Been offered a job in Germany or thinking about moving over but can’t speak a word of German? You’re probably wondering whether you’ll be able to get by and just how stuck you might be in terms of being able to communicate with those around you. Will you be able to go to the grocery store, make friends, or take public transport with German?
You can live in Germany and get by without speaking German. While it is helpful to know that official communication may only be in German, you can get by with help from your smartphone. In addition, where you live and which work you do also determine your ability to get by without German.
Having said this, there are definitely parts of Germany where this is easier, and it also depends very much on which type of role you’re in if you’re working. To find out whether you would be able to live in Germany without knowing German, look no further.
Can You Survive In Germany Without Speaking German?
While the short answer is yes, you can; this is not to say that not speaking the country’s language in which you’re living does not come without its challenges. Firstly, this assumes that you can speak English and that this would be the language you default to without knowing German. If this is so, it is still possible to live in Germany without knowing German.
Going about your daily life, such as grocery shopping and getting around on public transport, are easy to do with knowing German. However, you might need to translate the labels of a couple of grocery items you aren’t sure about. There may be some limitations to what you can do in English when it comes to more administrative tasks.
Opening a bank account, depending on your bank, may be able to be conducted in English, and the online banking platforms may be available in English. However, the contracts you need to sign will likely be in German; this goes for other contracts, too, such as rental agreements. Official documentation from the government is also likely to be in German only.
For these official documents, most people don’t even read them in detail in English, so you’re likely to sign them anyway. However, you might need to run the document through a translator if you want to understand it, as well as doing so for forms you may be required to fill out until you’re familiar with how the common fields are written in German.
Is It Possible To Get A Job In Germany Without Speaking German?
Whether you can work in Germany without speaking German depends very much on your line of work. In any client-facing position, whether it be customer service, consulting, medicine, or any other position requiring communicating with local public members, you will likely need German.
The exception to this may be if you are in an international company and perhaps looking after a group of clients in your home country, or doing so for a German company, and won’t be dealing with members of the German public. If your job requires you to deal with members of the German public, even in another capacity (e.g., Supply chain or logistics), you will need German.
Those involved in accounting, research, or teaching in an international school will not need German. There are still others, who may need a limited working proficiency in German, such as cooks, cleaners, painters, and electricians, who will need to get a basic understanding of instructions in German employers, but not really need to e able to fluently converse in it outside of their subject area.
Is German Easy To Learn?
German can feel like one of the hardest languages to learn if you’re coming from an English-speaking background, but with plenty of rules to follow, it’s not actually that hard. While it uses the phonetic alphabet too, unlike English, it has three cases, so objects are either masculine, feminine or neutral, which affects the forms of other words in the sentence.
Because it is a fairly technical language, with a large variation in the spoken dialects from around the country, it can take longer to become very good in the spoken language, but to make yourself understood on a basic level is not too challenging. Written German and reading it are also simpler than speaking it, as the rules are easier followed with time.
Being in a German-speaking country, you will also find it much easier to learn a language that you are hearing and seeing daily. Your brain subconsciously picks up so much of this that words and phrases will soon come naturally without any effort, and by putting in some effort to learn the language once you are there, you have the opportunity to practice daily.
Tips For Living In Germany Without German
- There are some important things to be aware of if you’re considering moving to Germany without speaking German.
- Employers often include German lessons up to a point in a relocation package, or just if you don’t already speak it
- Depending on the city you’re in and how international it is, you’ll need German to lesser or greater degrees
- Chances are, as an ex-pat, you will make friends and socialize mostly with other foreigners and all speak English together anyway
- Legal documents, bills, and invoices will likely all come in German, so be prepared to use a good translation tool to get around this
- Make an effort to learn the language if you move to the country – as a matter of cultural curtesy, it is not good practice to be living in another country and expect them to speak your language to you in their country; showing effort goes a long way culturally and socially, even if you aren’t very good.
Ordering at a restaurant, finding your way around a city, and going about day-to-day activities are very manageable without speaking German. The more complex administrative and legal issues might be harder to deal with in another language. Still, with the translation tools available on smartphones today, this is hardly a hurdle to moving to Germany.