Editions:  Austria · Denmark · France · Germany · Italy · Norway · Spain · Sweden · Switzerland

Insider knowledge to survive German winter

Share this article

Insider knowledge to survive German winter
You said it. Photo: DPA
16:37 CET+01:00
With the clocks being turned back at the weekend, the dark, gloomy time of year is upon us. But not to worry. The Local brings you some of the essential German phrases and customs you need to survive!

Mir ist kalt

This man is quite possibly cold and indifferent. Photo: DPA

If you're new to Germany and your Deutsch is still in the beginner phase, you might want to be careful about how you tell people you're feeling a little chilly.

If you translate directly from English and say 'Ich bin kalt' you're making a mistake. This means something like 'I'm indifferent' (although it's not really used).

The correct way to say it is 'mir ist kalt', using the dative. This is the same for most physical states for example mir ist schwindlig (I'm dizzy), mir ist übel (I'm nauseous).

The most embarrassing one to get mixed up though is mir ist heiß/ ich bin heiß – the first is to tell people you're feeling hot, the second to say you're sexy or sexually aroused. So if you visit a house where the heating is on too high, watch out.


If your Germany is slightly better and you want to use a more expressive way of saying how cold it is, why not try using saukalt, scheißkalt, or even arschkalt?

These are all ways of saying its very cold by adding a rude prefix to the word. The first one, literally 'pig cold' is fairly harmless - the other two you night want to avoid in polite company!


"Gesundheit!" Photo: DPA

Gesundheit (literally health) is the German version of 'bless you', and is especially important as the weather and days close in.

But when is it appropriate to say it? Women's magazine Brigitte has some useful tips, telling readers that it is generally inappropriate to say it in an office atmosphere as it unnecessarily brings the person's sickness to others' attention.


This is one you might want to learn for when you go to the Drogerie (pharmacist). If you've got a cough this is what you are after.

Or if you've got a cold and want something more natural to fight off the bugs, why not buy some frischer Ingwer (fresh ginger) from your local Supermarkt?

Acquiring a favourite schnapps

Finding a favourite schnapps is essential for whiling away the dark months. Photo: DPA

While in the summer we all like to enjoy a cool Radler (beer and lemonade) in the park, we've reached the time of year when we want to huddle up in a warm Kneipe (pub) and drink something that puts a bit of fire in our belly.

Depending on where you are in Germany there are different specialities.

Berlin has Berliner Luft, which is a peppermint flavoured schnapps. In fact north Germany has a wide array of spiced cough mediciny liquors - each of which looks more unappetizing than the last. 

In the south, which likes to think of itself as more refined, you'll want to search out Obstschnapps which most good Bavarian Gasthöfe (Bavarian for pub) will provide. Obstschnapps are fruit flavoured and come in many varieties. Birne (pear) is to be recommended.

Also if you're a smoker you probably want to search out a Raucherlokal (smoking pub) – while they don't exist in every Bundesland (German state), they will stop you from getting arschkalt every time you step out for a Kippe (cigarette).


Make sure to change your tyres in the winter months. Photo: DPA

If you own a car in Germany you are responsible for changing to winter tyres in the dark months of the year. If you don't and you drive on snow or slush you face being fined. If you are involved in an accident driving in summer tyres in bad winter weather your insurance will also be held responsible. This applies to cars, lorries and even motorbikes.

While there is no set date by which you have to do this, it makes sense to make the change before the first snow of the year, which depending on where you live could already have happened.

Also pay special attention to weather warnings for Glatteis (black ice) and Schneematch (slush).

Now you're all set for the German winter, you can look forward to drinking some Glühwein (mulled wine) at a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in the coming weeks.

Get notified about breaking news on The Local

Share this article


From our sponsors

The Swedish university tackling the challenges of tomorrow

Ranked among the world’s best young universities in the QS Top 50 Under 50, Linköping University (LiU) uses innovative learning techniques that prepare its students to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.

Click here to start your job search

Popular articles