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Do you really need to speak German to live in Berlin?

Everyone knows Berlin for its internationality. The city has around 3.8 million inhabitants and it may as well be considered the capital of Europe because of its huge variety of people. As a matter of fact, 21,2% of the people who live in Berlin are not German. The city hosts Turkish, Polish, Ukrainians, Syrians, Italians and the list goes on…

In such an international city, almost everybody can speak English fluently and certainly has no problem in understanding it.

Whether you’re at the supermarket, in a Späti (a typical Berliner convenience store) or in any other shop you don’t really need to ask questions, however, in case you can’t find what you are looking for, you might as well ask in English: there always is someone to help you get your message through.

When you are eating out in a restaurant, cafe or bar, you can place your order entirely in English or just by pointing out what you want from the menu.

Many people who have been living in Berlin for years are able to get away with English and very few German words such as: hallo (hello), tschüss (bye), Entschuldigung (sorry), not to mention the well-known mit Karte, bitte (by card, please). It sounds unbelievable, but this is Berlin’s reality and in our opinion it really is amazing.

There aren’t many other non-English-speaking cities in Europe where you can live without knowing the official local language. For example, Rome, the capital of Italy, with its almost 2.9 million inhabitants where not everyone can speak English or even understand it. Therefore, if you are ever eating out in Rome, make sure you have a translator to at least understand what the menu offers.

Back to Berlin life: why should you learn & speak German?

By now, you might think that learning German is just a waste of time and that if you plan to come to Berlin, it is better to focus on improving your English, which is a great idea. However, what you may not know is that, even in such an international city, knowing the official local language is very useful and we will tell you why.

Germany is known all over the world for its efficiency. This implies having to deal with a lot of documents of different kinds. It sometimes occurs that you will need to go to some Büros to ask for information or to receive support in a situation you do not know how to handle yet. The great issue here is that in these offices almost no one can speak English and you will experience the frustration of not understanding each other properly, even with the aid of a translator. Personally, we do not endorse these kinds of situations because they can be quite stressful (because some public servers might not be patient enough or are just having a usual toilsome day) and it may seem like they have worsened the problems you already had.

Nevertheless, when you are able to keep a conversation up in German you will have a refreshing sense of freedom. It has also come to our attention that when you speak German, people are nicer and more polite to you.

The German language also comes in quite handy also when you want to go clubbing. Berlin is undoubtedly famous for its night clubs and for Berlin’s techno, which was added to the UNESCO cultural heritage list in March 2024.

Going to nightclubs in this city is a mystical experience from the very beginning. While you queue, you should follow some uncharted rules to have better chances to get in, such as not being loud or consuming alcohol. Upon arriving at the entrance, the staff will pose you some questions and we have noticed that if you are able to reply in German and show enough confidence in yourself and your speaking skills, it will be much easier for you to be admitted into the nightclub.

In conclusion, speaking German is not an essential skill if you plan to spend some days or weeks in Berlin, but it is already a great advantage and will definitely give you a head start if you plan to live the Berlin experience to its fullest. Deciding to learn German in Berlin will reveal sides of the city that stay hidden from those who only speak English and as a bonus effect you will feel more connected to the city and its culture. You’ll get more from local jokes, news, and conversations, feeling not just like a random visitor but a real part of the community.

If you want to enrichen your experience and feel like a real Berliner, check out our schedules on our website and start learning German with us now! What are you waiting for?