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Bavarian for beginners – How to make your move a success

Moving to Bavaria is a linguistic challenge for many people from other countries. Even those who can already speak German quickly find that the dialects in the state often have little in common with German. We have put together a few tips on Bavarian to help you find your way through the language jungle and find your feet in your new location. But don’t worry: Bavarians are well aware how difficult their dialect can be and are used to adapting to international guests.

Bairisch versus Hochdeutsch

Bavarian means two different things


The term ‘Bavarian’ has two meanings. The first is a geographical and political definition relating to the state of Bavaria, while the second is used to refer to the dialect. Incidentally, Bavarian is Germany’s most popular dialect, although there is really no such thing as a single Bavarian dialect. 

 

Bavaria is actually divided into three language areas: Bavarian, Franconian and Swabian. But in fact there are even more Bavarian dialects than that – more than 60 ‘dialect landscapes’ are recorded. In 2009, UNESCO classified the Bavarian language as endangered and therefore worthy of protection.

 

Understanding the dialect

So much for the theory – now for the practice. The first step in a successful conversation is understanding, but when a Bavarian really gets going, it can quickly become difficult for a non-Bavarian to follow. Not least at Oktoberfest time every year, new residents and tourists are supplied with phrase books to help them order their beer properly. Tip: Remember to pronounce the As short if you want to disguise yourself as a local.

 

But Bavarian is not only spoken at Oktoberfest – it sometimes even finds its way into business meetings. Ways of saying hello and goodbye alone in Bavarian are so varied that outsiders can quickly become confused. Servus, Pfiat di or Habidere – which is correct? In the more traditional forms of saying goodbye in particular, just a small alteration turns the phrase into the form for an individual (Pfiat di), the form for a group (Pfiat eich) or the polite form (Pfiat erna). Even the best-known greeting, “Servus”, is not appropriate in every situation, as it is too informal. But do not worry: Bavarians are more than happy with a polite “Guten Tag”, while “Grüß Gott” remains a traditional option with which you cannot go far wrong. You certainly should not worry too much if you do not understand everything straight away: do not be afraid to ask questions. Or, as the Bavarians say, “Ois isi” (Alles easy)!

 

Here you will find a few more phrases to get you off to a great start in the beer garden or during a business meal at a traditional pub.

 

Of course, it is not only the language that makes a culture, but the culinary traditions, too. If you want to find out more about moving to Bavaria and about our culture, get in touch. We will be happy to support you free of charge, with no obligation.