There are a vast number of local dialects in Germany. Some of them are, if spoken in their purest form, hardly understandable for someone who only speaks standard German. Luckily pretty much nobody does this nowadays.
However they can still be confusing at times. A few years ago, a friend of mine moved from the small German state Saarland to “Bayern” (Bavaria). In Bayern he went to a bakery and ordered a “Brötchen” (standard German for bread roll). The vendor didn't know what he wanted because my friend used the word “Weck”, which only exists in the Saarland area. When he realized his mistake he clarified that he wanted a “Brötchen”. Strangely enough, the vendor still didn't know what he was talking about. He had to point on the bread rolls and the vendor finally said: “Oh, Sie wollen a Semmeln!” Semmeln is the bavarian word for it. Don't be afraid though, usually people do understand standard German! And while we're at it, in Berlin they call those bread rolls “Schrippen”.
While every bigger city has it's own dialect, you'll probably encounter them more in rural areas.
This article should give you an overview about the most common dialects.
Here are the German main dialects. Note that all of them are divided in even more sub-dialects, and those do not necessarily sound very similar.
Niederfränkisch (Low Franconian)
This is mainly spoken in the lower Rhine region (“Niederrhein”).
„Hej dütt die eikes ömmer sonder salt än pääper ääte.“
“I always eat my eggs without salt and pepper.”
Niederdeutsch (Low German)
In standard German it's usually referred to as: “Plattdeutsch”. It's mainly spoken in the northern parts of Germany.
“For Geld kann’n den Du.vel danzen loten.”
“For money you can have the devil dance.”
Mitteldeutsch (Central German)
This is spoken in the central part of Germany, including some of the biggest cities in Germany. Namely Berlin, Köln (Cologne) and Frankfurt, but also in German's former capital Bonn.
As stated before, keep in mind that while all dialects in that area are considered “Mitteldeutsch”, the dialect in Köln sounds totally different to the one in Berlin.
Example (from Berlin):
“Nur kieken oder och koofen?”
“(Are you) just looking, or (are you going to) buy (something)?”
Oberdeutsch (Upper German)
This family of German dialects is mainly spoken in southern Germany.
“I wois net.”
“I don't know.”
This should give you an overview about German dialects. Since there are so many of them, we can't really talk about every sub-dialect. I hope you'll understand that. But that shouldn't be a problem anyway, Germans don't learn their dialects in school (schools in Germany only teach standard German), they learn it while talking to other people from their area. So if you move to “Köln” you too will be able to speak “Kölsch” (cologne's local dialect) in no time!
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