the world of non-verbal communication had been provided at this point and so the whole thing wasn’t taken very seriously, but I found it ever so insightful to compare my feelings and understanding from this stage of the tour with how I felt at the end.

All of the facilitators leading the Dialogue in Silence experience are deaf or hearing impaired and after a short while in the ‘school room’ we were greeted by our facilitator and taken into a sound proofed room to collect noise-cancelling headphones that took away our sense of sound. That in itself was a bit of a wake up call as it was rather unnerving to suddenly no longer be able to hear any background noise.

Once we’d collected our headphones, we were guided through a series of rooms, each of them designed to break down a different element of non-verbal communication. So for example, the first dealt with lip reading, the second body language, the third sign language and so on. It was so interesting to look at how we communicate with one another without even realising it, and how our body language and facial expressions can have a large impact on what is being said, even without the use of words.

The Dialogue in Silence Exhibition, Hamburg, Germany | Ettie and Me

Learning to speak with our hands and hear with our eyes instead of ears

The Dialogue in Silence Exhibition, Hamburg, Germany | Ettie and Me

An insight into the world of sign language and how different hand formations can mean different things depending on context – all explained using non verbal communication.

The Dialogue in Silence Exhibition, Hamburg, Germany | Ettie and Me

Considering we were all unable to keep our mouths closed for the shortest amount of time at the start of the tour, by the end of the tour we were able to communicate well enough with one another to build a scene out of building blocks as described by another member of the audience.

The Dialogue in Silence Exhibition, Hamburg, Germany | Ettie and Me

Its a grainy picture, but this image was shown to the lady sitting opposite me and she had to describe it using only basic sign language and body language, enough to enable me to build it. It was fascinating to see how we could draw on other forms of communication to speak to one another, that we just wouldn’t have realised before we’d been on the tour.

At the end of the tour there was a question and answer session with our facilitator which I found the most interesting part of the day. She explained to us that she had been deaf since birth and that at school it used to be the norm to force children to learn lip reading – which is ridiculously difficult. She also explained that there are variations to sign language throughout the world and it is not one universal language – which I had previously thought to be the case.

It was such a thought provoking experience, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since and definitely have a much better understanding of what life must be like for the deaf and hard of hearing. I think exhibitions like this are so important to break down the fears often associated with disabilities and and bridge the gap between the worlds of deaf people and others. I am so happy that Come to Hamburg invited me along as part of our trip and would like to think that I am now much less fearful about talking to a person who is deaf or hard of hearing.

Our visit to Dialogue in Silence was carried out as part of our three day city break to Hamburg taken in June 2018 when I was seven months pregnant. You can read more about the rest of our trip in here (Hamburg Part One) and here: Hamburg with a Toddler {Part 2}.

Please note that since publishing this post I have been advised that the exhibition is not suitable for children under three. 

The Dialogue in Silence Exhibition, Hamburg, Germany | Ettie and Me

The Dialogue in Silence Exhibition, Hamburg, Germany | Ettie and Me

The Dialogue in Silence Exhibition, Hamburg, Germany | Ettie and Me

NB: Our tickets into Dialogue in Silence were provided free of charge by the Come to Hamburg project, but I was under no obligation to write a review. All words and opinions are my own.


  1. Erika
    18th October 2019 / 2:22 pm

    I read your blog about your trip to Hamburg with an almost two year old and it has been helpful. I am currently traveling with my 11 month old. I wish you had mentioned in this blog post that the dialogue in silence is not baby friendly. I was just told that it is too difficult for a baby and the minimum age is 3. I also find it ironic that this exposition is to improve understanding of people with disabilities yet they do not have an elevator.

    • 22nd October 2019 / 12:16 pm

      Hi Erika I’m so sorry you experienced this. Ettie was 2 when we visited and it was fine to take her in. There was also an elevator behind the check in desk (but a member of staff had to take us to use it). Apologies again that the article is misleading – I will update it based on your experience. Emma x

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