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How to Ask for and Understand Directions in German

7 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of German Words and Phrases for Traveling

Exploring German-speaking countries can be quite an adventure, but if you want to be sure to see everything on your list, you need to know how to ask for directions and how to understand the directions you are given. After all, if you don't know how to understand what you've told, you might miss the very things you hoped to see.

The first thing you need is to know how to ask for directions. To get help you can say Kann ich Sie um Richtungen bitten? (May I ask you for directions?); or Können Sie mir erzählen, wo der ist? (Can you tell me where that is?). If you're really having a hard time finding a place, you might ask the person to show you where to go by saying Können Sie mir zeigen, wo der ist? (Can you show me where that is?)

The following words can be used when asking for or receiving directions in German-speaking countries.

  • der Norden (north)

  • der Süden (south)

  • der Westen (west)

  • der Osten (east)

  • nach rechts (to the right)

  • nach links (to the left)

  • geradeaus (straight)

  • Karte (map)

  • der Stadtplan (city map)

  • Zentrum (center)

  • Zwischen (between

  • nahe an (close to

  • weit [von] (far [from])

  • die nächste Ecke (the next corner)

  • an der Ecke (on the corner)

  • im Stadtzentrum (downtown)

  • die Straße [f] (street

  • Neben (next to)

Street signs can sometimes be confusing in Germany. Instead of indicating major cities, you’ll find that exit signs and the kinds of signs with city names and arrows often indicate small towns instead. Be sure to know which road numbers you want so that you don’t miss your exit.

The following conversations are typical of getting and receiving directions in German-speaking countries.

Julie: Wie kommt man zum Bahnhof? (How do I get to the train station?)
Gayanne: Es ist an der Ecke. (It's at the corner.)
Julie: Wo ist die Toilette? (Where is a bathroom?)
Gayanne: Neben der Küche. (Next to the kitchen.)
Julie: Wie weit sind wir von der Kunsthalle? (How far are we from the art museum?)
Gayanne: Das Museum ist anderthalb Kilometer von hier entfernt. (The museum is 1.5 kilometers from here.)
Julie: Wie kommt man zum Museum? (How do I get to the museum?)
Gayanne: An der zweiten Verkehrs-ampel biegen Sie rechts ab! (Turn right at the second stop light.)
Julie: In welcher Straße ist das Kino? (What street is the movie theater on?)
Gayanne: Das Kino ist in der Buchwaldstraße. (The movie theater is on Buchwald Street.)
Julie: Wo ist die nächste Bank? (Where is the nearest bank?)
Gayanne: Gehen Sie geradeaus. Sie ist an der Ecke. (Formal) (Go straight ahead. It's on the corner.)
Julie: Kˆnnen Sie mir sagen, wie man zur Kunsthalle kommt? (Formal) (Can you give me directions to the art museum?)
Gayanne: Biegen Sie hier rechts ab. Es ist die erste Straße links. (Formal) (Turn right here. It's the first street on the left.)
Julie: Ist die Schule weit von hier? (Is the school far from here?)
Gayanne: Die Schule ist in der Ortsmitte. (The school is in the center of the town.)
Julie: Sind wir in der Nähe des Einkaufszentrums? (Are we close to the mall?)
Gayanne: Es ist dort.; Es ist da. (There it is.)
Julie: Führt diese Straße zum Adler-Hotel? (Does this street go to the Adler Hotel?)
Gayanne: Es ist hier. (Here it is.)
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The Essentials of German Words and Phrases for Traveling

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