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Berlin slang you need to survive in the German jungle
Photo: DPA

Berlin slang you need to survive in the German jungle

The Local · 10 Mar 2016, 17:08

Published: 10 Mar 2016 15:30 GMT+01:00
Updated: 10 Mar 2016 17:08 GMT+01:00

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I was born in Berlin in 1994 and throughout my life I had to cope with both the sleepy, soft-spoken souls of the city's south and the crass and colourful characters of the centre. If I've learnt one thing, it's that if you want to survive you need to talk the talk.

Here are eight words and phrases that will keep your head above water:

A happy pony, but life can't always be like that; Photo: DPA

1. Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof - life is not a field of ponies

Whether it's the S-Bahn not working, the sun shining too hard or too little, or the dog owner's not picking up after their pets – life can be hard.

Or, as the Berliner will tell you: "Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof".

Berliners don't put up with too much pettiness and this phrase means he wants you to suck up whatever you're whining about. No time to live out your emotions – rather drown them in cigarette smoke and a bottle of Sterni.

2. Die Auto - the car

"I've been learning German and it's been going well, but the 'der, die, das'... ugh, it's just killing me!"

Lucky for you, if you're living in the German capitol, you'll realise that Berliners themselves haven't yet mastered the art of the article - mainly cause they couldn't care less.

"Ick war unterwegs mit die Auto von..." (I was in the car...), you'll hear the Berliner say idly. Despite the fact that it's "das Auto", rather refrain from being a grammar-Nazi about it – and engage with them in a conversation that's care-free and full of flaws.

Bread rolls in are called "Schrippen" in Berlin; Photo: DPA

3. Schrippen - bread rolls

"Dit sind Schrippen, keine Brötchen!", (These are "Schrippen", not "Brötchen") the cashier lady will yell at you.

You may feel like you've made an honest effort asking for bread rolls in German at your local bakery, but when it comes to Berlin, good intentions aren't always good enough.

Try asking for "Schrippen" when you come by next, and with time your local baker might come to recognize you as a human being.

4. Extrawurst - extra sausage/ special treatment

We all know that Germans love their sausages. Your local Berliner has no doubt taken you to Curry36 to show you the city's most famous "Currywurst" and it was probably pretty average.

So now that she's talking about this "Extrawurst"-business you might feel reasonably sketched out. Don't be.

"Extrawurst" is Berlin idiom for special treatment; like when as a kid at McDonald's you just needed to get a toy to keep you from crying.

So no new sausage to taste this time – thank God.

Drinking beer in public and in transit is a German custom; Photo: DPA

5. Wegbier - beer on the way

When coming to Germany, it takes time to get used to the liberty of drinking in public, and not to constantly expect a cop to ambush you and throw you in jail.

But the longer you live here, the more you'll grow accustomed to one of Berlin's proudest traditions – the "Wegbier".

Pop the top of your Sterni or Berliner Kindl bottle on your way to the park, a house party...  or work even (?) and feel the freedom of a law that allows for drinking without thinking twice.

6. Wofür zahl' ich denn überhaupt Steuern? - what am I even paying taxes for?

How do you make friends in Germany? Being a German myself, I have yet to find a good answer to that question.

One way to hit it off with your local postman or baker though is to complain about the smallest failures of the system and end in saying "Wofür zahl' ich denn überhaupt Steuern?"

Living in Germany, you know you're paying taxes. But where's all this money going, if there's still a crack in the side walk after months, or a traffic light is still not fixed within two weeks?

Long-lasting bonds have been built over the failings of the German taxation system.

Sven Marquardt is the bouncer of the Berlin's infamous Berghain club; Photo: DPA

7. Heute nicht - not today

You've been standing in the queue for 2 hours, it's cold, everyone looks grumpy anyway and then you hear the bouncer Sven's fateful "heute nicht".

For years, the guardians of Berlin's infamous Berghain have used that phrase to turn down hopefuls at the club's door, thus inflicting lifelong scars on their ego and endowing them with a fancy for black clothing.

Nevertheless, you keep wanting to be part of the Berghain conspiracy - and until that's happened "heute nicht" haunts your dreams and keeps you coming back.

8. Bist du in der S-Bahn geboren oder was? - were you born on the S-Bahn or what?

"Bist du in der S-Bahn geboren oder was?", your Berliner house mate may shout after you, and you'll realise that he seriously just asked you if you were born on a public train.

Hopefully the answer is "no" – but that's not what he wanted to communicate to you anyway.

He wanted to tell you that you forgot to close the door behind you. Get it? Because if you were actually born on the S-Bahn, you were born relying on the doors closing automatically.

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