Berliners frustrated over restaurants where no German is spoken

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A senior German politician has spoken out over concerns not enough people living in Berlin actually speak the country’s language.

Jens Spahn, Merkel’s right-wing deputy finance minister, told a German newspaper that “it increasingly drives me up the wall that waiters in some Berlin restaurants only speak English”.

He told Neue Osnabrucker Zeitung: “You would never find this craziness in Paris.”

Some districts of the German capital have become popular in recent years with ex-pats including Americans and Brits, and restaurants have sprung up to cater to them.

Mr Spahn called on foreigners living in Germany to learn the language and added that it was “something we can and should expect of every immigrant.”

His comments came after a journalist writing for Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel told how on a recent visit to a French cafe in the capital’s hip Neukolln district none of the four waiters spoke German.

“Hello, how are you,” was becoming the standard greeting in Berlin, he wrote, adding that his girlfriend felt “uncomfortable” in the cafe – especially since there was no written menu.

Mr Spahn, who belongs to the Christian Democratic Union, is not the only German lawmaker to have raised the issue of Germany’s language.

Three MPs from different parties recently wrote to the German chancellor to press for more EU documents to be available in their language.

“In addition to the equal use of the German language as a working language in the bodies of the European Union and increased use in all international institutions, the German language especially needs to be thoroughly used in our own country,” wrote Johannes Singhammer of the CSU party, Gunter Krichbaum of the CDU, and the SPD’s Axel Schäfer.

Some politicians, however, have chosen to highlight the benefits of Berlin’s increasingly bilingual culture.

Ramona Pop, a Green party politician, has said that good command of the English language was better for business.

Online forums are replete with English-speaking people who plan to move to Berlin asking questions such as: “Going to Berlin. I don’t speak German. How rough will that be?”

“I went to Berlin with zero English and was 100% fine. Almost everyone speaks at least a bit of English,” came one reply.


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