Six odd ways Germans talk about the weather

Is it absolutely roasting, or raining cats and dogs? Neither if you live in Germany. Here are six wonderfully weird expressions (at least to non-native speakers) that Germans use to talk about the weather - some more literal than others.

Two pedestrians attempt to protect themselves from the rain in Berlin
Two pedestrians attempt to protect themselves from the rain in Berlin. Photo: DPA

das Hundewetter

Two pugs sit together. Photo: DPA

Although the literal translation is “dog weather,” they probably don’t mean a cute little Chihuahua or an over-friendly Labrador.

Das Hundewetter is used to describe weather that’s particularly vicious or beastly – for example, the 1968 short film “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day” became “Winnie Puuh und das Hundewetter” in German.

There’s usually a few of these days at this time of year. 

das Kaiserwetter

Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, aged 25 in 1792. Image: By unknown. Zesarewitsch/ Wikipedia Commons

So what’s the opposite of dog in German weather idioms? An emperor, apparently.

“Emperor weather” – Kaiserwetter – means clear skies, magnificent sunshine and all-round glorious weather – a royally good day, in short.

die Affenhitze

A gorilla. Photo: DPA

We’re not sure what it is about monkeys that gets the Germans all hot and bothered, but “monkey heat” or Affenhitze refers to awful, baking heat – a scorcher of a day that’s just too hot to handle.

etwas Sonne tanken

Sunbathers catch some rays in Düsseldorf. Photo: DPA

Tanken is the word for filling your car with petrol, so this literally translates as filling up on sunshine. Etwas Sonne tanken means to catch some rays, and soak up the sun.

And if it means we can store up a bit of summer warmth to cut down our heating bills during the winter, we’re all for it (and yes, we can’t wait for spring even though it’s currently December).

du siehst aus wie ein begossener Pudel!

A poodle takes a bath. Photo: DPA

Naturally, Germans can’t fill up on sun all year round – but when someone’s been caught in a rainstorm, what’s a slightly more polite way of saying they look like a drowned rat? Calling them a soaked poodle, apparently – du siehst aus wie ein begossener Pudel!

Although if they’ve just stumbled in cold and drenched from the pouring rain, it’s probably best to avoid the name-calling for a while.

ein Gesicht wie sieben Tage Regenwetter

Two pedestrians attempt to protect themselves from the rain in Berlin. Photo: DPA

And if you’re in a really bad mood, you might find yourself being told you’ve got “a face like it’s been raining for a week” or ein Gesicht wie sieben Tage Regenwetter.

The rain gets everyone down, it seems. Now, bring back some of that monkey heat.

By Hannah Butler

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10 ways to express surprise in German

From woodland fairies to whistling pigs, the German language has a colourful variety of phrases to express surprise.

10 ways to express surprise in German

1. Alter Schwede!

You may recognise this phrase from the cheese aisle at the supermarket, but it’s also a popular expression in Germany for communicating surprise. 

The phrase, which means “old Swede” comes from the 17th century when King Frederick William enlisted the help of experienced Swedish soldiers to fight in the Thirty Years’ War.

Because of their outstanding performance in battle, the Swedish soldiers became popular and respected among the Prussians, and they were respectfully addressed as “Old Swede”. Over the last three hundred years, the phrase developed into one to convey awed astonishment. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day – Alter Schwede

2. Holla, die Waldfee!

This curious expression literally means “Holla, the wood fairy”. It can be used both as an exclamation of astonishment and to insinuate that something is ridiculous.

Engraving of a fairy in the picnic park in Enfield in the UK.

Engraving of a fairy in the picnic park in Enfield in the UK. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Mareike Graepel

There are various explanations as to how the forest fairy made it into the German lexicon. Some say that it comes from the Grimm’s fairy tale “Frau Holle,” while others say it comes from an old song called “Shoo, shoo, the forest fairy!”

READ ALSO: 10 words and phrases that will make you sound like a true German

3. Das ist ja ein dicker Hund!

Literally meaning “that is indeed a fat dog!” this expression of surprise presumably originates from a time in the past when German dogs were generally on the thinner side.

4. Ich glaube, ich spinne!

The origin of this expression is questionable, because the word “Spinne” means “spider” and also “I spin”. Either way, it’s used all over Germany to mean “I think I’m going crazy” as an expression of surprise.

5. Ich glaube, mein Schwein pfeift!

The idea of a pig whistling is pretty ridiculous, and that’s where the phrase  – meaning “I think my pig whistles” – comes from. Germans use this expression when they can’t believe or grasp something, or to express that they are extremely surprised.

The pig Rosalie stands on a farm in a pasture.

The pig Rosalie stands on a farm in a pasture. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

6. Meine Güte!

This straightforward phrase simply means “my goodness” and is a commonly used expression of astonishment.

7. Oha!

More of a sound than a word, this short exclamation will let the world know that you are shocked by something.

READ ALSO: Denglisch: The English words that will make you sound German

8. heilige Blechle!

Often when surprised or outraged, we might let slip an exclamation that refers to something sacred. This phrase fits into that bracket, as it means “holy tin box”. 

The peculiar expression comes from the Swabian dialect and refers to the cash box from which the poor were paid by the Church in the Middle Ages.

The green house number nine which won an award for energy-efficient renovation and construction in Saxony-Anhalt.

The green house number nine which won an award for energy-efficient renovation and construction in Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

9. ach du grüne Neune!

This slightly antiquated expression literally means “oh you green nine!”, or “oh, my goodness!” and is one you’re more likely to hear among the older generation of Germans.

The origin of the phrase is disputed. One explanation claims that it comes from the famous 19th century Berlin dance hall “Conventgarten” which, although it was located in Blumenstraße No. 9, had its main entrance in “Grüner Weg”. Therefore, the locals renamed it as “Grüne Neune” (Green Nine).

Another explanation is that the phrase comes from fairs where playing cards were used to read the future. In German card games, the “nine of spades” is called “green nine” – and pulling this card in a fortune telling is a bad omen.

10. Krass!

The word Krass in German is an adjective that means blatant or extreme, but when said on its own, it’s an expression of surprise. Popular among young Germans, it’s usually used in a positive way, to mean something like “awesome” or “badass”.