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LEARNING GERMAN

Why every country should get on board with the German Feierabend

Feierabend is the name for the time after you finish work; when you switch off your computer, hang up your tools, or get rid of your uniform. And Germans really know how to embrace it.

Why every country should get on board with the German Feierabend
Finally relaxing on a Feierabend. Photo: DPA

Every employee in the world looks forward to Feierabend, and yet we don't even have a word for it in English. It’s made up of two parts: Feier (a party/celebration, sounds a bit like 'fire' in English) and Abend (evening).

Feierabend doesn’t have to be late though; you’ll hear shift workers saying it to each other at any time of the day, whenever they finish working really. They say: ‘Schönen Feierabend!’ = ‘Enjoy your after-work time!’

The concept runs contrary to the common perception that Germany, Europe's largest economy, is all about work. Germany has some of the highest levels of productivity in the world, with unemployment rates at a record low of just 4.1%.

Many Germans truly however use Feierabend to disconnect from the office.  Germany’s employment ministry fully support this, recently stating in a set of labour guidelines that managers should not call or email their employees after hours.

I've found that Nacht for Germans also tends to mean tuning out – to sleep! In German it doesn’t mean 'night' in the same way English speakers use it. It is literally the time you receive some shut eye. I've lost count of the times I've received strange looks when I've asked Germans what they did last night. They usually answer with: 'I slept of course!' Best to ask if they've had a good Feierabend.

A classic German song which proclaims that it's “Finally Feierabend!”

My Feierabend are a little sketchy at the moment, at least by German standards, because I’ve been struggling to really let go. It's hard to switch off when you work freelance, or you're doing shifts, or having to finish a research project or whatever else.

So on weekdays the evening celebration rarely comes before 10pm. And when it finally arrives, it’s not so much a party as a measly fumble in the cupboard for a few raisins or almonds – it used to be chocolate but I realized I was pinning way too much joy and anticipation on sugar and had to cut down.

But really, this is not acceptable! I'm in a country with the word Feierabend, and should take that on board – as should other countries. 

In 2017, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that Germany’s “employment growth is strong… above potential, and the fiscal position keeps strengthening”. But Germans don't seem to be workaholics.

They value their time away from work and try to make the most of it. Most people take a proper hour-long lunch break, actually chatting with their colleagues or friends instead of constantly checking their phones. They aren't afraid to take sick days if they need them – often with the philosophy that they are doing their colleagues a favour by not constantly sneezing around them – and they enjoy their time away from the office without guilt.

They honour a work-life balance so much that 80 percent, in a recent survey, said that they don’t want anything to do with work while on holiday. Compare that with their American counterparts, only 52 percent who said that they disconnect from their professional lives while taking a trip.

I've neglected my Feierabend moments recently. But I tell you, when I do get a proper one – well, at that moment I love it. I now try and make Feierabend Friday a thing.

The techno song “Feierabend wie das duftet”, or Feierabend as it smells.

I’ve always loved Fridays. Even when I worked on weekends, there was something magical and bubbly about the end of the week that isn’t quite Saturday yet. It’s that feeling of being a bit too tired and in need of bed but so happy that you have a couple of days off in front of you that you stay up. Bleary eyed and smiling.

In previous jobs in the UK, Friday evening used to be a time when people would gather in the pub and I loved being part of it. It was kind of fun to get home at 8 or 9pm, a bit tipsy and starving. I'm talking really hungry, feeling like you’ve not eaten in days. Then you really enjoy a good meal.

The Feierabend has a different feel in Germany since going to the pub after work is not so common. I mean some people do it, but lots of punters go out much later, at around 11pm. Well, when your bars don't shut until you choose to leave and your clubs are open all the way through until Monday morning, maybe starting later on Friday is necessary…

Last summer, on one of my designated Feierabend Fridays, I met my friend Alice and we walked in the sunshine and then sat by a canal in Berlin drinking white wine from plastic cups and eating ice cream.

It seemed like the whole population of Berlin was squeezed onto the slopes next to the Landwehrkanal in Kreuzberg, observing swans love and fight each other in a series of exaggerated movements.  Watching the sun go down on a Friday night is a lovely experience to end the working week.

So as spring picks up its pace, I'm making a little pact with myself: embrace the Feierabend more. I like this idea and I think the English language should adopt it too.

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LEARNING GERMAN

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

Once you've learned the basics of German, listening to podcasts is one of the best ways of increasing vocabulary and speeding up comprehension. Here are some of the best podcasts out there for German learners.

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

STARTING OUT

Coffee Break German

Coffee Break German aims to take you through the basics of German in a casual lesson-like format. It is extremely easy to listen to. Each 20-minute episode acts as a mini-lesson, where German native Thomas teaches Mark Pendleton, the founder and CEO of Coffee Break Languages, the basics.

All phrases are broken down into individual words. After new phrases are introduced the listeners are encouraged to repeat them back to practise pronunciation.

The advantage of listening to this podcast is that the learner, Mark, begins at the same level as you. He is also a former high school French and Spanish teacher. He often asks for clarification of certain phrases, and it can feel as if he is asking the very questions you want answered.

You can also stream the podcast directly from the provider’s website, where they sell a supplementary package from the Coffee Break German Academy, which offers additional audio content, video flashcards and comprehensive lesson notes

German Pod 101

German Pod 101 aims to teach you all about the German language, from the basics in conversations and comprehension to the intricacies of German culture. German Pod 101 offers various levels for your German learning and starts with Absolute Beginner.

The hosts are made up of one German native and one American expat living in Germany, in order to provide you with true authentic language, but also explanations about the comparisons and contrasts with English. This podcast will, hopefully, get you speaking German from day one.

Their website offers more information and the option to create an account to access more learning materials.

Learn German by Podcast

This is a great podcast if you don’t have any previous knowledge of German. The hosts guide you through a series of scenarios in each episode and introduce you to new vocabulary based on the role-plays. Within just a few episodes, you will learn how to talk about your family, order something in a restaurant and discuss evening plans. Each phrase is uttered clearly and repeated several times, along with translations.

READ ALSO:

Learn German by Podcast provides the podcasts for free but any accompanying lesson guides must be purchased from their website. These guides include episode transcripts and some grammar tips. 

DEVELOPING YOUR GERMAN

Easy German

This podcast takes the form of a casual conversation between hosts Manuel and Cari, who chat in a fairly free-form manner about aspects of their daily lives. Sometimes they invite guests onto the podcast, and they often talk about issues particularly interesting to expats, such as: “How do Germans see themselves?”. Targeted at young adults, the podcasters bring out a new episode very three or four days.

News in Slow German

This is a fantastic podcast to improve your German listening skills. What’s more, it helps you stay informed about the news in several different levels of fluency.

The speakers are extremely clear and aim to make the podcast enjoyable to listen to. For the first part of each episode the hosts talk about a current big news story, then the second part usually features a socially relevant topic. 

A new episode comes out once a week and subscriptions are available which unlock new learning tools.

SBS German

This podcast is somewhat interesting as it is run by an Australian broadcaster for the German-speaking community down under. Perhaps because ethnic Germans in Australia have become somewhat rusty in their mother tongue, the language is relatively simple but still has a completely natural feel.

There is a lot of news here, with regular pieces on German current affairs but also quite a bit of content looking at what ties Germany and Australia together. This lies somewhere between intermediate and advanced.

A woman puts on headphones in Gadebusch, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Photo: dpa | Jens Büttner

PERFECTING YOUR GERMAN

Auf Deutsche gesagt

This is another great podcast for people who have a high level of German. The host, Robin Meinert, talks in a completely natural way but still manages to keep it clear and comprehensible.

This podcast also explores a whole range of topics that are interesting to internationals in Germany, such as a recent episode on whether the band Rammstein are xenophobic. In other words, the podcast doesn’t just help you learn the language, it also gives you really good insights into what Germans think about a wide range of topics.

Sozusagen

Bayern 2 present their podcast Sozusagen! for all those who are interested in the German language. This isn’t specifically directed at language learners and is likely to be just as interesting to Germans and foreigners because it talks about changes in the language like the debate over gender-sensitive nouns. Each episode explores a different linguistic question, from a discussion on German dialects to an analysis of political linguistics in Germany.

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