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Austrians always reply back to me in English

I am in Vienna at the monent and I am finding it really frustrating that everyone is replying back to me in English whenever I speak German. My German is not perfect, but I consider myself rather comfortable with daily tasks such as ordering food and going to the store. However I always, always and always get answered to in English.

Has anyone else had this problem? I never got this in Germany. I honesty feel like crap, as if my efforts to learn German are not appreciated.

May 30, 2017


  • 1999

I had many people talking to me in English in my own capital (Prague), it is the tourist syndrome in the big European cities and happens a lot in hotels / restaurants/ stores and castles/museum/other sites, in all places where most visitors/customers are tourists and the employees tend to default to English, they don't mean it bad, it's just more effective and time saving for them with most people so they are used to it...

  • 114

Strange! In the course of two years in Vienna, I can remember this happening to me precisely once. Almost always, speaking German got me replies in German -- even when I was at a level where there was very little chance of my being mistaken for a native.

I wouldn't take it as any kind of affront if someone does insist on English, though: generally they're just trying to make things easier for you, and they don't know that you're trying to practise your German.

A few points to consider:

  1. As others have pointed out, Vienna's a very touristy city and -- especially in the context of touristy things -- people are used to speaking English to visitors.

  2. Vienna has a large non-native population. The person you're speaking to may not be a native German speaker, and may speak better English than German! (I can definitely think of one or two bars in the centre where the staff are usually more comfortable speaking English.)

  3. If you're there in a group, and you're overheard speaking English amongst yourselves, it will often be assumed that you'd also prefer to speak English with the waiter, vendor, or whoever you're trying to communicate with.

  4. If you want to increase your chances of being allowed to stick to German, going to less touristy establishments in less central locations is a good idea :).

Edited to add: as usual, there's a relevant Itchy Feet for this:

Itchy Feet in Berlin



I swear, this image has some truth in it.


Ich glaube nicht, dass die Österreicher unhöflich sein wollen, sie haben nur selten die Gelegenheit, ihr Schulenglisch zu üben.

I wrote the answer in German deliberately so you can practice your language skills. Anyway, this is not due to your level of German but their level of English. They want to make it easier for you. Maybe you should ask for German answers, at last those you are talking to more than once.


I can (somewhat) empathise :P A few months ago I worked with a German who replied in English whenever I spoke to her in German. I think I brought it up once or twice and she said that I would speak in German, and she would reply in English. That, however, didn't last when I continued speaking to her in German - either because she realised my German was good enough to be worth her reply, or just because I persisted :P I don't know.

So, my advice would be to persist in German until they reply in kind, or, if the interaction is too short for this to be a likely outcome, just request „Deutsch bitte“.


Possible explanation: a "tourist reflex", in a city like Vienna that is big, has universities and draws a lot of tourists, people will often have to talk to foreigners in English. Pretend that you're from XY and don't understand a word in English ;)


Just pretend youre from germany and thats why the austrians cant understand your bad german :D


Tell them that you do not speak English, "me no English." I had the problem once, that was my solution. People like to practice their English. Do not feel bad, it is not personal, keep trying, smile and be polite and speak in German only.


A few months back I was in Argentina for work and as a somewhat proficient Spanish speaker, I opted to speak Spanish to many of the people there. Often times people would respond to me in English (not always good English), so eventually I asked one of my coworkers who worked in the office there with me why she always responded to me in English and she told me it was because she was trying to practice her English since it isn't common she gets to speak with a native English speaker as often as she spoke to me. So basically, many people may just speak to you in English for themselves and not because you failed at speaking their language. Just continue speaking German and let people keep speaking English and just practice the best you can.

One more note: if you're speaking to someone who's obviously struggling in English, allow them to keep speaking it because they're probably doing it to improve their own language. If someone is obviously proficient in English, then ask them to speak German because they probably aren't speaking English to practice, but for your convenience.

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