Working in Bochum, living in Essen, going to the theatre in Oberhausen, and attending a concert in Dortmund – the Ruhr District’s over 5 million inhabitants use the region to the full. They constantly reinforce ties between the individual municipalities of this metropolis, re-discovering its many facets on an almost daily basis. The Ruhr District thus differs significantly from cities that have grown up in the traditional way. The region is a truly decentralised urban phenomenon with a population that is constantly on the move between its numerous nodes and peripheries.
The origins of the close allegiances that exist within the Ruhrgebiet go back to its common industrial past. In just 150 years, the area between the rivers Ruhr, Emscher and Lippe merged into a gigantic industrial conglomeration. Heavy industry has had a major impact on the region. And still today its mark is unmistakable – but now more as a cultural heritage than a scar. Indeed, the people of the region are quite unwilling to give up this cultural heritage – proud of the special appeal that it gives to the Ruhr District.
It is in the coal and steel industry that the roots of today’s multi-cultural identity of the Ruhrgebiet lie: migrants seeking work from all the countries of Europe settled here, turning the Ruhr region into a "Little Europe”, and one that is now very keen to maintain its internationality. (quoted from: Essen für das Ruhrgebiet: Kulturhauptstadt Europas 2010 )