February 19, 2013

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What a loud of horse$^£&

How narrow minded can you get? That was a waste of my time reading this shit. Open your mind and maybe keep your stupid opinions to yourself.

Ed Hoare 22 hours ago

learning German

I'm in German only for 20 days now ,learning German ... German language is a kind of language that you feel you can't wait to master...I feel Jealous when i hear german people speaking :)

MEMO 8 days ago

This is ridiculous!

Geeze, person, entitled much? While I agree that anyone living in a country should definitely try to learn the language and that there are entitled jerks out there who believe the rest of the world should cater to their laziness, there is nothing wrong with immigrant communities speaking their native language with each other. In every country you will find communities like "Little China" or "Little India" in which they cater to their own culture and language. Many of the people in these areas speak little or nothing of any language but their native one. It's normal to want to hold on to your homeland as it's a huge part of who you are. If you don't like English restaurants and American food, then don't go to those restaurants.

Also, did it occur to you that those restaurants are a perfect place for new immigrants to work while they ARE attempting to learn the local language? Who else is going to hire them in a new country where they only speak their native language? Where will these new immigrants eat/shop/socialize until they can speak enough German to not feel alone in a room full of people? Try and look at from the other person's shoes.

Peramia 17 days ago

Only English?

Can you tell me about more places where there's only English speaking staff? A friend of mine moved to Berlin and is starting to learn German but in the meanwhile she needs to find a job and I guess her best option would be to find a place where she could communicate in English. Do you know any place around Bellevue or Tiergarten?

Cesar Vicente 25 days ago

ha ha

she shd go to Neukölln Prenzlauer Berg Mitte etc.

Jacinta Nandi 24 days ago

Thank you, Julie

It's very simple: if you're coming for a holiday to Germany/Berlin, you certainly don't have to learn German. If you're planning on staying you really should. I was mortified when I recently went to a cafe that was all-english: the staff didn't speak German, the menu was only available in English...I ended up translating most things for my friend. It upset me a lot. It feels like the people come to Berlin because it's a cool city and then they miss out on so much that makes this city unique. If you're not ready to integrate into a society, just leave, please. And yes, I have learned the language every time I've lived in a foreign country (USA, Peru, Switzerland).

Berlin,Alter! 25 days ago

They deserve it!

Just look at how "well" Germans adapt to foreign languages abroad or at home.
No need to criticize expats on speaking English.

Thomas 55 days ago

@Thomas »They deserve it!«

Hmmm… on the one hand

(1) P(learn & use the local language | person is German) >> P(learn & use the local language | person is Northamerican). Brits are part of europe and learn the languages of their neighbours, so I wouldn't lump them with the isolated Northamericans, it is in fact (2) P(learn+use local language | German) ~ P(learn+use local language | English).

But I agree with you to some extent. This is the destructive pragmatic tendency of the world: the neglectful or wanting extermination of diversity through mindlessly following and obey big movements of natural selection in sociological evolution. Germans are as bad as Anglo-Saxons if not worse, they promote a foreign language in their own country to the detriment of their own. In Britain its the other way around: foreign languages are promoted (just go into any airport, observe the french, german, russian, jewish schools — yes this exists in Germany too, but Germany promotes one foreign language (english) lopsidedly above all others, whereas in Great Britain foreign languages are generally more equally nurtured) and the local language is upheld with pride. In Germany one thinks, one HAS to be ashamed of using the local language, or even apologise for using it with foreigners. In England one forces foreigners even with broken to 0 knowledge to live/work/operate in the local language.

Thank you very much (sarcasm), people, for destroying, being ashamed or not promoting local languages!

Daniel 32 days ago

Kritik der reinen Unvernunft

Es gibt mehrere Faktoren, die schon zum großen Teil von anderen aufgelistet worden sind. Hier also mein Beitrag: in Deutschland erlebt man eine etwas heuchlerische Haltung. Das Land ist (trotz seiner Vergangenheit) noch ziemlich ausländerfeindlich — vor allem gegenüber denjenigen, die seit Generationen hierher eingewandert sind: es wird über sie gemeckert und heißt oft, sie beherrschen das Deutsche schlecht, lehnen Kultur ab, usw. Andererseits, wenns um Englischsprachiger geht, isses plötzlich in Ordnung, dass sie sich verweigern, die Kultur anzunehmen, die Sprache zu verwenden, usw. Der Nordamerikaner darf sich seiner Landessprache bedienen … aber der Russe und der Franzose nicht. Was soll das? Gabs nicht genauso eine starke Verbindung zu den Russen und Franzosen wie zu den Amis? Die Russische Kultur wurde praktisch vom Land vertrieben, und die (nicht englische sondern) US-amerikanische genießt Verehrung?? Deutschland hasst Araber, Perser, Vietnamesen, Polen und Russen, wenn die zu Hause arabisch, persisch, vietnamesisch, polnisch, russisch sprechen … aber der Einmarsch des Englischen ist erlaubt?? Überall in Läden, im Radio, im Fernsehen an den Unis, in den Banken, knien die Deutschen —nicht vor der wahren Quelle des Englisch: den Engländern — sondern in Deutschland herrscht eine Rivalität zu denen— vor den US-amerikanern. Warum?

Will Deutschland eine echte Integration fördern oder nicht? Wenn ja, dann muss und sollte mal ALLE Fremdkulturen sowie -sprachen gleich und nicht parteiisch behandelt werden.

Ein zum Teil besseres Vorbild hierfür ist Frankreich: vielleicht der einzige andere große Staat neben, der auf seine Sprache in der ganzen Welt stolz ist. Die übliche Ausreden lauten etwa: „Ja, aber es ist anders. Unsere Sprache ist zu kompliziert, klingt hart, und keiner würde uns verstehen.“ Von wegen unschön und von wegen kompliziert! Kompliziert sind Sprachen wie Polnisch, Chinesisch, Türkisch, Russisch, Isländisch, Ungarisch, Finnisch, Estnisch. Und was es das Verstehen angeht: pah! Frankreich scheißt drauf, und singt immer noch auf die Landessprache bei der Grand Prix — genauso Island und Ungarn (trotz deren viel komplizierteren Sprachen!). Warum muss sich immer „Germany“ vor anderen wegen seiner Sprache zurückhalten? Die Sprache gilt doch als meist gelernte Drittsprache!

Was es jetzt andere angeht, die nach Deutschland kommen: wenn ihr einmal die ganze Zeit englisch reden wollt, dann (1) falls ihr aus englischsprachigen Ländern kommt, fragt euch bitte, was für ein Vorbild ihr seid für die anderen Ausländer; fragt euch bitte, wieso ihr euch eurer Sprache bei der Arbeit und an der Uni oder mit Fremden bedienen dürft und sie nicht; (2) falls ihr NICHT aus dem Englischen Sprachraum kommt … warum zum Henke habt ihr denn Englisch gelernt, nur nach Deutschland (oder welchem Land auch immer) zu fahren/leben/arbeiten/studieren? Warum nicht mal diejenige Wirtschaft unterstützen, von wo genannte Sprache herkommt, die ihr so sehr liebt?

Senf 85 days ago

and yet these Americans are probably the same ones...

And yet these Americans, clinging stubbornly to the language of their birth, are probably have the same mindset as the folks in the USA who shout the loudest "Learn English" at immigrants gathering in the "Little Ethiopia", "Little Italy" or "Little Mexico" enclaves here in the States. SMDH.

IMHO: If you live in a country you should make some attempt to learn some level of fluency in that country's language.

Now, if I could just get the locals to learn any one of the 300+ First Nation languages, we'd be set!

Hell_On_Wheelz on Twitter 91 days ago

This rant is spot on

I've lived in 17 countries and have encountered the behaviour described here among ex-pats (the word of choice for immigrants who happen to speak some English) in all 17 of those countries. The funny part is that the most anglocentric ex-pats I've had the bad luck to encounter were usually not native English speakers, who somehow learned some English and felt the need to share their newfound discovery on the rest of the world. Oddly enough, I find that most native English Speakers, like myself, many Americans, the odd Brit, and even some Aussies are often interested and keen on learning other languages. It's sad that these wannabe ex-pats need to speak English (rather than their own language, or the language of their host country) to feel better about themselves, and I feel embarrased for them.

Ryan 216 days ago


I've noticed lots of middle-class Americans and W Europeans here speak none, or very little German. Yet the poor Turkish shop keepers speak their native tongue, fluent German, and a good bit of English on top. Its certainly no sin to not learn German if you really don't care. But I think what rubs people the wrong way about it is the huge sense of entitlement some people have. Some people think its their job to be out partying all night long and that the Turkish shop keeper, for example, who already works 14 hours a day, will spend his/her few free hours a week brushing up on English, now that their are so many non-Germans here.

Annie 267 days ago

the way

What a way to handle a good topic in a such a poor and limited point of view, this is not an article its just bitching out loud, so bitch please, Travel a little bit more to see what your german buddies do overseas or get a piece of understanding about globalisation and celebrating our differences instead of hating them. Peace girl, dont go so hard on the coffes.

andrea 272 days ago

Your Narrowminded View

The article is called a rant for a reason, a rant specifies that this is subjective and usually emotionally driven which is exactly what you were complaining about, the whole thing being a rant.
The point of this Rant is not to make fun of other cultures but point out how people with an English speaking background are living in Germany choosing not to learn German because they feel they should be entitled to speak English for whatever reason (cause they won the war or some silly self empowering opinion). The point Julie is trying to make is that if they come over to Germany they should make some effort and learn the language instead of snobing everyone who cannot speak english, might aswell go to paris if i want to get snobbed

Jonathan 256 days ago

the way

What a way to handle a good topic in a such a poor and limited point of view, this is not an article its just bitching out loud, so bitch please, Travel a little bit more to see what your german buddies do overseas or get a piece of understanding about globalisation and celebrating our differences instead of hating them. Peace girl, dont go so hard on the coffes.

andrea 272 days ago

Negative Junk

These debates over learning languages of host countries, always, inevitably, go back to the same negative crap of bashing English speakers for their supposed 'careless', 'arrogant', 'we don't care' attitudes toward foreign languages. What an old and inaccurate refrain. FIRST, it's based on a dated and inaccurate assumption that English speakers (and dare I suggest that us Americans usually are singled out?) don't learn foreign languages. I speak advanced French, Korean, and German, and basic Spanish and Italian. My good American friend from a small town speaks Russian, Hindi, French, and Italian fluently. My other American friend from a small town speaks Spanish fluently and some French. My other friend, Spanish fluently and advanced Swedish. ....Has my point been made? Stale, inaccurate stereotypes are more annoying than someone not speaking a language.
SECOND... World... English is the international language of science, business, academia, etc. I, as a native English speaker, will take this moment to apologize greatly to you for this terrible reality. I did not make it so. Nor did any of the other millions of native English speakers around the world. History made it so. However World, while I sympathize with you having to learn my terrible, awful language (because I really do understand that you have to put a lot of time into it, and I really do sympathize), I can't be hated any longer for choosing to speak my native tongue when most of the world requires it, and the rest is always asking me to teach it. When Arabic or Chinese or Elvin becomes the world's global language, I will have my punishment.

A 282 days ago

Is it true?

My (Dutch) boyfriend has told me that the Germans hate to hear their language 'mangled' and so has asked me not to try and speak any German while we are here. He is fluent in German, Dutch and English. I was very upset and embarrassed as I have worked really hard trying to learn the language as I love learning. Today we were in a restaurant where the owner was keen to use his English so he and I talked and I answered a few of his questions about vocabulary and pronunciation only to be told by my boyfriend that I probably confused him! I can already speak French, and even though he admits he cannot speak it he still corrects my accent. Am I going mad? Is he being helpful or a control freak?

Frances Taylor 290 days ago

Dump your boyfriend

He's the one being the completely dickhead here. Not the German people. And it's probably indicative of how he behaves in other situations.

Walter Crasshole 290 days ago

Give less advice

Do you fail to take the effort to comprehend what you read or are you one of those overly sensitive tumblr types who flies into an incoherent rage the moment you notice something with even the slightest potential to offend?

:I 202 days ago

What rage?

That's not rage... I merely told her to dump her boyfriend. She's the one who laid her problems on the table. I don't get the bit about comprehension and saying I'm flying into an incoherent rage.

Walter Crasshole 199 days ago

My individual view

For me, it' exactly the other way round. I really love to hear people try to speak German, especially a an American friend of my always makes me smile while trying. And I really appreciate if somebody tries to talk to me in my native language (German) :-). Plus I would never expect to have flawless conversations with expats, travellers or friends that I have.

Most of the people of other countries I met in Germany so far (mainly Americans, English) tried at least to impress me with some few words German - and that's cute!

Actually I agree with most of A's points. English is the one language spoken nearly all over the world, so whoever is interested in more than his/her own little allotment should be willing to learn this language - or any other language of contries he/she is interested in, would like to live and work.

Lately, I tried to learn some few words in Swedish, sma grodona ;-))). Besides, I speak a little more than basic French, a few words of Greek, Spanish and Chinese. Well, I guess I'm just gathering few words of any country I visit.

pandemonium 181 days ago

Annoying That People Can't Be Bothered

This depresses me. I'm an American, who is learning German and French for the simple joy of wanting to communicate with people in their first languages as well as read great literature in their original languages. That snotty comment from the American musician is unbelievable. I can't believe, in this day and age, that ignorance and arrogance are worn like a medal. I refuse to travel to a country I don't have at least a survivalist grasp of the language. I feel that it is disrespectful of the culture you're visiting to not even try to speak the language. But these are expats! I thought part of the expat requirements was that you *had* to speak the language of the country you're immigrating into. Ugh.

Jessica Rivera 295 days ago

I agree.

I'm a student in England, I am british and monolingual despite my father and grandparents being German (my dad didn't teach me or my 3 other siblings any German, he still gets ribbed for it.) What I would say is that I intend on living in Germany for 3 months, but not one bit do I plan on relying on my English. If you're upset about your expensive schooling in America, that's because America still hasn't understood that higher taxes means healthcare and education, your fault buddy, not Europe's. I am proud to have a large German family and feel very embarrassed when they go out of their way to speak English to me, so I have decided to change that and move to Germany and pick up the language as quickly as possible. It may be that I have to get a job in somewhere like a Hard Rock Café as my English is an advantage in somewhere like that, however learning a new Language should not be treated as "It's obnoxious that I have to speak in the native language of a country", learn how to say hello, please, thank you and may I have and you're pretty much set, in Germany I've found it's the effort that counts, not the fluency.

Alex Muller 311 days ago

Sad but true

It's not something to be proud of, and I've always experienced that when it comes to speaking lots of languages, English-speakers are the worst, 'cause they only speak one. You will never be part of a country if you don't learn its ways.

It's not a matter of schooling, it's just trying, practicing, studying... and by a process of trial and error... learning.

Not putting any effort into it is maybe ok in Berlin, as Germans are quite learned in languages. British expats in Spain often end up sticking to other Brits and shutting themselves out of the real world.

Michele 315 days ago

Chill out!

The tone of this rant comes off borderline racist. Many of us English speakers are not taught German growing up. Nor are we surrounded by German media in the way that Germans love consuming American and British pop culture. (Even though its always translated into German) Your kraut rock and cinema never really made it over the pond. Furthermore, as a American, I cannot tell you how lucky you are to be privileged with such cheap schooling. How easy it must have been to learn a foreign language when you don't have to work 2 jobs to pay for college. If you had to pay what we pay, you would have a real issue to cry about. You don't know how good you have it. So... a word of advice, take a deep breath and put yourself in someone else's shoes. Don't be so negative. In a country begging for foreign workers, get used to it. Be a part of the solution, maybe you could help your "friend" learn a few words instead of making fun if her on your blog. Also I would never call someone a friend and then complain about them behind there backs. No wonder people are afraid of Germans.

Ana 325 days ago

The writer of this blog

is English not German. Germans hardly ever complain about English-speakers not speaking German. They LOVE it

Jacinta Nandi 325 days ago

Educate yourself!

Wow, I wouldn't complain if I was so utterly uninformed. (English) Language education takes place in High school for the most part. Which essentially explains why most of Europe speaks at least a little English or French, maybe Spanish or another second language. Although there are many other reason not related to university education (like countries with various official languages). Just a small share of the population studies at a university and a fracture of that studies languages.
Although I do agree that American tuition fees are outrageously expensive that doesnt't justify your condescending and biased stance.

Atelenor 304 days ago


come on, really?! "I have no money to learn German"? You will live here, so learn this language. This egoism makes me sick.
Also whole companies have English as company language but are based in Berlin or remaining Germany. This can't be true.
Guys, learn German or try it at least

ThisCan'tBeTrue 304 days ago


You DID notice that A) the author's not German but a native english speaker herself, thus confronted with many of the same problems, B) many people learn other languages beside English that they have not been exposed to anymore than you have to German, and C) that this is about people who already live here - being in the country is the best and quickest way of learning the language PROVIDED you immerse yourself? Besides, way to assume everyone outside the US gets their surplus education shoved up their bums. Ugh! The US side of my family? All their highschool kids *can* take another language. That's the same amount of foreign language education I was provided with.

Kantorka 304 days ago

excuses much?

Sorry to break it to you Ana, but my schooling in my country was damn expensive. I had 2 (sometimes 3) part time jobs while completing my (second) honours degree. So don't give me any of that crap, you're probably the same person who complains when your waiter in America doesn't speak good enough English.
Oh, did I mention that german is my 4th language? I didn't start learning until I got here and after 1.5 years I was regularly mistaken for a native. It's about having enough respect for the country that opened up it's doors to you. You adapt to their customs, language and culture - not the other way around.

Also, *their backs. Make use of your expensive education and at least speak the language you'd force germans to speak properly.

Bec 303 days ago

Every German I meet wants to learn English from me

So I never get a change to practice my not terrible but not very good German.
I've been here two years. It would be so much better if I did speak good German.
Languages wax in relevence or die out all the time. I'm Irish, English killed our native tongue.

English is the only true international language. I have a job here mainly due to being a native English speaker.

Now when Germans thank me for trying and tell me condescendingl that it's okay to speak Enlgish, I usually throw them a few insults in Irish before giving up and switching to English.

Congrats on 'being more German than the German themselves' but I'll be giving Integration a miss.

Especially when Germans who know well I'm Irish, for some reason take pleasure in calling me German. Talk about not learning to avoid wars that can't be won.

James 332 days ago

German Acceptance

I feel what allows people to do this in Germany is that it is hard for Germans to move on from the past. They are putting so much effort into accepting everyone that they seem to have forgot that they can still keep their culture. I just went to Germany this past Summer, and I can't wait to go back, I would love to make a career and live there too. Germany is a great place, and the most upsetting part of it, was how many people started out by speaking English to me. (Obvious American accent here.) After I explained to them that I spoke German (well enough) they would get very excited though and would gladly talk with me in German.

The most upsetting instance wasn't actually from a German, it was an Italian at an ice cream shop, I was having trouble saying "stracciatella" (It's not even a German word.) and the guy there said "Just speak English, man." Needless to say I didn't get ice cream there again.

Josh Absher 344 days ago

lern the language of the country you live in. Period.

I don't care where it is one decides to live, but one should learn the language of the country you chose to live in. I agree with that 100%. No need to have perfect grammar if you don't need ,it but common let's be honest if you don't want to learn the language of the country you live in then just move on, go somewhere else. Like Paris, good luck telling the French you expect them to speak English in their own home country.

Ella22 357 days ago

Calm down!

Melbourne person here, while I would agree that it's a good idea to try and learn the local language demanding people MUST learn it gets in to dangerous territory. In Melbourne we have a very significant immigrant population, there are many restaurants with people who speak hardly any English at all, people here don't say 'oh at that chinese restaurant they didn't speak any english, I'll never go there again, they are ruining Melbourne!' Ok there would be some disgraceful people who think like that but they are clearly terribly bigoted, and most people don't. The amount of people you encounter in Melbourne who aren't fluent in English is pretty high and somehow we cope! So maybe the German only restaurant would work rather well! Actually there seems to be a lot of German backpackers and things in Australia so maybe they should go ahead! That said a majority of the German speakers I have ever met have pretty excellent English anyway.
I would of course agree that if you live in Germany (or anywhere) and don't speak the language it is all your loss, it is not the full experience and certainly not the best experience you could have, but I feel this article had an aggressive and angry tone that I found uncomfortable. Most major cities have a significant immigrant or tourist population, it would be nice to try and view this as enriching the cities. In foreign restaurants here, there are usually menus with pictures of the food and often the items on the menu are numbered, and it is easy to know what things are and order for everyone.

melbournian more than 1 year ago


A German only restaurant would fail in Melbourne and you know it. German backpackers want to go to "authentic Australian" restaurants and Melbournians wouldn't learn a language just for a restaurant. I would, but I'm not a majority. I'm not even in a noticeable minority. :P We'd say they were "ruining our culture" and tell them to "fk off". Howard was elected on that sort of nonsense, and so was Abbott, so there's a lot of latent nationalism in Australians.

"it would be nice to try and view this as enriching the cities"

Oh come now, you're making excuses for willfully ignorant, selfish, and racist people. Don't do that.

CJ 351 days ago

Prawns love not shrimps!!

I just happened upon your article as I'm heading over to Berlin for Christmas and was doing a little research. Funnily enough I am an Australian. I think I can speak for the 22 million of us when I say never once have any of us put 'A BLOODY SHRIMP ON THE BARBIE!' Occasionally we have been known to barbeque prawns. A tourism campaign aimed at Americans in the late 1980's thought they wouldn't understand what a prawn was so they were simply renamed for the target audience.

I have also worked in the restaurant and varying other service industries for over two decades. Verbal communication only accounts for 30% of all communication. With that in mind I have a feeling even if the staff member couldn't understand German she would've clocked your body language and conceivably had the back of house staff do all manner of things to your overpriced food!

I found it amusing the last time I was in Germany about 10 years back that I was accused of having a war monger president. I politely advised my accuser that Australia had a Prime Minister (albeit not a good one). Every country is inherently racist and discriminatory. The United States is widely regarded as an insular society, the bulk of the populace unsure of anything happening out with it's own borders, however Germany is in a similar situation and after reading you article you have reminded me of this fact.

Traditionally Australia and the UK for that matter (where I have resided for 13 years), have been poor at educating their children with language other than English unless the children were of course from migrant families. It was compulsory for us to take on a language at the beginning of high school. I was forced to 'learn' German! This was ridiculous on 2 fronts. Firstly, by the age of 12 or 13 secondary languages are extremely difficult to pick up and secondly, Australia is part of Asia and unless you're a vintner, German has little use.

I make a point of learning some choice phrases in most countries that I travel to, I think it is only good manners. I do agree with you on that front. Cheers for the heads up on the Aussie restaurant in 'Little Melbourne' , as a homesick Melburnian I'll make a point to check it out!

DARREN PALMER more than 1 year ago

@Darren Palmer

"With that in mind I have a feeling even if the staff member couldn't understand German she would've clocked your body language and conceivably had the back of house staff do all manner of things to your overpriced food! "

As someone who's worked tables and kitchens, no, that wouldn't happen. I mean it could but it's not a very good restaurant if it does that and there's not a whole lot of people dumb enough to do that. There's so many regulations concerning food in most countries that messing with a meal is a good way to get fired without apologies or excuses.

"Firstly, by the age of 12 or 13 secondary languages are extremely difficult to pick up"

As if. Language education is generally pathetic but learning a new language doesn't all of a sudden become extraordinarily difficult. Sure, it will become increasingly difficult to just listen to a radio and learn a language passively as one gets older but it doesn't suddenly become "extremely difficult".

"Australia is part of Asia and unless you're a vintner, German has little use"

This is Australia, the current PM is so nationalistic that schools don't learn Mandarin, or Indonesian, or Cantonese, or Japanese, or Korean, or, well, it's basically just English. There's kind of a language education push going on but it's very small key. Arguing that German is useless since we don't trade with Germany would only make sense if we were busy learning languages we do trade with. Except we don't. We stick with English and act aggressively towards any and all refugees, swearing they're just lazy. If everyone in Australia learned German in school then for most kids that would be an improvement over their current curricula.

CJ 351 days ago

Like the ironic and provoking tone of the article

I do think the author overexaggerates for the sake of provoking extreme reactions but also for waking people up! I do not see it as a huge problem, that parts of the city are changing to English-only zones and I actually love hearing more English than German on the streets. But then in the long run, might Berlin not actually loose the charme and become like any other metropoly? I think this article tries to put attention to a change that is slowly happening and has not yet really changed whole Berlin but might if the internationals do not try to adopt a little bit of the city and culture when settling down. Well, I have lived in New York, London and Sydney and love all these cities, so I love the internationality around me a lot

The point below, that the article is discrimatory is just exaggerated and the person clearly did not get the purposely provocative tone of the whole RANT :)

And another thing, I have also read the comment of fast learners and slow learners. I think if you really intend learning basics, it is possible for everyone. Of course it depends on your priorities etc. but do not give up in advance. German might be a hard language, but please do not get discouraged especially not by other peopel correcting mistakes. I do a lot of language tandems with Spanish and English speaking people. A tandem might be a good way of practicing your German while also having the other person praciticing your language. So you do not feel inferior because you are both in the same situation, and the Germans would probably be not that hard with you either :)

Now everyone, enjoy Berlin!

Sarah more than 1 year ago


I like this...a lot.
I've been having similar problems and observations in Prague. I'm learning Czech and can communicate fine but I get replied to automatically in English from the Czechs, while many foreigners come in for the nice beer and disrespect the place and never learn even a few polite phrases.
So I'm now moving to a new Czech city :)

David more than 1 year ago

Ich stimme das.

I really liked this article. I'm an American living in Berlin, and wouldn't have gotten my job without German (even though it's imperfect) or really felt like I'm a part of this city. I went to eat at one of these restaurants with English-only speaking staff, and was there with a German friend who actually speaks next-to-no English. I found it funny and ironic that I had to translate for him in his own country. I understand not being able to master German, nor wanting to master it, but speaking a little (as would be the case in any country) just feels polite and respectful.

JR more than 1 year ago


Hey, just take it easy. In all major cities (in Berlin same as in Munich) you will run into people who rant. Others take it as a welcome opportunity to practice their English. People are not uniform but the vast majority of us are kind and friendly. Actually, I would be delighted to teach Julie and her friends some high German German. Best over a good piece of veal and a bottle of Baden Riesling.

Karsten more than 1 year ago


I believe that wherever you are - you will first address an unknown person in the language of the country you are in. If you're in Italy - ask the person first in Italian - as broken as it may be. Should they not understand you in this language - offer other languages if you know them.
That is the way to be courteous. Speaking in English in Germany is fine. Addressing someone in English first in Germany is not the right tone and disrespectful. How do you know the person may not even speak English? Especially as a person in a service position it is your job to always adapt to the customer. On a personal level this should also be taken just as seriously.

English may be the international language, but if you assume that everyone on this planet speaks it, and should - then you are on a very colonialist path of thinking. People that can not speak English in a country that has a different official language are not ignorant. They have a different culture that needs just as much respect as a culture in which English is the primary language.

ZZ more than 1 year ago

nobody likes a smug person

l've been for 4 years l should of said:-)

Sharn-Mari Luke-Harper more than 1 year ago

nobody really likes a smug person:-)

The writer of this article seems too smug for my liking:-) l have been in Berlin for years and my German is far from perfect, but l not giving up:-) what annoys me are people that are too picky about the grammar. I have many people tell me that l shouldn't be speaking German until l am word perfect, funny that because l believe that practice makes perfect! Nothing worse than snobbery like that. Must note that this is not from German people but from a mixed nationalities! Kind of off putting:-) l came to Berlin to study and work and over the past few years l have built up my own businesx ( because l refuse to take from another countries social system and l don't have mummy and daddy paying for me) l may not or ever by word perfect in German but l am proud of my achievements here in Berlin:-)

Sharn-Mari Luke-Harper more than 1 year ago

Very well balanced

I'm both Aussie and British. Yes, I was born in one place and naturalised in the other and I'm eternally grateful to warm-hearted attitude of my second country for taking me in. I don't expect this from Germans but I've already received similar warmth and kindness, when I evinced no grounds for their generosity other than I'm human, and I'm here, and my life could be easier.
So, out of some respect to these wonderful Germans - not the INDEUTSCHLANDMANMUSSTDEUTSCHSPRECHEN clowns, I'm trying to learn a language that doesn't exactly roll of the tongue, in any direction. Yes, it will hugely help me to earn a living but heaven knows, from my unironed trousers to allergies to pünktlichkeit I'm not going to fit in. And I do pity their oft-swallowed pride when their parents can't read signs as their capital is written in languages other than their own - walk around plenty of the old British sector and if it's not in German, it won't be in English, either. And irrespective of how the youth want to be cosmopolitan, metropolitan, and whatever attitudes are great in skinny jeans but fade as their hair thins and their Raybans require prescriptions, there's no place like home. Especially if yours is changing but history teaches you to behave well. Very well indeed.

So, I'm really surprised how virulent some of the reactions to this article are. Ms Colthorpe has, in my opinion and no doubt hers, a few valid points in a universe of others. Rant indeed, but there's absolutely no need for prevaricated hostility. For the character who advised that the author's partner would break up with her - really, is that necessary? I can't imagine how it is even humane.

And the worst thing is that, when we can't rant, it will bottle up and eventually explode - just when we thought what a beautiful country we lived in, how grateful we are to its culture, how privileged our kids are to be brought up here. Just then the calmest, most patient and conscientious libertarian will explode, quite out of the blue, INDEUTSCHLANDMANMUSSTDEUTSCHSPRECHEN. And after the initial shock, feel quite elated for it afterwards. And then vote for the party that promises to keep it that way. Be warned. Let ranters rant.

Daniel Masmanian more than 1 year ago


She said it was a RANT, and a RANT it has been. Take it for what it is. :)

Me, enrolling in a German course was one of the first things I did when settling down in the city. Been here two months and I'm learning steadily. German will be my third language alongside my native Italian and my pro English. :)

Don't be monolingual people, learning languages is good for you!

Elena more than 1 year ago

generalized, untargeted and irrelevant mix of arguments

Exberliner, couldn't you find someone to write an article about this subject that puts things a bit more into perspective? This article simply doesn't do more than provoke and encourage extreme responses. My opinion, as a German speaking expat in Berlin (lived here for 6 months):

- I can understand that it is annoying to have ignorant expats that don't make any effort to learn the german language, but I believe it is exactly this kind of extreme outrages that demotivates expats (or who ever else, for that matter) to learn the German language (or what ever else, for that matter).

- The author clearly has no clue about what kind of behavior, comments and responds expats or other not German speaking people in Berlin deal with from time to time, when they do make an effort to learn the language - namely by trying.

- Moreover, the authors arrogance seems to show that she has no idea about the difficulty of the German language. It also shows that she doesn't feel any understanding for people that may not be the fastest learners. If people live in Germany for 6 months, I can tell from what I've seen around me, that for some people it is extremely difficult to learn even the slightest bit of language. As with everything, some people are fast learners, some people aren't.

- Last but not least; I'm astonished by the amount of discrimination in this article. In this tunnel vision, a lot of hugely generalized, untargeted and irrelevant arguments are mixed up.

exberliner more than 1 year ago

a good aussie friend

of mine (who lives in Berlin since early 90s) once said: Hell are other Australians. I couldnt believe how true that was unless I been to... Fitzroy, Victoria :)

Os. more than 1 year ago

I agree, however

This article is so poorly written, I agree people ought to make the effort but you sound like such a bitter person because people aren't you.

Colin more than 1 year ago

Cantankerous but fair

I don't agree with the way you went about expressing your simple message, although I agree with the message. Next time please organise your 'rant' into something more formal. IF one wants to have a richer experience of Berlin, learning the language is the biggest catalyst. It creates a fundamental trust from the locals by simply attempting to speak their language, and helps out in practically any situation your in. From keeping one ear to the ground in the work environment (how is one supposed to do that when they can't understand anything) to bartering in flohmarkts. Germans are becoming more tolerant, but you can't expect that to be an excuse for speaking louder and slower. Lets face it, there are worse skills to foster than learning a language. On a personal opinion I believe Germany is going to grow more and more influential in the world, not just Europe, and (some people wont like this) but the UK will drop. It is showing big warning signs already: overpopulation, falling in international university stage, poverty increase, research projects outsourced etc etc... I think knowing a bit of German could be very beneficial in the long run, never mind ordering a bloody coffee.

Rob Buchan more than 1 year ago

Anglo aRRoganza

Anglos believe that English is the only language that matters. Those who speak another language are almost "intellectual material" in their home lands. Just like you're expected to dominate basic English in the UK or US(I don't see Australia as a landing platform for Euro job seekers, really...), you should be prepared to learn the language of your chosen destination. I could understand someone landing a one year transfer to an abroad office not speaking the destination language, but I would still assume you would bother to at least learn the basics. This would be common sense for most Europeans, I believe. Many native English speakers land jobs here and there just for being a native speaker, no skills, not even the most remote basic knowledge of English grammar (doing the TEFL, you would be amazed how non-native English speakers have a much better understanding of English grammar than natives, especially North-Americans). It's not to say all Anglos are alike, but the majority just can't comprehend why they would have to bother learning another language. Reality check, now we should all get into Mandarin courses anyway...

Tony more than 1 year ago

Who the FUCK do you think you are?

Julie colthorpe, although you may have moved here 12 years ago who the fuck do you think you are to expect anyone to speak the language you want them to in a place you aren't even from. Clearly you speak perfect english and have english speaking friends so you need to relax and think before you call your own friends pathetic. Nobody asked for your advice and you have absolutely no authority to be making these claims. Your german boyfriend is probably going to break up with you.

LU more than 1 year ago

English perfect?

I spotted two grammar mistakes...

Rob Buchan more than 1 year ago

Miss the point, much?

The author's comments about "stereotypical Australia" were supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and in no way purposely offensive. She was merely calling the proprietor of the referenced restaurant out on her lame excuse for not knowing or speaking the native language - "because she wanted it to be authentic". Rubbish. Merely laziness with a makeover. The fact that you previous commentors weren't able to understand this point is your failing, not hers. The author's assumption about the poor survivability of a German-language restaurant in the reverse situation is also quite correct. Few native English speakers will tolerate being forced to speak a foreign language on their own soil. Even though it is the fact of the matter that English is the currently the dominant international language and is nearly impossible to escape, why should Germans be forced to tolerate it?

Having been an American expat myself, I would've reached across the table at this dinner party and slapped my fellow countryman across the face for his/her arrogant and ignorant comments. Although it's not always an absolute necessity, it's generally a point of prudence, graciousness and respect to attempt to learn a bit of the local language and culture when living abroad. I certainly am irked when foreigners come to my country without the slightest intention of assimilating; why should Germans be any different? Everyone is entitled to their national and lingual pride. If you don't like it, GTFO.

bossbob more than 1 year ago

How Ironic

You seem so offended by expats dismissing Berlin as a city where German isn't required

Whilst you offensively dismiss Australia as a nation of stereotypes which seem to have been selected exclusively from the Crocodile Dundee film franchise

And if you want them to 'be bloody Australian' then what language do you expect them to speak, exactly, if not English? You are aware that English is the official language spoken in Australia?

(And for the record, the cafe you've dragged into this whinge of an article is a lovely establishment - in addition to great food, I spoke German with several of the staff today and had no problems)

BK more than 1 year ago

Fail to the chief

Funny that in a piece concerning relentless linguistic gentrification; you've cited an example of stereotypical Australian authenticity. Ignoring the crude generalisation for a second, I would have to point out their was firstly, a now dispossessed Aboriginal culture and language quite a bit more developed than, "kangaroos and bush hats and shrimps on barbies" mate.

Kaiser-no-say more than 1 year ago

You dumb Arsch

cant believe what i just read... the magazine was kinda interesting till right now.
good bye white pride.

Daniel more than 1 year ago

Super impressed

Well done. German tolerance lives on, welcome back 1930's!

Impressed more than 1 year ago

The question isn't whether expats should learn German

It's whether the Germans are ever going to become fluent in Hipster.

Mr. Sunglasses more than 1 year ago

this is the point!!!

You are totally right :D

Kia Waters more than 1 year ago

crocodile dumbbee-tch

although you could have a valid point you immediately discredit yourself with your sloppy opinion, ignorant slights and smug tone.. you're no better the stupidest kangaroo or old beamtin hag.. If you said the same thing about a chinese restaurant in say,.chinatown, city of your choice.. you might think twice about what your small mind considers humorous ..normally I would have encouraged any expats to learn German here in Berlin but now the thought of pissing off people like you is winning.. What a great service you've done for all of us..

Paul Hogan more than 1 year ago

Solidarität aus Wien

As an American who has been living in Vienna since 2007, I am totally with you, Julie. Thankfully we do not quite have the problem that Berlin does, but given that the UN has one of their HQs here, it can get pretty bad. There are a great number of people that have lived in Vienna longer than I have and can barely order a glass of wine at a restaurant. It's quite embarrassing.

Even when I am talking on the phone in the trains, I make a point of slipping in some German while I am talking to let everyone know that I am one of them (I'm an American but I can speak fluent Wienerisch). Like Dr. Dot, I hate it when locals hear me talking English.

David more than 1 year ago

A bit harsh but spot on!

I agree with the premise that one should learn, or attempt to learn, the local language, it is simply ignorant to think one is "above" this and it shows a lack of respect for the local culture and the fact that we are visitors and visitors should never be arrogant knuckleheads who feel above the guest.
It is a typical attitude of English speakers becasue most are not required to learn a second language, which is mandatory in most European nations, this is however no reason not to make an effort. This who sit on their arrogance and refuse are simply ignorant and missing out on so much, only when you can speak the language can you understand the culture and get along much better.
For those who hang in the "grunge" areas of Berlin and think this is Berlin are sadly mistaken, wearing slouch hats, scarfs and striped pants makes you neither cool or hp, it makes you a follower and since your already a follower, why not follow the cultural rules and learn the damn language?

SK more than 1 year ago

Not discrimination

I don't that's a fair comment about Australians. I immigrated to Australia over 40 years ago from an asian country and whilst it's true there was a lot of discrimination a long time ago, that's not the case now. There may be pockets of bias here and there, but I've never been to a country where there is NOT the same.
Australia is very multicultured these days and I can count people of all races who I interact with regularly (asian, african, europeans, aussies) and my partner is russian (whom I met here).
I can't comment on the restaurant as I've never been there but I would say in the case of people like this there was a little ignorance, much arrogance and a lot of laziness and apathy (to learn the language). I don't think it had anything to do with discrimination.
I do agree with the article in that even for short trips I try to learn the local language - it really does go far. In fact I will be enrolling in several german language courses before I move to Germany in a few years so I am reasonably proficient.
Best regards.

Sean more than 1 year ago

Fact Check Please

Whilst I agree that longer term ex pats should make an effort to learn German (and even tourists should try to say at least please and thank you in German), I feel that the requisite research has not gone into this rant. Whether it's an article or an op ed column, it reflects poor journalistic standards not to check the facts of what you're publishing. I happen to be somewhat of a regular at the restaurant in question, and acquainted with the owner. The owner does in fact speak German fluently (though I'm not sure if she's a native or not). I don't know who the author happened to speak to, though there was a (heavily drunken) Australian woman around last year who was regaling all and sundry with stories of owning the place, and I suppose it was her. But from personal experience, the actual owner both lives here in Berlin and speaks fluent German (and may be German). And also from personal experience, I have never had a problem ordering in German, or being served in German either. It's true that there was no German menu for a time, but I was able to get translations from staff wherever necessary. I feel like this restaurant has quite unfairly been singled out in this big debate. And I also feel like both the author and the editor should check facts before printing something so inflammatory.

Regular more than 1 year ago


Right on Julie. I agree with you. I moved to Berlin in 1989, three months before the wall came down and I was trying to learn German and really had a tough time fitting in.
I had a tiny baby and was alone 12 hours per day when her German Daddy was at Uni. So I had to fend for myself. There was no internet back then, no cell phones to google shit on. I too had to struggle at Kaisers when asking for a bag or trying to order a pizza with garlic (I lived on Koenigsallee and none of the German shops I frequented spoke/understood any English)

There were NO English shops that I knew of anyways and Halloween wasn't celebrated ANYWHERE apart from the JFK School and the US/UK army bases.
I had to get a job as my boat was sinking and I worked at the Irish Pub in the Europa Center. None of the guest spoke English apart from a few British/Yank soldiers. So I HAD to learn German. I took night classes and learned.

It felt so liberating learning the lingo and helping myself. I not only learned German but I kicked serious ass career-wise in Berlin and found that the Germans love you more when you at least TRY to speak their lingo. I may have been born in the USA but I GREW UP in Berlin, mentally. It is so good for your confidence to learn a new language and explore another culture, in their language.

Then I went through a phase of being embarrassed for even speaking English out in public, when that fuck face Bush was President. It was embarrassing to be a yank (erm, sometimes it still is). Then I went through the "I don't give a FUCK" phase and went out speaking my lingo, all over Berlin and that got me some dirty looks but also some curious looks.
Now I am back in NYC & I go into some shops that do NOT speak English at ALL. Spanish only (same in Miami!) and I have to admit, I get kinda of pissed off. I lived abroad and learned the language so I feel the foreigners here should learn some English and the expats who move to Berlin and profit off their "new" ideas (muffins, fuck you fries, cupa teas) etc should show some respect and learn the German language too. WHEN IN ROME people, when in Rome.

And as far as the nasty comments you have received Julie, let it roll right off you my dear. You have said what many of us were thinking anyways. No wonder the Germans scoff at us when most of us are too fucking ignorant to learn the lingo. They set a bad example for the English speakers there in Berlin. Lazy cunts.

Your article is refreshing and remember, to be successful you have to take risks and most of all, remember:

„Neid muss man sich verdienen, Mitleid bekommt man geschenkt“
your mate,

Dr. Dot

Dr. Dot more than 1 year ago

Be authentic

This is typical of Australians. They are discriminatory by nature. Do a google search on discrimination in Australia for verification.

Max more than 1 year ago

As opposed to the Germans..

who have a long history of tolerance and have never persecuted others based on their ethnicity. Germans? No, never. They're saints.

It's like the 1930s never happened.

Nicole more than 1 year ago

Not to mention

I should also mention we have many regular German customers for whom our restaurant seems to be offering an acceptable service.

Edward more than 1 year ago

Some context please.

I think that at least some of the outrage from the article comes from the fact that one particular expat culture, and seemingly one particular restaurant has been targeted, while other cultures are being celebrated in your magazine. I am actually an employee of what I can only assume is the Melbourne style cafe in Neukölln. I feel that the article unfairly reflected our establishment. I have worked there for about 5 months, and can honestly say that each of the staff I work with is making a real effort to learn German while here in Germany. Some of us are beginners to the language, having been here for just over six months, but will make an effort as best as we can with German customers.None of us are asking for 'medals', but I don't think we are deserving of being singled out in such an aggressive rant. One that inspires sentences like 'Fuck off home mates" that you can see below.

For some time now we have also had German menu's and a couple German staff as well as one or two expats who are fluent in German. I can't help, but feel your entire argument is based on one unfortunate encounter. I entirely agree that people who live here should be making an effort to learn German, but I am really disappointed with the way this article was approached. I was even more offended when the editor defended the article and again made reference to the Australian Cafe mentioned in the article. It does make me wonder how much effort has gone into researching the article, and I feel you have undermined the editorial credibility of your magazine.

Edward more than 1 year ago


I completely agree. I've put a lot of effort into learning German over more than a decade in Australia and I moved here for two reasons - because it's Berlin, and because I can use my German here and get it to the level I want it: fluency.
I strongly dislike the arrogance of the monolingual English-speaking expat culture here. "Why would I learn German when everyone speaks English?" Because you moved to Germany.
Yes, German is difficult, but it's a hell of a lot easier to learn than other languages, especially for English speakers. Honestly, I cannot understand why people move to a foreign country and refuse to learn the language at all. You miss out on so much: original-language local news, local culture, local music, and it makes life so much easier. I love that I can take on the Ausländerbehörde in German and sing along to Seeed on the way home. :)
Ultimately, it's their loss.

Jen more than 1 year ago

the above

pretty snarky article - nice

J-P more than 1 year ago


Schön, dass es endlich jemand ausspricht - auch im deutschem Radio.

Lars more than 1 year ago

Double Standards

Great article, kudos to you!! My feelings exactly! I lived in London for some years and i think it´s safe to say i would not have gotten a job there if i wouldn´t have spoken the language. Other Germans worked at my workplace and when we spoke a bit of German they informed us swiftly that we were in an english speaking country- fair enough i thought. When English speaking people come over here though you find that they prefer to speak English only and aren´t shy or embarrassed about it. Don´t even get me started about shop assistants in trendy shops like Urban Outfitters and the like....Don´t get me wrong, there is lots of people making the effort and they get to know the city. What Berliners like me think of the others: Just fuck of home, mates!

Wayoutgirl more than 1 year ago

You're right!

Just hard your interview on FluxFM about how you guys got hammered for writing this article. I think you're spot on and I'm very happy you wrote it. I'm Canadian and I think it's common courtesy and respectful to learn the language of the area you chosse to live in, regardless how hard it is.

I decided to be a prick about the language issue a year ago. I tell anyone I meet in a party or a restaurant that tell me they've been here more than 3 months and can't put two words of German together that I find their behaviour disrespectful and only address them in German. Yeah, it pisses some off, but hey, WE CHOSE to live here and that means adapting to the culture, beginning with the language.

Those of you who insulted the author for telling you to get your heads out of your asses and learn German should be ashamed of yourselves and get a grip. You also need to see a shrink because you obviously have no idea of where you are, surrounded by 82,000,000 people whose maiden language is German.

Yan St-Pierre more than 1 year ago


Very funny article.

I live in Zurich where there is a huge expat community. Most of them without a word of (Swiss) German and no interest or outward incentive to learn. Strangely enough, they get away with living in their aticificial little bubble of a world. Why bother moving to another country then? So you can moan and complain about those awful Germans/Swiss/Italians but stay snug in your comfort zone by upholding your stereotypes? With any other community it would be called a ghetto and considered a social threat.

Well, in my opinion it's their loss. If they don't see the wonderful opportunity that comes with discovering another language, culture, people, it's just sad for them. And for the most part, they do go back home after their three year stint, where they can tell everybody what a bloody awful experience it was... Godd riddance.

grimalkin more than 1 year ago

no german

dead soul do you have a soul mate ?????????

berkin more than 1 year ago

'Sorry, no German'

Strange article, in an English language magazine targeted at expats.
If we all knew the native lingo, there would be little point in buying the Exberliner, or for it to exist at all, for that matter.

Andrew more than 1 year ago


Reasons for a gal to master German:
- To annoy competitive middle class English men 'living in Berlin'
- To argue with Germans
- To get a bit less grief from butchers (and bakers, and candlestick-makers…)
- To get a (better) job ...

Reasons for a gal NOT to master German:
- Sometimes it creates problems where none existed before...Like, three pronouns for ‘you’, level of familiarity dictated entirely by the speaker? ...In a democracy? Really?
- Even if your grammar's correct, the bakers will simply find something else to kvetch about...
- You won’t get a (better) job, not in Berlin. Deutschengrundrechte vs Treaty of Rome – NOT being debated in a courtroom near you any time soon. Or indeed in any of those elegantly laid out newspapers that your fluent German allows you to read..

Still, beautiful and fascinating country, love it to death, peace and love overall &c

Dead Soul more than 1 year ago

Das stimmt, Sarah

Was gut kommt, wenn man nur mit Leute, die schon Deutsch kennen, redet?

Walter Crasshole more than 1 year ago


Vielleicht weil ihre Zielgruppe kein Deutsch kann?

Sarah more than 1 year ago


Wenn du dich so gut auf Deutsch äußern kannst, warum hast du den Artikel auf Englisch geschrieben?
Ich bin nur neugierig darauf :)

Veronica more than 1 year ago

less is more

There are some fair arguments underlying this article, but the writer's self-satisfied bitchiness has largely obscured them.

The last sentence - 'Or better yet, move to Brandenburg and see how far your English gets you there.' - misses the point completely....

berlinboy more than 1 year ago

poor form

The natives in my and my friends' lives have no patience for our imperfect German. Still have to work on encouraging second language speaking/accepting different kinds of German.

I also appreciated the comments by SquirrelMan, Andy, Frauzoom, doktoruff. And was disappointed to hear that some people get a different kind of unwelcomeness than I personally get as a mostly quiet on the U-Bahn but visible minority.

Camit more than 1 year ago

oh the irony

"It’s bad enough to hear these smug shirkers yapping away on the U8 every Friday night"
You've got to be joking.

serious more than 1 year ago

too much bitterness, not enough thought

Expat feels good about herself because she can speak German, spends too much of her time thinking about how much better than the rest she is. Makes money ranting about it in English language article for English speaking audience.

quacker more than 1 year ago


@Sour Kraut:

That's funny. Why would you assume I'm German, or straight for that matter? Your post is laughable (and needs proofreading). Your arrogance is breathtaking.

- A fellow North American

Jesus more than 1 year ago

I agree

<a href="">Budget Travel Blog in berlin</a>

Mark more than 1 year ago

I love the author :)

Well I am German but I grew up in different countries than when I was 17 I cam here with my family. I think it's a must to learn the language of the country you move into, especially if you're about to stay there. I moved to Berlin because I'm used to live with different cultures in the neighbourhood but what I see here is not what want for my country. People don't give a shit about speaking German to you living here more than 10 years. I think I learnt more on my last vacation to Israel than some people I know in one year - can only laugh about this "poor things"... My very very good friend from Australia and a friend from the USA speak almost perfect Germany after 3 years - just because they're not lazy and do a lot for their adulation.

Well for all of you moved to Germany, learn our language but don't forget yours - this is what I've been doing for almost 30 years being successful :)

Alexander Tylatyzki-Holz more than 1 year ago

Not really

Well, Im serbian and I do speak german and almost all of my friends are or at least they are trying. I dont find this article fair - just look at Palma de Mallorca. The germans force their language there

Vukasin Wook Prunic more than 1 year ago

ich seh schon, ich seh schon

du hast nicht nur die sprache gelernt, sondern auch das allgegenwaertige meckern ;)
eine sprache lernt man am liebsten und einfachsten, wenn man nette leute hat, die einen dazu anregen zu lernen und zu sprechen. ich treffe staendig leute, die deutsch lernen und sprechen wollen, aber ihnen wird auf englisch geantwortet. sogar mir als muttersprachler wird auf englisch geantwortet, wenn ich das gespraech auf deutsch anfange.
englisch war hier immer sehr praesent durch die besatzung und ich freue mich ueber die vielen einfluesse, die berlin durch seine besucher erhaelt. das macht die stadt mit aus. dass man vieles verpasst, wenn man die sprache nicht kennt, stimmt, aber das ist nicht mein sorge und sollte es auch nicht sein. jeder soll seine eigenen erfahrungen machen und ich kann nur meine empfehlungen ausgeben. die werden auch viel eher angenommen.

doktoruff more than 1 year ago


To the author of Melbourne Bitter - do You belong to that "special" group of people who couldn't be arsed learning German in Germany??? Cos it sure sounds like it. Yes, it is a topic that's well worth the 'internet space' that you speak of (you talk about it as if it is so limited) as people should learn to respect their host country and at least ATTEMPT to speak the national language. Too busy having your nose in the air???

MS more than 1 year ago

Thoughts from a long-ago Berliner expat

I first came to Berlin when I was 19, with a mere six months of language training at the time. Nothing could have inspired me more to embrace learning German than living in this vibrant, fascinating city. In fact, after my study-abroad stint was over, I vowed to return and live there, and I kept that promise, spending two years in Berlin in the early 1980s. My main goal in doing so was to learn a culture and its language as thoroughly as possible.

Frankly, I can't even imagine the mentality that tells anyone that it's OK to live (or even visit!) a place with absolutely no interest or intention in picking up as much of the language as time and circumstances permit. My time in Berlin would have been so shallow, so poor, so one-dimensional, had I decided that German was just too darned hard and I'd do just fine without it.

Instead, I was able to take in the city's culture (its museums, its theatre in particular, its exhibitions, its native literature and music, from Otto Reutter to Reinhard Mey to Hans Fallada to the crime novels of -ky), much of which would have been either completely lost or extremely limited to me had I stayed within my native language bubble. I met East Germans over in the East Berlin at the time and was able to forge a kind of contact that almost certainly wouldn't have happened in English. I befriended shopkeepers and neighbors, heard unfiltered political opinions, knew what the newspapers were shouting about this week.

Today, thirty years later, Berlin remains my moveable feast. My language skills are still strong, and they have enriched my life immeasurably. Without the emphasis I placed on the German language itself, despite all its difficulty and frustrations along the way, I'd just be remembering an elongated tourist experience.

PK more than 1 year ago


Hinter viel Faulheit steckt Feigheit, oder? Angst und so. Und ja, wir sind sprachfaul, das stimmt....aber es wird uns leicht gemacht, sprachfaul zu sein.

Jacinta Nandi more than 1 year ago


hübscher artikel.

ich kann schon verstehen, dass es nicht jedem leicht fällt eine fremde sprache zu lernen, aber wenn man es gar nicht versucht ist es möglicherweise eine mischung aus ignoranz, überheblichkeit und faulheit, aus der sich mancher nun eine vermeintlich coole "attitude" strickt (weil ignorant, überheblich und faul ja nun nicht so der hit ist).

yes, i could have written the comment in english, but ... ah, well. if i'm - according to luzia - a racist now anyway, i probably don't need to bother.

bee more than 1 year ago

Melbourne Bitter

Well written but not contentious. Please, spend your time writing about something more worthy of the precious internet space we have. Your rambles about how your friend orders or in which language your waiter speaks is juvenile to the point of contempt.

Maybe write a piece about introducing minimum wage once germany gets through the financial struggles, as a reward for its unskilled workers. Or about anything but this subject. Although that may not get you the page views you so desire.

Wow more than 1 year ago

Ignorant expats

I don't think it is xenophobic to express one's suprise at service people in restaurants that are not able to speak the language of the country they are working in. On the contrary, I think that it is just sad and ignorant and partly xenophobic when expats from whatever country do not want to learn the language of the country they are living in, be it Germany or any other country. I just don't get that attitude. I'm German and I lived abroad and I always tried to tackle the basics of everyday life in that other language.

NIkola more than 1 year ago

spot on!

Here's my response on my blog:

RadiantFlux more than 1 year ago


Wow. Really, wow. This article is so deeply xenophobic (and racist) it's almost a feat.
There were actually some dudes a few decades ago in Germany that felt very similarly to the author of this article. See how that turned out.

Luiza P. more than 1 year ago

Pet Shop

FYI: The Pet Shop sign is left over from an art piece that was performed there two years ago. The owner of the store liked it and kept it.

V more than 1 year ago

@ sour krout

Can't wait till Obama establishes his Socialist Reich in Amerika and then you big powerful responsible grown-up Yanks will turn into pathetic Muschi losers just like the Germans. Hope you don't have state health insurance over here, BTW, that would be really immature of you.

Jacinta Nandi more than 1 year ago


Of course you've don't understand Jesus. you're father has given you the world!
Let me explain, you learn to be a grown up by tackling responsibility.
When your educations free, mommy and daddy have you on a monthly allowance until you're 25 and rent is ridiculously cheap, then you have no responsibilities.
And that's why German women complain that German men won't grow up and German men complain that German woman are extremely entitled.
Maybe its me, but in North America I find working a part time job to pay for your education and market value rent without a legal system that enforces your parents to assist you builds character and makes you appreciate a buck.
Plus, if anything, we at least learn to buy a lady drinks on a date.

Sour Kraut more than 1 year ago


@Sour Kraut:

Paying high rent is a grown-up thing? That's a great understanding of economics and society if I ever heard one. Lol.

Jesus more than 1 year ago

germans do the same

I live in Mallorca, Spain... The island that German people love.. So it's very curious that I have been in several coffees and It happen the same to me .. The german waitress couldn't speak a word in spanish of course not feeling sorry either.. There are places in my beloved island where you feel you've been transported to Germany, as all the restaurants and their food and their staff are exclusive german and FOR german.. And YES it doesn't feel good at all ... But before you write like that, about non-germans living in germany, find out about germans living out of germany, and stop blaming like that...

nica more than 1 year ago

spot on!

Love your rant! What you've said rings absolutely true. I live in Neukölln and I am from Melbourne (got the cliches are piling up), but I am married to a German and am learning the language slowly. Ex-pats really are self-delusional thinking they can be part of broader Berlin society without being able to speak German.

RadiantFlux more than 1 year ago


Without us ex pats pouring our money into this city you'd be doomed.
We throw our money into the healthcare system that we don't even stay long enough to use and spend so much here that service industry jobs are booming for uneducated German's that aren't smart enough to spend their entire lives in school mooching off their own system and parents getting useless PHD's in history and art appreciation.
You're welcome.
Second, we've raised the rent here so much that only German's benefit, you own the property here and will reap the benefits from us creating a housing boom.
I know it sucks that you've been paying cheap rent like children all these years, but having to grow up and enter the real world of responsibility will only benefit you in the long run.
Don't blame us for speaking the world's leading language, you've learned it to benefit yourselves and I'm sure its paid off ten fold.
Plus, you could've had the worlds #1 language, but you messed with the Russians
and got your asses kicked, should've been happy with Italy and not gotten so greedy!
Cheesy Noodles Forever!

Sour Kraut more than 1 year ago


@kk How can you Tell if the Common english speaking expat in Berlin is Upper middle class? Curious what you are basing this on ... Because i know i'm a working class, english speaking "expat".. Am i the only One? Or are you just making Baseless assumptions to Support you Argument?

Midi more than 1 year ago

Germans don´t seem sorry

Even with a high level of German, I find I have to be very strong-willed sometimes to get to speak German. A lot of Germans are so keen to speak English. In the end, I need the German practice for my work and for most people where I´ve experienced this, practising their English is more of a question of enjoyment than a necessity. I think it is a real courtesy of people, in their home country, to be patient with people practising their language - and to allow them to practise. I know some Germans who are very generous with this - and without that, my German would never have got to the level that it is today. I make the effort to be as patient and generous when I´m in the UK.

Simic more than 1 year ago


Rant indeed. Pathetic at that. You managed to learn German in them 12 year - hurray, but it does not mean that anyone who has not yet, or won't because they don't think that is feasible, deserves to hear all that.

Grobik more than 1 year ago


From above "Berliners, foreigners and natives alike, stop trying to think you're special. You're not."

I must agree with this a little though.. I've spent time living in more obscure places in Russia and south east asia - and while I learnt these languages, I wouldn't expect other expats to do the same after all we're all different, and languages are not easy/cheap to learn for many people..

Plus -A multitude of languages and services in those languages is important for a city which is trying to raise it's international profile and is still only rated as 'Beta +' with many other German cities and many 3/4th cities of other countries still being considered as more internationally influential.

Steve more than 1 year ago


I only moved here in November, and not having used the small amount of high school German decided to sign up for an intensive course (which I will continue when my work schedule is a little more even).

I want to become fluent for myself. a) I find being fluent in multiple languages impressive (and somewhat attractive) b) It just seems so IGNORANT when people don't even attempt the basics. c) It's thought to help guard against memory loss and other problems in old age.

I'm currently at about B2 so i'm by no means fluent but am capable of conversing with people either in a pub or in an official capacity.

HOWEVER - the reaction of my German friends really surprised me always: "you don't need to learn' and "Why bother, we all speak English" and I'm not talking about a group of expat loving hipsters, I'm talking about a group of hard working Germans who have been living here for about 12 years.

It became really hard to practice (I still do) but even in cafes or bars, as soon as someone detected an accent in my German it was immediately switched to English.. sweet... but not helpful in the longrun

Steve more than 1 year ago

Sorry no German...?

As a regular visitor to Berlin in the last few years, who only speaks English. I've found the tourist areas to be so easy to enjoy without knowing the language. But, I at least tried to learn a few visitors phrases like- I’m sorry, I don’t speak German. Do you speak English? [ Es tut mir leid, ich spreche kein Deutsch. Sprechen Sie Englisch? ] and I found that in all but one instance, just starting to say that line if I was faced with interacting with a native Of Berlin. That shop keeper or person would launch into english half way thru my embarassed pronunication. Or, if they didn't speak English they would very quickly find, or send me to another person who did. If a person apologized upfront as best They can in german, for not knowing the native language, people in Berlin were happy to help without question. If I was speaking English with my brother and his friends, I tried to use hushed tones... Out of respect for those around just seemed like the right thing to do on trains, trams and out on the streets.

But I can't understand why someone who might want to live and work in Berlin, but not want to learn the language to a working level. Especially since it seems ( from talking with my brother, who lives and works in Berlin mainly in an english speaking office.) German language classes are plentiful, inexpensive and even free, via your work or if your on the unemployment roles.

David Raun more than 1 year ago

Missing Out

I spent a summer in Germany when I was in high school. Armed with two years of high school German, it was a wonderful experience. I could carry on a normal conversation with people. I could order my own food, and take a train to anywhere. Everyone I met was so friendly and inquisitive. Another American I met, by contrast, did not speak a word of German. She mostly felt left out and alone.

I was only there a month. I can't imagine living there for years and not learning the language. When in Rome, do as the Romans!

Michael Atwell more than 1 year ago

Language is a tool

It's not about the city nor the country. It's all about the people you're with. You speak the language you need or can no matter where you are in the world, you adapt to the context not to the expectation. It's a tool for us all to get along, to share, to care. Being able to speak only one language is ignorance, two is a good start and more is a way to understanding.

Berliners, foreigners and natives alike, stop trying to think you're special. You're not.

Sam more than 1 year ago


Beide Artikeln machen kluge und dumme Argumente:

Bill more than 1 year ago


Lustig, sowas auf der Website des Zentralorgans des NY-Lo Hipstertums zu lesen.

irony bites more than 1 year ago

I guess Bombardier can just pack the fuck up and get out, huh?

Not to mention ESCP, ESMT and the rest of the city's MBA programmes, most of the start-ups that are actually supplying job growth, pretty much the entire Alba Berlin team, and at least half the gays.

I begin to realize that calling people "hipster expats" isn't just a label, it's a way to avoid giving people the respect they'd deserve as "immigrants".

Dagestan more than 1 year ago


Every single waiter and waitress at White Trash can speak good German. In fact, majority of them are German.

popcorn more than 1 year ago

The überlin response

Just published a response on my blog, überlin:

I don't think anyone would argue with the underlying point of the article (anyone living in Berlin should learn German), just the aggressive, at-times self-contradictory way in which it's presented.

I understand the strategy of courting controversy (it's obviously working), but Exberliner risk being lumped in with the bitter expats who've been here for 10+ years and bitch about the later arrivals. Like most people on Toytown Germany.

Let's agree that anyone who plans to live in Berlin long term should be trying to learn German, and agree not to bitch about those who can't/won't/haven't yet...

James Glazebrook more than 1 year ago

dear stfu

great way to justify your own laziness and arrogance, insult somebody else!
some people think they can come to place, crap their party where ever they please treat others with a total lack of respect, and, to top it all off, expect people to like it! i've got a news flash for you stfu, the rest of the world outside of your party fashion bubble are most decidedly not amused!

michael more than 1 year ago

party-fashion nomads

who's got time to learn german when you're busy partying, taking drugs and looking down on other people?

michael more than 1 year ago


While I do think it's daft not to learn the language of the country you live in, if you aren't from there - I think it's another thing to be spitting venom about it.

I lived in Berlin as a child, and as my father was in the Army it wasn't for long. But my love for the place has never wained. One of the things I did love was the multiculturalism - the face that there are english-only places in Berlin shouldn't be decried. At least not to the extent that it ruins your day.

One of my German friends said that as long as I at least tried to speak a little German everyday, it wasn't the worst thing in the world that I spoke mostly English in Berlin.

Grumpy checkout staff are a big a part of Berlin as the Fernsehturm or the Mauerpark - I don't mind the "Wie Bitte" because at least I know I am trying to speak the language.

But I don't resent others who can't or won't. Life is too short for that shit.

Julie Langdale more than 1 year ago

Not in Berlin

Wasn't it Mark Twain who said "There's only one thing that you cant' learn in Berlin and that's German."

Q more than 1 year ago

Biais in the sample

I totally agree it's annoying to find expats not speaking German after 7 years in the city. That's the specialty of Frenchies and English people.

But your sample is totally but totally wrong. You can't impose in an international conversation another language arbitrarily. The French and Spanish guys were probably having to put some effort to speak English too.

English is the international vehicular language and the language you speak everywhere with everyone when they're from different cultures.

German is the language you speak at Berlin to integrate yourself in the German life, to communicate with the administration and meet German people.

English is the language you speak at Berlin with expats.

To impose a dictatorship of the local language in every situation is as wrong as their denial to learn German.

Michaël Herbrandt more than 1 year ago

auf deutsch bitte!

If you live here and choose not to learn the language it's your loss.
Not just because it's fun being bilingual (and way cooler), but because as soon as some sort of problem comes up you're going to feel a fool or make a fool of yourself, or worse, miss out on some really important information.
Try having an accident and needing an operation or the police....
Any sort of difficult situation is going to be way more stressful if you don't have a clue what they're talking about

suetee more than 1 year ago

Lazy foreigners

In the end, anyone who lives in a foreign country and doesn't bother to learn at least the basics of the native language spoken is putting themselves at a disadvantage and limiting the spectrum of opportunities available to them.

In this case, the business owners are also putting themselves at a disadvantage by not hiring people with basic knowledge of the language or giving them a few quick lessons. Stop being lazy and take a few classes!

lortron3000 more than 1 year ago


What I want to know is, why isn't this article in German!

Hot Rod more than 1 year ago

Help us!

I've been here five years. Had some time to go to school at first, but then I had to work again, then I had a kid and now have even less time. I've tried language courses on cd and the computer but they make me fall asleep. I just don't think I'm cut out for studying. But what I find helps me is to LISTEN. When I'm in the speilplatz with my son I can pick up bits and pieces from overhearing conversations between parents and child. What's more important is to listen when people are speaking to you - really listen. Language only makes up 7% of communication apparently, so if you pay attention to the words AND the hand movements, facial expressions, location, situation, etc it's much easier to communicate.

Saying that, what would really help us Ausslanders is if you Germans would stop trying to prove how fucking clever you are! When I speak German I'm met with either two situations. 1. The German immediately starts to speak English. How does that help me to assimilate? 2. The German looks at me like I'm a complete idiot. Yes, I know my pronunciation isn't perfect, but it's not that bad. I know how mangled the English language gets in the mouths of the non-English (I have a French girlfriend) and I don't treat these speakers like they are retarded! If I'm in your cafe ordering a cup of coffee and I ask for a piece of cheese kitchen to go with it, surely it's obvious I want cheese CAKE and I've just mispronounced a word that is virtually identical to another!!! Give us a break!

And while I'm here - my girlfriend, who speaks bad but better German than me, and has worked here and paid taxes, was told at the job centre "If you don't speak German you shouldn't be in Germany"!!! Try that in London - instant dismissal for RACISM!

Berliners really need to understand that they live in the CAPITAL CITY of one of the strongest, richest nations in 21st Century Europe, and stop acting like it's still the mid 1980's, or imagining they live in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. The only constant in life is change, and if you can't accept the changing face of your city maybe it's time you took the risk, like all these damned foreigners, and moved somewhere else!

An Englishman who is trying more than 1 year ago

I don't speak English ;-)

Haha - "I don't speak English" is always my answer to all this stupid tourists in Neukoelln.

MikeV2001 more than 1 year ago


Wow really? Another article that claims that if you don't learn German you're missing out, that someone this is news? Expats not learning German is news? Have something to say or don't say it at all.

bill more than 1 year ago

Nah ja

If it isn't the swabians in Prenzlauerberg it's the Ozzies in Neukölln, let's not overdo it. Berlin is changing and attracting people from all over for various reasons. And it's generally a positive change (not to mention how much the food has improved...)

I think a lot of anglophones take it for granted that english should be spoken everywhere, I mean let's face it, English is the international language now, but I believe most people that intend to live here permanently try to learn the language and most eventually speak it. Some faster than others, it depends on your resources. That said, I've been here almost 2 years now and am still learning, it's a difficult language. Even for me, and I'm fluent in 4 other languages and have done my fair share of ancient greek (which helps a lot with learning german grammar). I'm working in a mainly english/international environment, I don't have enough time to follow intensive language lessons, so I take private lessons when I can. My boyfriend is german which helps and we try to speak in german more often (especially when we're out). But very often I have to insist with the germans to continue the conversation in their language as they always switch to either English or French or even Italian with me so they can practice... Not to mention when I find myself in international groups (which is frequent and something that I like about this city) where we'll all speak english to each other, because it's the only common tongue. Obvioulsy it's important to be able to speak the native language when you work in services but in touristic places that isn't always the case, i.e. Brits working on greek islands in the summer, Americans getting holiday jobs in Paris, Italians in Formentera, Australians in Thailand, etc. Anyway, I think most people that don't learn it don't end up staying here for very long, otherwise they would be interested in learning it!

filet de soul more than 1 year ago


this article merely shows the narrow-minded nature of Germans. They blame expats for not mingling with them, in reality, it is them who are so 'walled up' all the time and do not want any Ausländer to be a part of their mob.

Arfa Mirza more than 1 year ago

This made me smile

I love the multi-culti stew we're cooking here in Berlin but dang does it bother me when "expats" who've been here for several years still act like it's an extended vacation and they are only here to observe the indigenous people, not interact with them.

Jonas more than 1 year ago


i agree with you, maria.

Anna Cavallo more than 1 year ago

German and English and other languages in Berlin

i had both... i have had people instantly smiling when i say i am italian, opening up with me and all... but i also had maaaany many situations in which i was looked bad at, i was shout at, i got the usual and VERYoften heard, yes kris, believe it or not some of us hear it often: "this is Germany, we speak German here (in german, not in english, of course)".
But i was NOT speaking to them, i was in the u-bahn speaking my mother language with my son, or my partner, or a friend.
So this is it, i find it out of this world, i find it abnormal. Who the fuck are you to enter into OUR conversation and say: this is Germany blabla... Sorry, bello, this is my family, we are italian, and while both me and my son speak also german, between us we will always maintain our mother tongue... I find it totally absurd that they pretend that we spek just german between us, this is not 1939 anymore, in public places between ourselves we speak what the hell we prefer!
I am starting to reply back cos i am really tired of this. Berliners can be so provincial and narrow-minded and racist sometimes. Just like us italians. Sometimes.

Anna Cavallo more than 1 year ago

Capital cities

Most big capitals in EU are like this - this sentiment has been thrown out by lots of commenters and it so not true I dont know where it comes from. I spent years in London and Paris and they are no way like this - yes the tourists that throng there, speak their own languages and you hear them all over the place, but not people who live there, no way. Lots of people speak one language at home for sure but can still speak the official language too. Ex-pat gatherings ok, but in a mixed group - English in London, French in Paris fullstop. My girlfriend from Rome and her mates never stop bitching about tourists in Rome who of course over run the place - this is not something unique to Berliners. Tourism is a two-edged sword, it brings money and ruins a place for the locals at the same time - cant live with it, cant live without it. Tho as we see from Greece the amount of money tourists bring in is actually not that great and most countries that depend on tourism often suffer serious hardship in the off seasons, ie the money made over the 3 months of the summer is not enough for the year. I also find it incredibly sad that there are people living in USA who dont speak English, Ive heard about this problem in hispanic communities and think its very worrying, I think its great if people grow up bilingual, and its no harm if their English is not as good as their first language but to live in a country and not speak the official language is incredibly isolating and dangerous. For example, it is absolutely vital that Turkish women in Germany learn German, otherwise they end up in some parallel world where they have no independence at all...

Jo more than 1 year ago


"Basically, expecting that people in a different country speak your language is arrogant and exemplified as much by the shouting German clogging up the beaches of the Adria, yelling and pointing at things until the natives give up, as it is by the nonchalance with which people don't even ask whether you might be speaking their language before assaulting you with it."

Ha ha, yes the word Ballermann has been in the back of my head all the time - most Germans I know make a huge effort when abroad to speak the local language or English, in fact Ive had ridiculous situations where they keep speaking in English even tho the person speaks better German and is happy to do so - but there is that breed of Germans - and found in all other nations too I believe - that want to go to Mallorca, eat Wurst, hang out in German bars and listen to Schlagermusik - not my thing at all.
I find the argument funny that because German isnt as widely spoken around the world as English that that means when in Germany it should be perfectly ok to speak English and expect all Germans to do so too. Very odd train of thought. To me that is an argument supporting Germans OUTSIDE of Germany speaking English but not inside. I would absolutely learn Finnish, Icelandic, Estonian etc if I was living in any of those countries long term. Has nothing to do with size. I believe anyone making money out of tourists should of course be able to speak a bit of English (or Spanish/French etc) but demanding that all services should be available in English is a bit rich and cannot be compared to the fact that services are available in Turkish for the much much larger Turkish community in Berlin. Russian, Serbian and Polish would have to be introduced long before English to be fair. We are not the majority minority that we may like to think we are or that our loudness and arrogance makes it seem like we are..

Jane more than 1 year ago


You get yelled at by some hostile German for wanting a plastic bag instead of a tüte. You get stared down with hate when you speak your mother tongue on the phone with your mother. Not always, but it happens.

How the hell is a German who doesnt speak English sposed to know what a plastic bag is? Tried to go into a shop in New York and ask for a Tüte? Where I live most of the shop assistants are well into their 50s and East German, they never learned English in their lives, plastic bag sounds nothing like Tüte, and yelling? I actually find that hilarious. And you have really got stared down with hate when you speak your mother tongue with your mother on the phone? Is that really true? Have never heard of or experienced anything like that! Where were you? Are you sure they werent trying to get you to hurry up so they could use the phone?
Berliners have laughed at my accent or mistakes I make, especially the classics, eg "ich bin so heiss" but I was never offended by it, I laugh at their nerdy English too. When I first came here, everyone who could wanted to speak English with me, which I thought was great at the time but soon got frustrated cos my German wasnt improving so I had to insist and persist and just kept talking German even if they answered in English - sometimes we even agreed to do this so that we could both practise. After a while my German was so much better than their English that we just started speaking German all the time. Even tho I'm far from fluent and make mistakes all the time, I have never had anyone be anything other than complimentary - and very surprised - about how well I can speak the language.

ExBrit more than 1 year ago


Wow,I am absolutely shocked by the comments here,accusations of xenophobia,right-wing,nazi etc,because someone has a rant & makes a fairly valid point?The nature of a rant is to go over the top to make your point,it should be taken somewhat tongue in cheek.The arrogance is unbelievable.And the complete lack of knowledge about Berlin even worse.Berlin is only great because of foreigners?Really?Do you know what happened here in the 70s,80s & early 90s??Do you know who established the "alternative" reputation that many come to Berlin for?The first squats?The independent music & art scene?Surprise surprise it was a whole mix of Germans along with a healthy dose of foreigners,coming to the playground of Berlin to get away from conservative,bourgeois,capitalist attitudes & Nazi parents.Of course it couldnt last,Berlin was an island-in many ways it was provincial but it was also a haven for a very "multi-kulti" crowd of dissidents & outcasts from all over the world who didnt fit in anywhere else.This haven has been destroyed since Berlin became the capital & that is why a lot of ex-pats(more than the Germans imo)who've been living here a long time get annoyed & are overly bitchy about the new wave of ex-pats.Berlin's changing & becoming an international city,you better get used to it?Berlin was more diverse 20 years ago than it is now,nowadays everything's becoming westernised,bland & middle class,yes there are still some quirky bars & great people but that is nothing new & a lot more tame than it used to be.I love hearing different languages (how sad if we all spoke English!) & have no problem if a group of ex-pats meet up & speak their own language,I do it all the time,also no problem with the fact that people only visiting for a short time-or even up to a year-dont bother learning the language if they dont need it.Its understandable to some extent.But to say that all Berliners (all 80 million Germans?) should speak English is crazy.Should the French,the Hungarians,the Czechs all give up their own languages to keep some English-speakers happy and comfortable?The French are allowed pass laws to protect French,you could not survive a week in UK without some English but to suggest that people living in Germany should learn some German is considered xenophobic & nationalistic-this says more about the innate hatred that most of the world still has of Germany than anything else,let us have a good time here,bail us out when we need it,but dont ever say anything that we dont like or in anyway pro-German or we will lynch you & wave the nazi banner in your faces!Very tolerant indeed.I agree in essence with the author,tho there are plenty of exceptions.A restaurant with NOT ONE waiter that speaks some German is a disgrace.Ive never been to a Turkish,Asian or African restaurant in Berlin where no one speaks German,albeit often with a strong accent & loads of mistakes!Germans not that hard, its a doddle compared to Greek or Czech, give it a try.

finebetty more than 1 year ago


ich habe ehrlich gesagt keine probleme damit, dass es in manchen läden etwas dauert, bis die leute auch deutsch sprechen und kann mich darüber nicht sehr aufregen.

aber eines möchte vielleicht klargestellt sein: die tierhandlung in der pannierstrasse hat diesen aufkleber "pet shop" seit sommer 2011 auf den fensterscheiben. abgesehen davon, dass sie das ja ruhiig auch so haben könnten, hat das hier einen besonderen grund: 2011 fand genau an der ecke weserstrasse und pannierstrasse die aufführung eines theaterprojekts des gorki-theaters mit der rütli-schule statt. ein tolles projekt, ich habe damals darüber gebloggt. hier:

der laden hat den aufkleber einfach dran gelassen. das ist alles, es ist aber durchaus eine sehr deutsche tierhandlung. keine sorge.

neuköllner more than 1 year ago


So why was your rant in English? While I support learning the language of the country you live in, you care way too much how others live their lives. If you don't like something, then you might just as well ignore it.

therese more than 1 year ago

Leave us alone!

I have mixed feelings about this rant. I think the writer presents two different angles here: on the one hand, expats who refuse to learn German and on the other hand, English service in expat restaurants.

Like many other German natives and expats, I too understand the writer's frustrations with stubborn hip-city hoppers who will not, in the slightest, even attempt at absorbing the culture and learning the German language, Absolutely ignorant, I agree! That being said, I feel the attack and boycott of predominantly English speaking expat establishments in Berlin are unjust and unnecessary.

I happen to wait tables in one of the restaurants mentioned in the rant and a large number of our patrons are expats and tourists. English is the norm but we all speak German to one degree or another and if any one of our German-only speaking guests struggles with the communication, we are more than happy to send a fluent German speaker to further advise them on the menu. All it takes is a polite request. What really gets under my skin are the snarky and patronizing comments barked at us by the occasional German patron when we greet their table in English – it's part of the ambiance! The fine establishment I work for welcomes everyone with genuine friendliness, good food, a fun and laid back atmosphere and service in FOUR languages. I've heard some extremely inappropriate and borderline nationalistic comments before I could even take the drink order. Would these same people also have the audacity to publicly voice their opinion about the Turkish establishments in Berlin?

The most wonderful thing about this city, like New York, is its international flair! When I go to Babel for a falafeI, I hear Lebanese, when I step out of the U8 on Kotti, I'm surrounded by Turkish and English roars and in my own Kiez in Friedrichshain, I enter Spanish-speaking cafes everyday! Finally, a more multi-kulti Hauptstadt. Why not embrace it?.

I feel like popular expat-holes such as The Bird and White Trash are under constant scrutiny in the German rags. Yet, if any credible journalist would look passed the table greeting in English or the loud foreign chatter behind the bar and researched a bit more, they would see that both restaurants employ people of all races and nationalities, even Germans – no discrimination! The insensitivity of some of these articles are simply a reflection of the author's own underlying xenophobia.

I say, if you're irritated by the few expat joints Berlin has, go to one of the thousands of other German speaking restaurants in this city. Why pick on the two or three little guys who just want to provide a unique (or familiar) dinning experience? No one's forcing you to spend your money at these places.

As entertaining as this rant was, and a do love a good discussion, I still don't understand the gravity of the situation. And last I heard, there is lovable EXB music editor who does not speak a lick of German albeit residing here pre-gentrification era.

Nicole Dieter more than 1 year ago

yeah for sure

yeah i reckon all those germans n wogs n that dont no whats that good. I got a mate who can speak french n reckons its really good to talk to people in the street and in bars n shit. Like when your in france or if you play footy against i guy who can speak french.. His real cultured and worldly, he lived in london and then went to aboo daby which is where sachin tanducca used to live or someshit and he learnt how to say "fuck ya mum up the arse" in muslim. he reckons.

But fuck. Sometimes, down at the shop, i hear the chinks speaking chinese and fuck learning that shit. That'd take ages.

Steve more than 1 year ago


well it seems clear to me that both of the main perspectives being expressed in the comments have merit. on the one hand, it's pretty shitty to live and work in a country and not try to learn the language at all, or expect that people will learn yours. berlin is full not just of tourists, but also of expats who intend to stay there for a long time, and if you do that, you really should be respectful. and i don't think it's worth trying to deny gentrification and commercialization, but that's a far more complicated issue, i think.

on the other hand, i hope the author would agree that it's shitty to get mad at people who don't speak german and are not being rude about it, especially, as someone else said, in an increasingly cosmopolitan city like berlin. obviously, the context of english-speakers in germany and of non-english speakers in, say, america, is wildly different; the former is often arrogant and ignorant, while the other is often silenced and disadvantaged. nonetheless, "speak german or go back to england" sounds a lot like hate speech to me. (and of course, not all people speaking english in berlin are native english speakers-- they simply speak english better than they do german. for instance, in the group of internationals you described, english seems like a perfectly logical choice, no matter what city you were in.)

tryin' more than 1 year ago

It's not about the language

So. not a major fan of this article, nor the anti-Auslaender sentiment it (perhaps accidentally) seems to be dishing. To be honest, I'm not even sure language is what is being discussed.

Just an opinion but I think the crux of the problem is not so much the unwillingness to learn the language but more what it says about an attitude to the community in which you're living. In order to meaningfully contribute to the community here, you kinda need some Deutsch.
Whether that means paying taxes or joining the local anarchist's group.

Most English-speakers (or French, Turkish, whatever) who have been living here for a while have realised this. I feel that most of the folks I know who are here to stay do want to learn German. They moved to this awesome city because of what it could offer them in terms of a lifestyle (that is, low costs of living, interesting things to do and see and participate in, plus the legendary Berliner openness). Usually it wasn't because they wanted to become German or live in a German environment. And they do understand that staying here in the long term, the German language is, if not always necessary in day to day life, then certainly very helpful. So they try to learn it. And I guess that's because they're serious about contributing to the community somehow, or genuinely engaging in the local culture. Because language is culture, it informs the way we think and act.

However I do also think that a lot of people come here to party in the big, fun, 24-hour city. Usually it's a struggle for them to stay beyond the time their money runs out (and partially because of the language and how that makes it hard to get a job they'd actually want for more than 6 months) so they leave again. Sometimes the latter can get a bit annoying but for me, I feel that's maybe mainly because the ex-pat bubble and the disinclination to learn even a few words in German might indicate that they're not giving anything back to this f-ing awesome city. And hey, who knows, maybe they're just trash-talking pains in the butt anyway.

The evolution Berlin is going through is not going to stop anytime soon. Most big European cities are like this and it's time this happened here (for the record, I was born here). For far too long, this was a provincial backwater. What is important I think, is that this evolution is managed and carefully considered to protect the interests of all stake holders. EG I don't think you can ban "holiday apartments" as the Greens would like. But it would suck if everything was "holiday apartments" and at those prices too. It would suck if, for example, Prinzessinnengarten was bowled for a hotel.

And that's why, in my opinion anyway, contribution - and awareness of - the community is helpful. Not saying you have to learn Deutsch to do this, just suggesting being a little more conscious of what's going on outside the party zone could be good for all of us and help keep this city the way we all love it.

Berlinerin more than 1 year ago

say what?

Cool text and a fair one. I happen to agree but if anyone doesn't, they're free to comment. I happened to refuse to speak any German during my first three years in Berlin, claiming i hated the language and surviving splendidly on English (not my mother tongue either). I even went so far as to claim that it was because of what They into Us in the last 300 years that held me back - linguistic post-traumatic syndrome, if you wish. While, let us be honest, it was about not making an ass of myself that i was mostly afraid of. Trying to speak a new language is a very risky thing for it makes you sound like a half-wit and now and then exposes you to ridicule. The thing is, the times when you got wowed for speaking English only and being cool enough not to care are so over. Show some respect to the people whose city you live in and learn to communicate on their terms. Call it respect. Everything else is colonial bollocks.

NotMs Parker more than 1 year ago


Disgusted by this article and some of the comments in its support. We are in the EU, get used to it. Im quite honest appalled of some of the language being used here on a public website (but not surprised as it is the Ex Berliner!), those in support of this article and the kind of, dare i say it, nationalistic undertones (there i said it, because actually thats what it is) and down right ingnorance and intollerance of other people should think twice about making there opinions heard.

Benjamin more than 1 year ago


Hahaha, thanks Nic, for your inspiring and respectful comment! I am 96 and have only one tooth. I live in Bogotá right now, a bubbling city where people are extremely loud, and I love every minute of it. I think you missed my point(s), but maybe I didn't explain it well enough. And I was actually living in Berlin until 2010, typo.

Ex-Berlinerin more than 1 year ago


Dear Ex-Berlinerin, everyone is struggling, everywhere, you're just happy to blame other people for something that NOBODY has any control over.

Nobody wants to pay bigger rent, but rent is going up everywhere in the world, it's just a market reality. In many corners of Berlin, foreigners are refused rent, so they have to settle for what they can get, often at a bigger price, for which they STRUGGLE like anyone else. Now that's a reality. It's not people driving prices up, it's economics, it's the fact that this city doesn't produce anything, it's a lot of things, but they have nothing to do with foreigners or their German language skills.

Complaining about loud people on the U-bahn? Sorry, how old are you? And do you like living in cities? Because you're going to have to put up with it anywhere in this world.

Nic more than 1 year ago


I am German and have been living for many years in Berlin (1997-2007). I actually moved away from it three years ago for several reasons, the most important one was not being able to find a decently paid job there, a reality most tourists naturally don't need to think about. I think the problem is actually not “German language” vs “The rest of the world”, but it is concerning political consciousness and basic rules of respectful behavior.

While I think that of course it is fine to speak in your own language wherever you are, whenever, I think that in the U-Bahn or bus or in many smaller Cafés, with no chance for me not to overhear others, I find it simply annoying to have groups of drunken tourists/ex-pats screaming the same idiotic touristy epiphanies (“Oh my god - I love Berlin, it’s so cheap to live here!” – Yeah right, but only if you have an internet job with salary from a company outside of Germany, dumb ass) or their ignorant and often offending opinions about Berlin and Germany in general, over and over, every fucking day and night - and at such a volume that I couldn’t even drown it out with my headphones (maybe I should have just bought a better one?). Same goes for groups of drunken German soccer-fans, or groups of high-on-testosterone, loud-mouthed Turkish youth, btw. In my opinion, it is rude and annoying to vent your opinions about others in public spaces, not only in German, but in most languages and in most other countries. Unfortunately, most Germans are able to speak one or more languages, therefore the chances of them understanding you are much higher than you might think, and it is the volume and the content of what you are saying that is offending, not the use of the language itself.

But there is also a bigger structure that makes Berlin natives suspicious of or down right hostile towards tourists and ex-pats: a big part of the multi cultural population of Berlin, those whose do not make a buck off of tourism, are simply annoyed from having their spaces invaded by brutish humans that are not giving a shit about the locals, and who are willing to pay 4€ for a Latte and twice the rent Berliners used to pay before the onset of the tourist mega-hype its subsequent gentrification. But while many Berliners are prepared to fight for their rights, for example rent control, most ex-pats and tourists are not. Which basically turns them into some kind of “traitor” or even “enemy” in the eyes of many socially conscious, financially struggling Berliners.

To sum things up, in my opinion, by going to a supermarket and expecting an underpaid worker with very little education to understand English, or to demand your coffee at a high volume in English in a café and then being offended when they don’t reply happily, you are just outing yourself as a rude and ignorant individual, that is unable to grasp or care for political and cultural realities in the places you are visiting, regardless of the country you are in and your country of origin.

Ex-Berlinerin more than 1 year ago

bad writing

Had to go back to this, sorry...
Julia, you managed to inflame a lot of people by fueling a lot of mis-conceptions with her own, I'm afraid.
Can we please establish some facts? In the beginning you claim: 'Needless to say, he doesn’t speak a word of German and doesn’t intend to learn.' Did he express that intention, or did you INFER it? That's pretty important, as a lot of commenters here are happy to draw the conclusion that ALL expats refuse to learn out of disrespect for the Vaterland - I'm sure that's not the case though?

Further on, you write: "She didn’t understand a word, and she wasn’t even embarrassed." How could you tell she wasn't embarrassed? Not everyone hangs their head in shame as an appropriate response you know... You then proceeded to 'bitch' about her in German and thought nobody noticed - maybe they were being *polite*.

Then again you write: She herself, however, had started to learn it. Really? Have a medal! >> That's just bellicose writing and very unbecoming.

My point is that you managed to turn your own account of an experience into an issue, when it's probably not much of an issue at all, and fuelled some right-wing rhetoric in the process.

I'm sure that's not what you intended - if you did, you probably deserve all the vitriolic comments coming your way.

PS I'm also not a native English speaker.

Nic more than 1 year ago


SAD BUT TRUE this is in my opinion! I left the same australian restaurant for exactly the same reasons, but luckily before ordering, so missed the bad food. These people are just arrogant and ignorant to think that everybody should understand their english language!

Sebastian more than 1 year ago

don't agree

the other day I was insulted and sent out of a bar for being a tourist, although I speak fluent german and live in berlin for 5 years. When is this going to end? Nobody "should" do anything just because they are foreigners! I have the feeling that there is a lot of xenophobia and ausländerfeindlichkeit in all this expat/tourist repression and I am sick of it. The city is changing and if you cannot adapt to its change, leave it. It is not my fault that the rents are going up, if you wish they go down, please votte Die Linke, as I do.

I come from Portugal and you never heard me insulting tourists in lisbon, although it is full of it. Please grow up and be cosmopolitan if you can (well not you but the the berliners who cannot speak english)

ze more than 1 year ago

just plain sad.

oh, what a sad piece of text this is. i'm sure your opinion doesn't come from naivité, frau colthorpe, so i wonder what the hell really lies under so much anger.

i guess most germans don't realize that because they were raised to speak it, but the german language is very damn hard to master. sure, asking for coffee and sandwiches should be fine and i advise anyone living here to learn AT LEAST it, but engaging into actual conversations is a very different matter. also, germans normally lack the patience and disposition to handle a slower, clearer conversation with those who are still learning. learning it demands time, effort, disposition and money. so, show ein wenig geduld, dear berliners and haters.

and no, i do not come from an english speaking country, but i think it's great how the language can be used to bring together people that otherwise wouldn't understand each other at all.

in my country we had a very intense immigration flow (and still do) and it took all those people a lot of time to learn portuguese, or they still can't do it right. their languages influenced our too, with accents and new words. no hating. it's adaptation, and adaptation requires time and understanding.

anyway, if going to places like white thrash annoys the hell out of you, just don't fucking go. simple as that. your hating and ranting doesn't add nothing positive to the whole equation - it's just plain childish and well, we've seen before how this sort of attitude turned out some decades ago (yeah, it sucks i had to bring the nazi crap up, but it was hard to ignore it).

sabrina more than 1 year ago


Your sentiment is absolutely correct. I agree, it's sad and disrespectful that people who "refuse" to learn the language of the host city.

There's also the discussion of English as Lingua Franca which plays into Multi Kulti Berlin.

As an Australian though, this line is, well, rubbish:

"Well, if you’re going to be Australian, be bloody Australian. I want kangaroos and bush hats and shrimps on barbies, mate!"

Oh, because that's Australian.

Headley Kitchen more than 1 year ago

Na, und?

Though I understand the problem the author has with native English speakers not speaking German (yes, we are after all in Germany), I am confused in what city she thinks we are living in?

It is annoying to meet people, who have very little German skills, hell, it is embarrassing at many moments, but how is this problematic, exactly? An extraordinary amount of Turks do not speak Hochdeutsch, yet the English speaking expats are worth getting mad at? Are Turks going into the mainly hipster English cafes, shops and bars? No. Are Brandenburgers? No. Is a Berliner, who has a pretty good understanding of English? Maybe. Otherwise it is young Germans, who do not mind and Expats, who want to find their little Berlin corner.

The city has something amazingly special to offer young and old from all over the world and my biggest gripe with the author is that her tone is that of the mindless, idiots, who speak out against tourists and Ausländer. This same tone is used when people try to blame expats for rising rents or reminisce 'wenn es gab nur EIN Bar auf der Weserstr!'

This wonderful city is changing and finally beginning to find its identity, a natural one, not forced on by oppressive government or international politics, but one from the people, who come and live here. When you write like this, you embody the very attitude that sent this city, and country, downhill for the last 80 years. Sorry to be dramatic, but Germany finally has an international city that everyone wants to visit: deal with it.

SquirrelMan more than 1 year ago

Australian Coffee

If you asked for "two coffees please" in Melbourne, they wouldn't know what you are talking about and you would probably be greeted with the same confused look.
You have to specify which kind of coffee you are actually talking about.

Waiting for Coffeeman more than 1 year ago


I have debated this subject endlessly, and indeed talk about it with gags in my upcoming solo comedy show, but I just want to say to any German girls reading that your accents are a lot cuter in German than English. I think German is a very sexy language, and the thought of someone whispering - flüsternd - in my ear in their native Deutsch has made me so hot under the jumper that I'll have to immediately go and lie under a table. Great article, by the way.

Comedy show:

JHarris more than 1 year ago

Why the hate?

I don't understand all the hate. Why not embrace the diversity that has turned Berlin into one of the most interesting cities in Europe lately? There should be room for everyone. If they can get along without knowing perfect English, why do you care?

The city is simply adapting to its changing community. If there was a large German community in Australia, I'm sure a German café would thrive.

Sounds like Julie here is turning into a real Berliner Schnauze herself. Calling her own friend "pathetic" for her limited German vocabulary, well that's just sad.

David more than 1 year ago

Show some respect!

Is something about showing respect for the country and the people you live in! There is no excuse for living here for several years and don´t even think about learning the language. If that´s nationalism for you, your a poor narrow minded human beeing. the ignorance is breathtakin...

Däri more than 1 year ago

Germany/Berlin is changing. We have to be ready.

"Funny that this article is published on Ex Berliner's website", says my Boyfriend after I read the article aloud to him. He then reminds me of Ex Berliner's Africa issue (which is what we'll call it because we can't find an online archive of past issues with the exact title). Cue eye rolling, and head shaking.

One of the first Berlin slogans that I learned was "Berlin, Multi Kulti". As a friend of mine once said "People are not moving here for currywurst and bier"! People are moving here because they believe Berlin to be a free and open city where they can have space and time to live a better quality of life. This has something to do (or did) with cheap rents, an excess of available space, and a tolertant, accepting culture ready to welcome others. We might also call this freedom?

I want to be careful not to sound like I'm defending the rise of the English language in this city. I don't think it needs defending. What I would like to do is to concur with the commentator "Disagree": As of right now people have the freedom to live in Germany without the obligation of speaking Germany. Perhaps this will change, and I wonder if it was put up to a vote, if this would change. I can only speculate! People living in this city are going to have to get accustomed to hearing other languages on the street, in the train, and yes maybe in cafes and bars.

A German cafe where only German is spoken in Melbourne probably wouldn't last very long, but this is not the reality of an English speaking bussiness in Berlin. You can live in Berlin speaking English, and guess what? You can thrive. As a citizen where English is the defacto language and not on a federal level, the official language, I am accustomed to visitng shops and restaurants in my home city where people have the right to not communicate with me in English. Currently I am working in a call center making calls to U.S. businesses, and at least three times a day I reach someone who cannot answers my questions in English. The fact that people can own their own bussiness and speak the language of their choice in my home country is not a threat to me or my way of life, or that of my family, or the community that I grew up in. This fact is evidence of freedom, and we should all enjoy this freedom no matter where we are in the world.

There isn't enough space for me to list all my points so I will say very quickly A) What are the author's fears or real gripes with this "issue", as someone that we can presume is a non native German speaker? How do people feel about non Native English speakers who choose to communicate in English for work and leisure, I've met quite a few who are not as two of them put it, "Not interested in learning German"? Germany is changing. We have to be ready for change!

Lavender Islookingforaflat more than 1 year ago

re: lola & anon

lola : lol I'm French

+ Anon : Sure, there are loads of French people in London, but do they not speak English and do the least to adapt to the city, and not stomp on everything like "this is the way I am, world, take it or leave it" ?

I still think it's very funny that native English speakers, who can basically talk with everyone everywhere on this planet, are offended when asked to learn the basic language in the country they're living in. No one's asking you to read Faust in the three months following your arrival, but just not doing like your bloody own the world. This is basic respect and politeness, and I'm very sorry for you if you can't understand it.

Naja, jetzt schluss mit "donquichotten". Macht's gut. x

Pauline more than 1 year ago

Love it!

Brilliant piece! I totally agree! Although it makes it easy for tourists and travelers, native English speakers should at least make an attempt to learn the language, even if it is hard. Sadly there are Germans out there who have no problem with it... but then have problem when a Südländer doesn't learn German. I will say, I do think most native English speakers do try to learn German. As usual, it's the minority making the majority look bad. But it is hard in a place like Berlin, where one doens't have to know German to get around.

Katja Wolski more than 1 year ago

We love the English language!

Being German and from Berlin this really made me chuckle. I know it's all true from the Kaisers' cashier to the chalkboards on Karl-Marx-Strasse, you got it all... and - you can't help it.. especially in this town. I was always into languages and if I'd move to another country to make a living there -you bet I'd learn the language so I wouldn't be left out.

But you don't HAVE to in Berlin. There will always be someone around to help you along. It's not a bad thing after all but if you REALLY want to make a connection - try a little German... we adore your cute German with an English touch ;-) Trust me!

Britscilla more than 1 year ago


I'm from Canada, and I don't know why you wouldn't bother to build at least conversational skills in German. Just because there is a defecit of engineers, trades, medical workers, etc. does not mean that every foreigner coming in should not try to integrate...I mean if you're there for years and just showed some interest in it, I would think it would happen naturally.

Also those are positions that many, many, many countries are lacking professionals in. It's not really an excuse to make everything monolingual because you have a minority of foreigners helping out.

Jesse more than 1 year ago


What annoys me with people who are coming here and not even trying to learn the language, is that in places like Australia, England and New Zealand, the people who move to these countries learn English to integrate, and people who make snide remarks about them not learning the language, or speaking their own, is considered racist of course, but it isn't here then.

I think the thing with having English as such a dominant world-wide language, is it makes people lazy and also bullies. Why should English become the go-to language of Berlin, when it is not the native language here? People even with the least German and trying to speak the language have my respect for trying, ones who don't even understand the three word sentence of "zwei Kaffee bitte" are ridiculous and are having a very closed-minded overseas experience and it is unfair on others who make an effort, and is taking advantage of a wonderful culture which actually makes the effort to learn other languages.

English shouldn't become the language of every nation in the world, otherwise it all just becomes the same.

Also, person above "Berlin is what it is not because of the germans, otherwise it wouldnt be interesting at all! " I think you are wrong and Germans are definitely interesting and of course are an integral part of Berlin.

ellie more than 1 year ago


Well, if you hadn't been such a close-minded self-centered country you wouldn't have had that engineer personnel deficit. Now that you need them, you're importing people that have neither studied nor cared for Germany in their life, and moving there won't change it. Tone down the attitude a bit.

Anon more than 1 year ago

sorry, my time machine's broken...

so i'm not sure how i ended up here exactly...

here's the thing. if something someone else is/isn't doing is bothering you to this degree, there is something VERY wrong with your life, and how fulfilling it is to you.

i propose that people speak whatever language they are comfortable speaking to whomever they are comfortable speaking it with.

you're a german and you want to speak to this person but they only speak english? move along or make the effort. oh, you're japanese, but this person only speaks german? make an effort to communicate, or move along.

oh, you moved all the way to germany from ireland, to only hang out in irish pubs and speak to irish people? your loss.

you want to know the irony of the american musician at your table? he comes from a country where every immigrant that steps on it's soil is immediately told to learn the language or go home, that it's their way or the highway. and now he's brought that mentality to germany with him. yay! it turns out that birds of a feather DO flock together, because in essence, it's the exact same thought process you're promoting.

having spent a lot of time in india, i can assure you, i ran into more than one german that lived there, and didn't speak a work of hindi. they were there for the cheap hash and easy living. sound familiar?

nationalism is a dangerous and small minded thing at any level, and thats a lesson that germany should already have learned. that last thing we need is to validate this sort of thought process, being immigrants ourselves.

i know it makes you feel important, but be careful where you tread, is all i'm saying.

everyone needs to step outside the familiar confines of borders and languages, venture out into the big beautiful world and start learning that 'different' is a threat.

p.s. yet another crap article, by an increasingly crap magazine. step up your game ex-berliner.

aberHALLO more than 1 year ago

So damn true!!!

Well done for pointing that out and speaking out what most Berliners think. I am German myself, lived here all my life but also made the effort of living in english speaking countries for about 9 years as well. So I know both sides and guess what, I would have not lasted anywhere that long if it wasn't for me learning the language! So why are there people moving to Berlin but don't want to learn german? Clearly it is easier to speak english yes, because we Germans love to get the opportunity to speak english... no doubt about that. BUT I don't understand why litterally everything turns into english? Waiters don't understand german? I sometimes ask myself, am I still in Berlin? I don't mind when people need to be served in english (such as tourists) but it is ridiculous when I cannot order in my native language which, as far as I know is still the language of Germany? I mean, situations such as ordering a simple coffee... well, thank god I know how to speak english!

Sophie more than 1 year ago

berlin is a variety of languages

considering the historical development of berlin - it is just an fact that the first foreign languguage of a lot of berliners is russian for instance. I personally find it being ignorant just to expect everybody to speak english in germany.

knif more than 1 year ago


For me there are a few things at play here.

I'm from the US (more specifically, Northern California) where learning languages (Ironically as a European descendant) isn't second nature. I've lived in Paris for the past six years and moved there on a whim after getting engaged to a Parisian. The pressure to learn the language and "integrate" was exponentially greater than it is in Berlin, but I understood and respected it. I now speak French fluently, with a never-ending desire to refine it, even though I've kept my cultural identity (that all the same, has morphed considerably at this point).
My opinion is that even though we have the legal right to move and live wherever we want, it's a matter of respecting the difference of the culture that you love enough to want to inhabit. If you love Australia and the language, go live in Australia. I don't think that's a cruel or ignorant statement, just a logical statement. If you go to a tea ceremony in Japan, you don't pull out your own teabags because "that's the way you do it at home". You're there to appreciate something different and pure. Play the game. Globalism will take over soon enough and eradicate the purity of regional language and you'll wish you had appreciated it a little more.

Ashes Monroe more than 1 year ago

to german

Amon, you got my appreciation!

I think germans get lost on their own rules.

Nobody asked for how long this girl is staying here....seriously, if someone plans to live here for a long term, they will make some effort to learn, its matter of survival.

Berlin is what it is not because of the germans, otherwise it wouldnt be interesting at all!

a german more than 1 year ago

re: Anon

You made the point!


lola more than 1 year ago



Pauline said:

"Not being embarrassed about not knowing German in a German restaurant is the most absurd thing I've ever heard."

I just arrived here but ok, I'll try hard to wake up tomorrow speaking really good german to not feel embarrassed anymore. Thanks for the advice! ;)

lola more than 1 year ago


As Nathan the wise intimated, imperatives have little binding force. Yet good manners would demand that it is only polite to acquirie at least a smattering of German. Otherwise, we are expecting everybody to run around our lazy selves.

Andrew Smith more than 1 year ago


Of course learning German will give you a richer cultural experience as an expat, but you should not learn because others tell you that you "should".

At the end of the day it is you that will benefit from the language, and you should choose to do it if you want to. The fact remains that you CAN live in Berlin without speaking German, and you ARE ENTITLED to by law.

This city has some things to learn about tolerance, but what do you expect from a culture that turns foreigners away from nightclubs for speaking English in the line.

I understand the frustrations of having foreigners strolling into your town and "taking over" but don't you realise that you end up spouting the same nationalist spiel that Daily Mail readers do in the UK about Muslim immigrants. May I point out that London is now the 6th biggest "French" city. When was the last time you heard an Englishman complaining about that.

What scares me is that in the UK we hear the same complaints about immigration from the middle east and africa, BUT it is usually flowing from the mouth of ignorant idiots, poorly educated or at least 50+ conservative politicians. In Berlin, you hear those same things coming from the young and educated.

Europe is for all Europeans. Free movement of labour means that equally you can move to the UK, France, Romania, Bulgaria, Switzerland and speak whatever language you want. The only person whose life will be difficult as a result is your own.

Anon more than 1 year ago

Come on

I feel that people who are residing in their own countries prefer to speak their native language (aside from practicing occasionally one or more foreign languages. But I think you can't just take it as a given or for granted that someone may or may not speak English in any capacity. In an English-speaking country, I would hope that someone would address me in English. Or at least be able to ask me if I speak some other language in English. I would never address anyone in Germany in a language other than German - at least upon first contact.
I've lived in several other countries and I find that what you get out of being in a place and your interactions with people revolve a lot on how well you can speak the local tongue. As for "English is spoken everywhere," this is exactly the kind of false expectation that causes this sort of laziness. For example, English is hardly spoken in Madagascar and French is generally considered the language of colonialists. Although French ex-pats say "oh everyone speaks French because it was a colony, so I don't have to learn Malagasy" this is very far from the truth - and then to complain that they are victims of price gouging or unfair treatment or are not accorded the same comforts as the locals, is just a clear indication that they haven't bothered to take even the first step to adapt to their surroundings.
Using English is a crutch but with this particular disability, you can actually do something to get yourself off of it.

Andrew more than 1 year ago


Actually there have been many times I have tried to speak in German to people and they always reply in English, so in fact.. maybe it isn't the English speakers who are the ones wanting to speak English all the time...

Jen more than 1 year ago

lingua f*ckoff

@ "colonize germany" : f*ck off back where you came from, tourist.

ami expat more than 1 year ago

Oh ffs

Wow, other commenters... really?! How can you possibly expect to get the best of out the new country you're living in without a real appreciation of its culture, its history and the way it works? And how can you possibly expect to gain this without gaining some knowledge of the local language?! I think expecting to rock up and expect everyone else to speak your language or, even worse, simply building your own mini-community and blocking everyone else out, is not only hindering your own experience but is also pretty disrespectful.

Noone's saying learning German is easy but I'm pretty sure just because you've already had the great fortune to speak a language that's spoken globally/made the considerable effort to learn English as a second (or third...) language, it doesn't preclude you from learning the language local to where you're living now. I'm a native English speaker who's lived Germany now for three years; I'll happily say that my life here changed dramatically with having since learned the language (which has been a long, hard slog - and is an apparently neverending one). I can't imagine for a second why anyone would happily miss out on truly getting to understand the people and way of life in a new country by not taking a bit of time to do the same. Still, if you can't be bothered, more fool you.

Wursts more than 1 year ago

a bit frustrated?

Seems like you're the one that should move to Brandenburg, Julie. It's nice if people speak German, but isn't it also nice that some people don't?
Enjoy it rather than judge it.

henk more than 1 year ago

Germans got angry about my speaking German!

I did my earnest to speak in German on a three-week trip but they either laughed or were angry about my even existing and wanting to spend money there! ... About 1/3 seemed to speak English so ended up with that at their suggestion... I plan to get better as I wish to go back some time or nearby to teach plenty good Engrish! ;-)

reg more than 1 year ago

Colonize Germany

My mom's side of the family has several US Army civilians and EU employees who live in Germany. None of them speak German at home. One uncle of mine is even half-German, and still he avoids speaking German; I assume he hates it.

My dad (a proud Pashtun) never spoke German to me - until I forgot his language. I refuse to speak Pashto to this day, because many conversations with "real" Pashtuns end up in some nationalist Kackscheiße.

I think refusing to speak the majority language is a subversive act. When I lived in Turkey and France, I also refused to speak the local languages, although my French is rather good. Not that I hate all languages other than English, I just hate it when language becomes a creed. English is not a creed. People of all "cultures" speak it - to communicate with people of other "cultures." (And hopefully abolish all culture soon.)

I don't like to bend to social pressure and the policies of the powerful (one of which is linguistic cleansing). Speaking German, French, Turkish is an identitarian issue, whereas English is not. English is a lingua franca, while the others are tools of nationalism.

Furthermore, English is the only official language which is not controlled by an official language academy:

Keep showing your disrespect for Germany. Speak English! more than 1 year ago

Congratulations, Ex-Berliner!

If these comments are any indication, you've officially become The Local!

Sid L. more than 1 year ago

Language in Berlin

As an American musician who has over 20 years experience in Berlin there is so much I could write about this biased article. The author misses the point completely. First, English and German are NOT equivalent. English is spoken around the world. German is spoken in only about 5 countries. Secondly, the generalizations you try to make don't work because the level of language depends entirely on the individual. Not everyone has the same ability or the same need to speak any particular language no matter where they may be on this planet. My great grandparents where from Czech Republic and lived over 60 years in Texas without ever learning English. Today many people from Mexico live in Texas for years without learning English. Others learn to varying degrees. Many people in Texas make the same comments about Mexicans and English that the writer is making about expats and German. In Texas we call these people "bigots".
Personally, I have always tried to learn as much German as I could and use it as much as possible. But my German is still not very good. I can get by and have conversations but I am a long, long way from being fluent. And I find that Germans have little experience, and often little interest, in speaking the German language for "Fremd spracher". They usually try to speak as though I am a native and I find it hard to understand them at times. Because I am an American musician I write in English. If I meet one of the many musician, artists or writers from other countries here we almost always speak English. It is the only common language we can all use to communicate. I am always interested in learning new things about the culture but I did not move to Berlin to become German. Nor should I have to. Nor should anyone. It is always up to the individual. Everyone knows that it is an advantage to speak the local language wherever you are. But different people have different circumstances and different motivations.
As for Melbourne, I know that place and the people there. I know from talking with them that most of the Australians working there are new to Germany and trying to learn what they can about the language and the city. Just how fast do you expect them to become fluent? When I eat Asian in Houston, Texas there are times that my waiter speaks no English. I think this writer needs to learn some tolerance and learn that the world is a lot bigger than Berlin. And, if she wants German, there are plenty of people and places in Berlin where no English is spoken or understood. Maybe she should restrict her experience in Berlin to those places.
This is Berlin in 2013. English spoken almost everywhere. Get over it.

michael hardie more than 1 year ago


I love the ease with which some people can revert to calling someone with a dissenting point of view arrogant, ignorant or simply fascist. It is indeed one of the easiest ways out of actually thinking about the problems talked about in the article.

Basically, expecting that people in a different country speak your language is arrogant and exemplified as much by the shouting German clogging up the beaches of the Adria, yelling and pointing at things until the natives give up, as it is by the nonchalance with which people don't even ask whether you might be speaking their language before assaulting you with it. Of course, most Germans speak English, though not quite as good as most of them might want to imagine. So, losing about 5 seconds when asking them whether they speak it, while seemingly a waste of time, is actually a sign of respect, not despite of it taking up time, but precisely because it takes up time. Accepting an impediment to create a more comfortable situation for someone is the essence of courtesy. That is also what Germans are trying to do, when they speak English around non-Germans. Despite showing off, that is. We just love to show off how international we are. Partly, I think, because it has been drilled into our skulls how hard German is to learn and how grateful we should be to just have to learn English, which is generally seen as characterized as rather easy to learn, in turn leading to many people believing they have a good grasp on the English language, an idea I myself am somewhat possessed by.

What did I want to say? Oh, yeah, right: Learning the language of the country you reside in for whatever time, even if it's just rote learning some sentences that might help you board the right bus, is the way to go and shows respect for the culture of the country you are visiting. A simple idea that, I am afraid to say, Germans also tend to forget quite often.

CJoe more than 1 year ago


I am an expact, have been in Berlin for 2. 5 half years by now and must say that in the begining it wasn't easy at all to talk to germans EVEN if you tried, just forgetting a word or pronoucing something wrong was immediate "WAS??" and so as the Germans are so encouraging no wonder some people get an attitude problem and don't want to learn.
Also once you move to a new country and you have 1000 things you need to take care of sorry but you can't be fluent in German in 2 seconds to have that table conversation. That's the thing, yes now i do my business and work in German, but it takes a while to learn and in the mean time you try to communicate the best you can..
And also if I am only surrounded by fellow expacts why on earth should I speak German with them??? And by the way english isn't my native language either so it seems more to be an attitude problem of "larger" language areas that you are immediately suppose to learn the language. Come to Finland, be there as long as you want and no one will say "oh my god how come you don't speak Finnish by now?" We now it is hard to learn and speaking english is fine, it's not exactly threatening our culture in any way, it is actually nice to have some international atmospheare...
Berlin getting international? What about the turks and them having all possible services in their own language for years. Dude, you go to Brandenburg if you can't tolarate a bit of an international in your hood..

maria more than 1 year ago

THANK YOU for your rant. :)

Living in a foreign country and not even trying to learn the local language is not only disrespectful, it is also utterly stupid.

Bettina more than 1 year ago

re: roze (bis)

"Pauline, that's setting the bar pretty low. Didn't they teach you about the Holocaust in school?"

Hahah I was waiting for that one. You win a Godwin point, Miss. And you miss the point, too.

Pauline more than 1 year ago

If you don't speak American in America they deport you!

You even have to carry a card around to prove it. And shouldn't Deutschland be more like America?

I ♥ Arizona more than 1 year ago

Not the right attitude

I'm Spanish, and I have been living in Berlin for 2 years. Fortunately, I studied German during my studies so I had a fair knowledge when I came.
Let's face it: German is NOT an easy language. It takes at least a year of full dedication to be able to communicate properly. Nevertheless, if you intend to stay here for a while, it's a matter of education to learn the language of the country you live in. If you're carrying out a 3-month Erasmus, learn the very basics. But if you've been hittig the sreets, the parks, the lovely bars, the beaufiul decadence of a city like Berlin, you might as well give it back a little bit by showing respect and learning the language.
As much as it hurts to say it, I have seen spaniards, americans, and other foreign people roll their eyes when the bartender in a Kneipe forces them to speak German. Is that the way things go?
Personally, I have worked in loads of bars and restaurants downtown Barcelona, and there is nothing more frustrating than someone German, French or British coming to you and speaking their language, expecting you to know iit by some sort of magical efect.
Let's learn respect first, shouldn't we? Being inernational isn't about moving somewhere else, it's about expanding your horizons.

Alex more than 1 year ago

Why Germany?

A timely article. The attraction for me of Germany is Germans and German culture (their outlook on life, ways of doing things, literature and history, the German craze for triathlon). If it wasn't, why be there rather than Putney, for example, Neukölln's equivalent in London? I believe the disdain for learning the language is a shield for the non-speaker's insecurity. It is hard work and a long-term project, with ups and downs, but the regular interest from native Germans, bordering on astonishment, when you can hold a conversation in German, is a reward that can be hard to find in other countries.

Evan more than 1 year ago

English in Berlin

I think Julie you are talking out of your arsch. The bankrupt, law onto itself German capital is anything but like the rest of Germany. Additionally many of the 20 - 50 year old young professionals in Berlin are German, but not Berliners, they want the International vibe and LOVE in my experience and occasional pain to speak English no matter how good or bad it is. You have a few threads of thought going on in your article. Customer service in Berlin is non existent, whatever it be coffee, a meal, supermarket, beer, whatever and whether it be delivered by a German or English person. I agree with Juan as I've often shared his experiences, on several occasions I have actually asked someone 'why are you replying to me in English when you obviously understand what I'm saying in German, I'm told its polite. Bullshit. It's rude. This all falls away when you leave the partyzones and need a doctor, finanzamt, physio etc etc, that's when you meet the real Berliners and when you realise that there is a part of this city that is German. If only I could afford a good language course, otherwise I might have to move to the outer depths of Brandenburg. Just as a hard liner on the right wing will somehow meet a hard liner on the left, at one point there is a fine line between being a lazy arrogant English speaker not bothered to learn German and a lazy arrogant German who can't be bothered to speak German with you. PS. I've lived in 4 different areas of Berlin and they all follow the same pattern, nothing to do with Neukolln.

InsideOutsider more than 1 year ago

re: roze

Pauline said:

"Not being embarrassed about not knowing German in a German restaurant is the most absurd thing I've ever heard."

Pauline, that's setting the bar pretty low. Didn't they teach you about the Holocaust in school?

Heiner more than 1 year ago

knickers in knots

What a knickers in a knot article.
I find the fact that you spent your lunch bitching about a waitress a little disturbing, actually the whole article was quite sad, and I think that you would be doing yourself and the people around you a better service if you spent more time learning the basics of kindness, compassion and understanding. By the sounds of it worrying about a language should be at the bottom of your list at the moment.
People come to Germany for many different reasons, some come here because they love it and want to learn the language and put their all in to it and will bea speaking conversationally in 6 months, others may not have chosen to move to Germany because they have a passion for it, but perhaps they come because they have family or a partner that needs to be there for a year or two and they are happy to go along and learn the basics, while focussing on their own english speaking careers.
Some people have little interest in learning the language, some do. Neither is better or worse, they just are what they are.
What you deem to be important may not be important to the next, and vice versa.
Dont let it keep you up at night or waste your lunches bitching about others. Life is short and its far to precious to bother with what others think say or do to much.
I hope you can unravel the hefty knot in your Schlüpfer it must be uncomfortable :)

Frauzoom more than 1 year ago

What if all of the non-Germans who live in Berlin learned German?

I guess then we'd be forced to start listening to lectures on our hygiene, instead. I mean, it's not really about the language is it then, mate? Or is the arrogant and disrespectful to point out?

Sandor more than 1 year ago

re: roze

roze - Jesus, you made me laugh. Not being embarrassed about not knowing German in a German restaurant is the most absurd thing I've ever heard. It's not even about "bloody foreigners colonizing our beautiful German city", but just plain respect for the people living there. Just because English is now a handy language tool for practically everyone, doesn't mean it has to take over every other language.
Plus, I suppose from what you've said that you never bothered trying to learn any language, since English is now spoken everywhere. You're very obviously privileged, and you don't even know it. You've got some nerve complaining about Germans not knowing English so well when you probably never even tried to learn their language - oh and just FYI, German might not be a "common language" as you put it, but it is the most-spoken language in Europe.
And please, please don't even compare yourself to Turkish people and call the author a racist, you're just embarrassing yourself.

Pauline more than 1 year ago

Look at all those shares!

Has the self-hating Jew been replaced in Germany by the self-hating expat hipster?

MultiKultFrau more than 1 year ago

Some people have no respect

This doesn't surprise me one bit. Some people have no respect or sense of place. Their attitude would be exactly the same if some foreigner had come to their native country speaking in a foreign tongue. "Learn English!" they would say whilst refusing to learn German when in Germany. The problem here is it is relatively easy to live in Germany now whilst speaking hardly any German at all and people will usually take the easiest route. People are living and often working within cultural enclaves. For example, I lived in Germany for 6 years with other English people and my work was also done in English. I barely needed any German. It shows massive disrespect to your host nation though and to be honest I'm the kind of person who likes to learn new stuff anyway so I made the effort. So, I could shop, go to official buildings and eal with everyday life fairly well. I guess some people don't care so much about that anymore. If I met the "I won't learn German" attitude as a native though I would be extremely pissed off by it.

Andrew more than 1 year ago

I know many French, Australians, Bulgarians etc who sit down to learn german. It just takes forever if you´re not a native. I know the same number who doesn´t even try. Many have no real chance to work outside cafés, programming or as tour guides. They stay till the money runs out. Good chances for germans to work as a professional proxy when it comes to PR, tax etc.

Rico more than 1 year ago

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