So, it is decided then. After listening to all of your friends coming back amazed from trips to Austria, Germany and Switzerland, you will finally travel to these countries yourself. They had their bellies fully with yummy Mozartkugeln from Salzburg, were stunned by the easy-going way of life in Berlin and were somehow still floating like they did in Basel down the Rhine. Hearing all of that, I mean, how come you didn’t cross off these countries of your bucket list a long time ago? Now, finally, your bags are packed: undies, deo, blankie, camera and that all important German phrase book, that will save you in every kind of situation.
Travelling in Germany
But wait… let’s be honest: How practical is it, really? When you have to stand in front of a German smiling at you, eyes full of expectation and you opening your mouth to: “Sorry, just need to browse my 257-pages-book to say something to you. Might only take 5 minutes”. Well, imagine how fast the smile will disappear and give way to an impatient rolling of the eyes.
Don’t get me wrong: Germans are more than pleased if you make an effort to speak with them in their language. They will wait patiently until your mouth has won the struggle against nasty German consonant clusters and can finally pronounce what you to want to say. But let’s not push their patience to the limit.
So, this is a short language First-Aid-kit that prepares you for your first encounters with the Germans. Once you’ve charmed them with some very good first sentences, you can still take out that shiny phrase book – your counterpart might be more patient now.
Greetings in German
Before you can start the conversation itself, you will have to show that you are interested in talking, by simply greeting the person in question. Not interested? Well, a cheerful “Hallo!” never hurt anyone.
Hallo! – Hello!
Guten Tag! – Good day! – formal
Guten Abend! – Good evening! – formal
Tschüss! – Goodbye!
Present yourself in German
Okay, the first step is made and you met someone nice. You will now want to know their name and maybe they’d like to know yours.
Ich heiße … – My name is…
Ich bin Lisa/ Jeffrey/ ein Eichhörnchen. – I’m Lisa / Jeffrey / a squirrel
Wie heißt du? – What’s your name?
Freut mich! – Pleased to meet you!
Sightseeing and getting around in Germany
Maybe your new friend invites you to discover the city with them. But from your hotel it’s a long way to your chosen meeting point. Will you make your way through the jungle?! With these phrases it shouldn’t be too hard:
Entschuldigung, können Sie mir sagen, wo der U-Bahnhof/die Bushaltestelle ist? – Excuse me, can you tell me where the metro / bus station is?
Wo muss ich aussteigen für das Hotel „Fancy Name“/ die Landungsbrücken/ den Prater? –Which stop do I get off at for the hotel “fancy name”/ Landungsbrücken/ Prater?
Wie komme ich zum Hauptbahnhof/ zum Tokio-Hotel-Konzert/ zur Staatsoper? – How do I get to the central station / the Tokio Hotel concert / the opera?
Money, money, money – Shopping
One of the most crucial things to do while travelling is getting some nice souvenirs; not only for your friends and family, but also for yourself. The magnet collection on your fridge will be happy to welcome a new sticky member of the family and you will look at it and remember how proud you were, when you asked for its price in German.
Haben Sie das auch in Größe S? – Do you have that in size S?
Wieviel kostet das? – How much does that cost?
Kann ich mit (Kredit)Karte zahlen? – Can I pay by (credit) card?
Take me to the candy shop – Eating safely
A trip is not real if you haven’t tasted local food. But if you are allergic to something you might want to make sure you can actually eat that meal without ruining the rest of your day.
Ich hätte gern … bitte. – I’d like the…, please
Sind in dem Salat/ der Currywurst/ dem Sauerkraut Erdnüsse/Krustentiere/Eier? – Does this salad / currywurst / sauerkraut contain peanuts / crustaceans / eggs?
Ist der Kaffee glutenfrei?/ Ist die Milch laktosefrei? – Is the coffee gluten free?/ Is the milk lactose free?
Die Rechnung, bitte! – (Can I have) the bill, please
Calm your inner mum – Basic politeness in German
Of course, no one expects you to do the most complicated Konjunktiv II polite verb forms German has to offer. Just a little “Thank you” will do the job.
Danke(schön) – Thank you.
Bitte(schön) – Please / You’re welcome!
Safe travels in Germany!
With this compact list of the most important phrases to know, you will be able to have some basic exchanges in German. So, all that is left for me is to say: Gute Reise!