German Speaking Europe

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

German is the official language in Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein. It is the co—official language in Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg. According to the website Lingoda, it is estimated that about 92.6 million speak German in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The site estimates that about 16% of the European Union’s population speak German.

So, I though I’d write about the 4 main countries that speak German in this blog—Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

The 8 Elements of Culture

When I was teaching AP Human Geography, I used to identify 8 elements of culture for my students. They are 1) religion, 2) language, 3) art, 4) politics, 5) economy, 6) customs, 7) society and 8) geography. It is clear that two influenced the other elements. They were religion (the beliefs of a society, and some traditions) and language (the communication system of a culture—the way it expresses itself in speech, writing and symbols).

So, let’s see how the German language and culture has impacted on the 4 countries of Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Austria and Germany


In Liechtenstein, it is estimated that about 35,000 speak German—basically, that is the entire population of this tiny country. This micro state is the 6th smallest country in the world. It does not have an army.  The residents speak a dialect that is closer to Swiss Standard German.  It is so small, that once a year, the prince ruler invites all (yes all!) of its residents to Vaduz Castle for a beer.

Hard to get more German than drinking a beer—it certainly is one of my favorite pastimes!

I visited Liechtenstein in 1989 and this small country was so peaceful and fun—I want to go back again!


In Switzerland, it is estimated that 4.6 million speak German. Switzerland is a melting pot for different cultures. About 64% of the population speak Swiss German. French is spoken in western Switzerland by about 20% of the population. Only in a country like Switzerland, could the unofficial internal border between German and French speakers, called Rostigraben, be named after a Swiss-German potato dish. No wonder I like this place!

One of the key influences of Germany culture in Switzerland has been in the food and drink world. The meat heavy dishes of Germany are abundant throughout Switzerland. Potatoes and cheese, and one of my favorites, cheese fondues, are staples in restaurants.

Another key influence has been the Christmas markets. We have been in Christmas markets in Basel and Lucerne. Both have been special—you should go if you get the chance.

Advent Calendar House in Lucerne


In Austria, it is estimated that 8 million speak German. German influences are also important to Austria. The meat heavy dishes such as Wiener Schnitzel and other pork dishes are on most menus in the country.

Pork Schnitzel so big in covered my plate in Vienna, Austria in 2015

One of the more interesting Austrian traditions, is called the first day of school cone. It roots come from Germany. When 6 year olds start school, they receive a cone full of candy, school supplies and toys. The idea is to make the stressful first day of school a little more fun.

Again, the Christmas markets are really cool in Austria. Vienna has several and the little town of Melk also has a small gem, with craftsmen working right in front of you.

Christmas Market Rathhaus 2012 507 (5)

Vienna Christmas Market at the City Hall

Melk Austria
Melk Austria


Germany has over 80 million who speak German. It is the second most populous country in Europe, after Russia (according to the World Factbook). It’s economy is the 5th largest in the world.

Perhaps the most important German tradition that has been exported to the world are their Christmas traditions. Decorating Christmas trees and the world famous Christmas markets are traditions that have spread throughout Europe, but especially to Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Having visited the Christmas Markets in all these countries except Liechtenstein, I can promise you it is a magical experience.

Cologne, Nuremberg and Regensburg stand out as our favorites. We are leading a special AmaWaterways Christmas Cruise from 17-24 December of this year and would love to have you join us. Please visit our Specials page on our website to learn more about this trip. Learn More

I have also talked a lot about their food culture in this blog. German cuisine has been a big influence on its German speaking neighbors.

Schweinhaxe in Koblenz, Germany–Anne’s Favorite!

My Final Thoughts

I hope you have learned a little more about the influences the German speaking countries have had on Europe. These are wonderful places to visit and we hope one day you will let us plan a trip to one or all of these great places.

When you are spending your hard earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip. You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience. And, you want someone who can help you with the decision making process. We think we have all these qualities.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you! We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel. Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at We want to help you: Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations! Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years. He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years. He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees. His other Certifications:

• AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist

• Viking River Cruise Specialist

• Scenic River Cruise Specialist

• Emerald Waterways Specialist

• Avalon Waterways Specialist

• Brit Agent


One thought on “German Speaking Europe

  1. Hi Hank,

    I really like your Blog and its sounds great.

    This is Ashley Bakeer from Basel, Switzerland. I am working in ILS – International Language School.

    Ils-Basel Language School offers training in Spanischkurs Base from the beginning. You can add your existing language skill in German and English from the school. It also offers tuition classes for e weak students for extra care. So, the students can Deutsch Lernen Basel in the language school or institute. The language school will offer training from the basic level. If the students are educated above the basic level, then the starting point will be the lower point of the base level.

    ILS Basel Is the most popular Language School in Switzerland. Please Visit our School or visit us Online.

    Thank you


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