This YouTube video is also a good overview of the difficulties that you can have for not speaking German in Germany:
A few people have told me that you can get by with English in Berlin, but I have found this to be far from the case. From government papers, to contracts, from work opportunities to making friends and doing normal everyday activities like grocery shopping…it is immensely helpful that you know some of the German language. So while you can get by being a tourist visiting Berlin, it’s a different story when you are actually trying to live in Berlin.
This was more evident on my first day in Berlin, in Aldi. At the dairy aisle, I was thinking about which yogurt to buy when I had a man’s voice say something in German near me. I didn’t take much notice of him, then I heard the word a very strained “Bitte” and I looked sideways. It turned out that he was hauling some large boxes and I was in the way, so I quickly got out of the way. Another time was in Aldi, when the lady asked for coins…I thought that I was short of cash, so I took out a large note. She shook her head and proceeded to give me the change anyway. Since then I’ve been making the effort to actually hand something in correct cash just to avoid these types of scenarios!
This is all probably minor, but now my mind is thinking various what if scenarios when things are spoken to you in German…
Anyway, right now I am making as much of an improvement as I can to understand the language. I find that my reading and writing comprehension is better than my spoken and I probably fared the worst when it comes to understanding spoken German. Although, I was in Aldi again when I overheard and recognised “Wie gehts!” and was understanding the numbers spoken to me.