One of Angela Merkel’s closest allies has caused controversy by complaining about waiters in Berlin restaurants who only speak English. But the Berlin tourist board is more relaxed about the spread of the global language.
Speaking to the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Friday, Jens Spahn, junior minister in the Finance Ministry, said that “it is increasingly getting on my nerves that in some Berlin restaurants the waiters only speak English.”
“No one in Paris would have such a crazy idea,” he added.
Spahn said that people could only live harmoniously together in Germany when everyone spoke the national language. “This is something we should expect from every immigrant,” he said.
Political opponents of Spahn, who belongs to the right-wing of the Christian Democrats (CDU), pointed out that English is often spoken in Berlin restaurants because the people eating there are tourists.
The Berlin tourist board also reacted coolly to Spahn’s outburst.
“We are simply a city which is becoming ever more international,” Christian Tänzler, spokesman for Visit Berlin said on Monday. “187 nations live in Berlin – that comes with an increased number of foreign languages.”
Spahn’s complaint isn’t the first time that the prevalence of the English language in Berlin restaurants has been a theme of public discussion.
In March, Tagesspiegel published an article in which a journalist complained about dining at a restaurant in the hip Neukölln neighbourhood. Although there were four waiters in the eatery, none of them could take his order in German, he said.