To all the German natives living in the US

So, I have kind of an odd question for you: what language do you speak when you’re around other Germans?

Your answer is probably going to be: German. Duh!

But this is a serious question and I’ll tell you why.

It has happened to me several times that when I encounter other Germans at work or elsewhere [as always – the exception proves the rule!], it feels like in no case whatsoever do they want to speak German with me.

I understand that just out of being polite, we keep conversing in English when non-German speakers are around and I always do that, but I can’t understand for the life of me why some people stubbornly keep speaking English with me, when a) they know that I am German, b) I address them in German and c) there is nobody else around.

Do they think “Well, we’re in the US, therefore we should speak English at all times”? Do they believe that they’re “cool” if they exclusively speak English no matter what? Are they so used to speaking English all day that they’re unable to switch back to German when the situation calls for it? Or is this personality-related and they don’t even think about it twice?

I am at a loss here. I personally find it a tiny bit awkward to speak English with someone who shares my mother tongue. I know we do it online all the time, but that’s different, because it’s meant to be for a broader audience to read and understand and therefore we picked one “common” language for the WWW.

But when you meet another German in person, don’t you instantly feel a connection? Doesn’t saying a few things in German to each other just feel good? [At least for me, it does].

I am really curious about your experiences and insights into this strange phenomenon. Maybe it’s just my “bad luck” with some people and they don’t want to feel connected with me ;)

  1. I am not a German living in the US but I have and am currently living in Spain, so I’ll just answer your question anyway:
    Unless there were other people around who don’t speak German, of course I would speak German with other Germans. Only in company of others I speak English or Spanish with Germans and while I feel not so ridiculous speaking English with Germans I do with Spanish just because it is a lot harder.
    I don’t know why people insist on speaking English, but unless they have been in the States for the majority of their lives the ‘it just seems easier than German’ doesn’t cut it in my (humble) opinion. You don’t forget your native tongue that quickly, and if I noticed I was forgetting my German, I would be damn sure to speak it whenever I can. I think those people want to show off with how great their English is. ;)

  2. Even though I’m not living in the US, I do live in Sweden and if we are just Germans we do speak German. I really do feel an instant connection with other Germans and it feels good to talk to them in our mother tongue. But we quite often hang out with people from all different kinds of nationalities and the thing is that here there are 3 languages to choose from and many people here don’t bother to learn Swedish for the short time they are here or so, so we might speak English a lot (it’s very common in Sweden to speak English and many Swedes seem superhappy to speak English). So last Saturday at the picnic I talked English to my Belgian friend Katrien because there were a lot of Indian people around of who I knew that they don’t speak Swedish. For us English is as natural as Swedish but the Indians really wondered why we wouldn’t speak Swedish with eachother. Anyway I noticed when living in the US that there was a special kind of Germans around that didn’t want to have anything to do with Germany anymore and hence speaking English even in groups with only Germans. I found and find that very strange!

  3. Well since we have the “Deutscher Stammtisch PDX” here and “Deutsche Maedels of the Northwest” we talk in German most of the time. Sometimes it happens that we mix both languages – so it turns out to be Denglish. I only met one German who prefers English than German.

  4. Depends.
    The usual. If there are other people around , who don’t speak German, we speak English.

    Otherwise German.

    Only exception: My boss. I work for two big wigs and one of them is German and we always speak English. Every now and then I make a joke in German, which he loves.

    Frankly, sometimes English is a lot easier than German. I mix both languages too…makes for a scary combination. hehe.

  5. pretty much what ulli says (except for the boss-thing and the fact that i live in germany).

    it has happened to me (with you? in cali?) though that after speaking english with someone at first (because there are other people around who don’t speak german) and then me and that fellow german-speaker find ourselves alone, we still continue to speak english – usually just because we don’t even realize what we do. once we realize it, we switch ;)

  6. I am language challenged, but here is my take having a Hubby who speaks German and English.
    His German friends are always trying to improve their English and so most of them will speak it with him even if he would dearly love to practice his German with them.
    That was all but one. An old “girl” friend of his came to visit last year. She insisted on speaking only German to him and I finally sort of hit the roof. I said to her, in my home, in my country she should speak only English. Well she ignored me. I was happy when she left.

  7. Haha, what happend?
    Of course I speak german with you. Or Danglisch. Because I wont remember a german word. But you know that. Love you

  8. oh my gosh, I know exactly what you mean! Back when I was an Aupair some just thought it would be so much cooler to just speak English all the time, because we were in America now. I thought it was so stupid and arrogant that I just kept speaking German to them, and you guessed right, they replied in ENGLISH. So weird. Now I speak German to all my German friends, except sometimes when I cant think of a word, but I mean common? It does feel good to talk German because it makes you feel like home…

Comments are closed.