Is It Rude To Speak English In Germany?

Is it?

No it isn’t. Traveling to a place like Germany, especially for the first time,  you might be wondering can I survive here? In a place where the general language is one that you might not understand, especially with different rumors.

Well, Surprisingly, quite a number of Germans know how to speak English, therefore it is not entirely rude to speak English in Germany. 

Although, speaking English to someone that obviously doesn’t understand English can be rude, but usually, you won’t have a problem with that, as most have learned English, especially the young ones.

You might even find them speaking English with a strong  American accent, due to social media and TV that they usually watch.

Generally, it isn’t rude to speak English in Germany, although sometimes, it depends on where you are and who you’re talking to.

Why Is It Considered Disrespectful To Speak English In German?

Is It Rude To Speak English In Germany?

Although quite a number of Germans understand English, in a number of scenarios, it might actually look disrespectful to speak English.

They Might Not Understand English

Is It Rude To Speak English In Germany?

Some people entirely do not understand English; while most of the youth in Germany understand English, most of the elderly do not. Also, people in the countryside might not understand English. Speaking English to such people might look insulting. 

For instance you might find that in the countryside, many do not quite understand English, in a gathering where about 90% do not understand English, speaking English in such a place can be rude, as the people there have no idea what you’re saying.

They might take it offensive thinking you are probably abusing them in English. 

Even in the city, when you find out that the person you’re communicating with does not understand English, it is better to try and speak German, as the person might also take it offensive

Also, speaking to someone who doesn’t understand puts unnecessary pressure on him, as he is expected to reply in English. When you speak English to someone, he is expected to reply in English, but since he can’t, this might put him in an uncomfortable or demeaning position.

German Is The Generally Acceptable Language In Germany

The official language in Germany is German, so everybody is expected to know how to speak German. Although many might actually know how to speak English, they will prefer to speak in a more comfortable language- German. 

Many are proud of their native language- German and find joy in speaking it, so they would prefer to always speak in German than in English. Also, they expect people to know and reply to them in German.

Some Are Racist

Although they are not usually common, as Germans are quite nice and receptive, some people are strongly fascist and racist. Germany was colonized by the English, which made some of them hate everything in relation to English. 

Seeing you speaking English, especially if you’re a foreigner, might be considered rude and disrespectful to such people. English, reminds them of their colonizers. 

They Want To Choose The Language More Comfortable For Them To Communicate With

Some want to be given the choice to choose what language to speak; quite a number of Germans will prefer being spoken to in broken German than even in English, because that way, they get the understanding that you might not be too good in German. 

It is therefore of their choice either to reply in German or in English. But speaking directly in English puts them under a kind of compulsion to reply in English.

Why It Isn’t Entirely Rude

Although some Germans might consider it rude to speak English to them on the first approach, on the other hand, some wouldn’t take offense. This greatly depends on where you are and who you’re talking to.

When You Can’t Speak German

For easier communication, if you’re a foreigner and probably don’t know how to speak German, it might not be entirely rude.

This is because they would understand that you do not know German and therefore can’t speak it. If such is the case, then it can’t be  considered against you, as you have no option, but to speak in the language you know.

Especially in places like hotels, restaurants and some establishments, it won’t be an issue at all. In fact, some waiters/waitresses would take your order in English and would gladly speak to you in English, without feeling offended. 

They would also prefer to speak in English, as they would be sure that you understand what they’re saying, than to speak in German and be doubting if you even got the message they were trying to pass.

Most of the time, they’re trying to be polite by speaking English with you.

In fact, most people in places like this, generally speak English, especially to foreigners.

Many foreigners wanting to learn German have found out that even when you speak to them in German sometimes, they’ll reply in English!

Some just to make you comfortable and some so they can be more effective in communication and not make mistakes in serving you.

The Youth Love To Practice Speaking English

Also, most youths will actually love to speak in German, they offer a compulsory class to learn English.

Many are eager to use what they’ve learnt in school, in practice by communing with you in English.  They find it an exciting language, as they listen to it while watching movies or while using social media.

People who travel to Germany, just to learn German, are sometimes disappointed when trying to speak German to the youth there, as they might reply in English, this is just because of their enthusiasm to put their theory knowledge into practical use.

If you want to learn German, it would be best to go to the countryside, as most people there speak more German.

Summarily, where you are, who you’re talking to and the situation you find yourself in, is what determines if it’s better for you to speak German or English, Or rather if it’s rude to speak English or not.

What To Do Before Speaking English In Germany

Try To Learn The Basic Words

Is It Rude To Speak English In Germany?

As a foreigner, coming to stay permanently or even visiting Germany for a while, it would really be helpful for you to know a little German.

You don’t have to take a whole course on it (you might consider that though, if you plan to stay permanently, although even without that, you can do manageably well).

It is generally advisable to learn a little of the language of a place where you intend traveling to. Learning German, even if it’s just that basic, “how are you” will turn out really helpful one way or the other in the long run. 

Especially if you have to discuss with someone that doesn’t know how to speak English. If you’ve learnt a little German, that knowledge will come in really handy in times like that.

You should try to learn their greetings, and be able to say words like “mein German ist nicht so gut” which means my English is not so good. At least, after saying this, the person you’re talking to will understand that, it would be better and more comfortable for you to communicate in English.

Ask If The Person You’re Speaking To Understands English

Also, find out if the person you’re talking to understands English. There’s going to be a large communication gap, if you don’t understand German and the other doesn’t understand English. 

But it won’t also be nice of you to assume that he understands English and just go on talking in English. If it turns out that he can’t speak English, he will feel uncomfortable. So first find out if the person you’re talking to actually understands English.

Attempt To Speak German

Is It Rude To Speak English In Germany?

Lastly, try to speak a little German. Even if your German is nothing to write home about and your pronunciations are very wrong, still attempt German at first approach.

Most Germans are quite understanding and polite, they won’t laugh at you, infact, they feel happy that you, being a foreigner, are trying to learn or speak their language. 

They would be appreciative of your efforts. Also, by hearing how bad your German is, they might get the cue that speaking in English will be better, and switch to speaking English if they can.


If you live in the big cities, inability to speak German won’t be much of a problem, as most people there have had to learn English as a course since they were probably five years old.

Infact, like I earlier said, some might be eager to make use of the English they’ve learnt in school and will prefer to speak in English with you.

On the other hand, if you live in the countryside, it might be a bit harder, as most older people didn’t take English courses when they were young, but instead took Russia.

In places like this, having absolutely no knowledge of German would be inadvisable, as there would be a large barrier to communication.

But, on a general note, most Germans speak English, therefore it won’t be rude to speak English in Germany. 


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