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I'm planning a trip to Vienna. Since I know German quite well, I didn't foresee any problems... but after reading Wikipedia articles about dialects in Austria, especially about Bairisch dialect, I'm a bit worried. If everyone there speaks Bairisch and not standard German, I wouldn't be able to understand.

So what is the situation like? Should I expect to be able to communicate in standard German (Hochdeutsch) in hostels, shops, railway stations, museums, restaurants and so on? If I start to speak standard German, would I be responded to in standard German, or in dialect?

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German is my crappy third language and if I had no extra problems in Austria, or Switzerland for that matter, you certainly won't! Eavesdropping on kids talking fast with slang might be hard but an attempt at two-way certainly won't be. –  hippietrail Aug 3 '13 at 8:28
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3 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Don't worry, you will be able to communicate in Hochdeutsch.

One thing you should know is that the German you will hear and read in Austria is not the German you may hear in Hannover. There are some particularities (EN, DE). However, if you have a good command of German this won't be a problem. Moreover, the Austrians when speaking have a typical accent when speaking German. How strong it is depends on the person.

If you address an Austrian in German, he will reply in German. But how "standard" that German is depends again on the person.

All this won't be a big issue as you have a good command of German.

To get an idea of the accent and what you may here, you can have a look at this youtube channel. They even have features on typical Viennese words and expressions ("Typisch Wienerisch").

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You might not understand the locals talking to each other. Nor might a Londoner in Glasgow (but funnily, I (Dutch) could understand Glaswegians and Edinburgers talking to each other). –  gerrit Jul 31 '13 at 18:19
    
@gerrit - that's a good point! –  PERSONA NON GRATA Jul 31 '13 at 18:22
    
If it's only an accent, without consonant switches etc., I would probably be able to understand. From "Altbairisch für Einsteiger" (youtube) I understand as much as from songs in Swedish... –  Łukasz 웃 L ツ Jul 31 '13 at 18:34
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In Vienna they speak Viennese, which is their city dialect of standard German (Hochdeutsch). However they have no problem in speaking or communicating with you in Hochdeutsch. You will be perfectly fine .

In addition most young Austrians speak English, so if the German were to play up (although highly unlikely) you can always communicate in English.

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Yes.

Because it is capital and largest city, people living there come from many different regions. I would argue, that only a fraction will speak real Viennese dialect. Also, big chance that anyone you meet will be speaking German with foreign accent. According to Wikipedia, nearly 40% of population is not Austrian.

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I think it also depends on the definition of "not Austrian". I have friends from Vienna, who are not Austrian by ethnicity, (their parents emigrated their & work for UN) however both themselves and their parents speak German & Viennese. –  Simon Aug 1 '13 at 15:50
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