Germany’s a beautiful country with a wide variety of vibrant cities and natural landscapes, and it’s obviously a great place to practice your German language skills. But this series is an attempt to provide alternative travel options — destinations you may not have thought of when planning a trip abroad. These German-speaking countries span Europe, Africa and the Americas. Each of these countries has its own features that make it appealing for visitors, and each of them has enough German speakers that you’ll be able to find someone you can practice the language with.
Check out these German-speaking countries to visit that aren’t Germany, and start planning your next trip!
These destinations are in alphabetical order, but right off the bat, we have a place that probably doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of German-speaking countries. Largely due to immigration in the 19th century, South America is home to more than 2 million German speakers, and about 400,000 of them live in Argentina. The country is a great vacation spot, with a plethora of landscapes, from bustling cities like Buenos Aires to the snow-capped Andes Mountains.
This may be a slightly more obvious choice. German is the (only) official language of Austria, and the country borders Germany to the south. Nearly the entire population of Austria speaks German — close to 9 million people, so you’ll be sure to see German signage and have people to speak German with anywhere you go, whether you’re taking in the historic sights of Vienna or skiing in the Alps.
The other South American country with a large German-speaking presence is Brazil. In fact, Brazil has the most German speakers on the continent, with about 1.5 million. Many of the German immigrants who moved to Brazil settled in the state of Santa Catarina in the southern part of the country. Known for its beaches and mountains, this state might be a good place to start for you visit if want to speak some German!
Canada may be one of the last places you would think of going to practice your German skills, but there is actually a sizeable German-speaking population living in the United States’ neighbor to the north. Canada is home to about 400,000 German speakers, the majority of whom immigrated there in the 1900s. Most of these German immigrants ended up in the Canadian Prairies, a region in the western part of the country that is primarily made up of grasslands but also includes some lakes and forests that could make for a nice vacation spot.
Though it doesn’t border Germany, Italy is not far away — just a couple countries to the south. Only about 37,000 German speakers live in Italy, but many of them are concentrated in the autonomous province of South Tyrol, where German is a co-official language and more than 60 percent of the population speaks it. In the northernmost region of Italy, South Tyrol lies within the Alps and is a great place to visit if you’re into outdoor recreation.
Perhaps one of the more surprising destinations on this list is Namibia, a beautiful country in the southern part of Africa. Namibia was a German colony— it was formerly German Southwest Africa — but even after Germany was forced to give up control of its colonies at the end of World War I, some German language lineage lived on. There are currently just over 11,000 German speakers in Namibia. And with its gorgeous desert dunes, mountains and wetlands, Namibia is a stunning travel destination.
Another obvious choice for German-speaking countries that aren’t Germany is Switzerland. German is the official language of the vast majority of Swiss regions (called cantons) and a form of German is spoken by nearly 65 percent of the country. About five million people in Switzerland speak the Swiss German dialect, and an additional 300,000 speak standard German. While the two are not entirely mutually intelligible, there are some similarities that you can take advantage of when you visit. Switzerland is known for its incredible Alpine skiing and its simultaneously charming and modern urban centers.