Six German words you'll need to know this summer

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Alexandra Ball - [email protected]
Six German words you'll need to know this summer
Beach goers in Steinhude, Lower Saxony on Tuesday. Such places are good destinations on 'Hitzefrei' days. Photo: DPA

The onset of sunny weather in Germany means it is time to brush up on your summer-related vocabulary.


1. Affenhitze - scorching heat 

A long-tailed macaque monkey enjoys frozen fruit, which helps it to stay cool in warm temperatures at the Zoo in Saarbrücken, Saarland. Photo: DPA 

When translated directly, Affenhitze means monkey heat, but in this instance it is actually used to describe exceptionally hot weather or scorching heat. 


So if you want to comment on what a scorcher of a day it is, you should say "Heute ist eine Affenhitze". 

2. Sauregurkenzeit or Sommerloch - the quiet when everyone is on holiday

Pickles on a plate at the start of the cucumber harvest in the Spree Forest. Photo: DPA

Much like Affenhitze, this term also has a funny literal translation. Sauregurkenzeit means pickle time, and originates from 18th century Berlin, when pickles from the local Spree Forest would make it to shop shelves during the late summer.

The mid-summer weeks in July and August were typically when schools and offices were empty. There wasn't much going on in the city since the inhabitants went on holiday during this period, and consequently businessmen found it tricky to make money. Hence Sauregurkenzeit became synonymous with the quiet when everyone goes on holiday.

Sommerloch, (summer hole) has the same meaning, and is typically used by the media when they have difficulties filling their newspapers for lack of events when politicians flee the city. 

3. Sommerfrische - summer retreat

A holiday retreat on the Frisian island of Sylt, Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: DPA

And where do all of the city folk rush off to during the Sauregurkenzeit? To their Sommerfrischen of course. 

A Sommerfrische, a slightly outdated term for summer holiday retreat, can be in the mountains, by the sea, or tucked away in the countryside. Such retreats are popular with those who can afford to escape their busy city lives and enjoy the pleasant summer temperatures in a relaxed atmosphere. 

4. Hitzefrei - when schools have to shut due to hot weather

Pupils rush home from their school in Dresden when temperatures were too hot for them to work in June 2016. Photo: DPA

Schools in Germany can have classes running into July and  August. Hence, teachers and pupils sometimes end up working in warm temperatures, though Germans do draw the line if thermometers register between 25C and 30C in the shade. At this point, staff and students are sent home, and the day is deemed Hitzefrei, or heat-free. 

READ ALSO: Ditching the AC for 'Hitzefrei': Taking on the German summer as a Californian

5. Kaltstellen - to chill something in the fridge

A man takes chilled beers from the fridge in the July heat in Hanover, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

In theory you can use this word at any time of year, but you'll probably find yourself employing it more in summer when the baking hot weather leaves you in want of a cold beer, a chilled glass of wine or refreshing summery cocktail.

Kaltstellen means to keep something cool in the fridge, and can also be used colloquially to mean to sideline someone or throw someone out.

SEE ALSO: Germany's top refreshing summer drinks

6. Sonnenwendfeier - summer solstice celebration

A bonfire in Brandenburg in March 2017. Similar bonfires are built to celebrate the summer solstice. Photo: DPA

June 20th or 21st is the the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. Germans in the northern states of Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania welcome it by enjoying a large bonfire. 


The bonfire may be part of a Volksfest (fair), where sausages and beer among other items are on sale.



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