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The German words you need to know for flu season

With temperatures dipping across Germany, cold and flu season is upon us. We’ve compiled a list of words to help you navigate the season.

The German words you need to know for flu season
A common sight of flu season. Photo: DPA

Die Erkältung

Die Erkältung is the term for a common cold, and to say ‘I have a cold’, you would say either ‘ich habe eine Erkältung’ or ‘ich bin erkältet’. Some of your symptoms may include Halsschmerzen or Halsweh (sore throat), eine laufende or verstopfte Nase (runny or blocked nose), Kopfschmerzen (headache) or Husten (cough).


Ich bin erkältet und habe eine laufende Nase. Kannst du mir mal einen papiertaschentuch geben?

I’ve got a cold and my nose is runny. Please can you pass me a tissue?

Ich habe Kopfschmerzen, weil ich eine Erkältung habe.

I have a headache because I have a cold.

Die Grippe

When a more serious winter illness hits you, it’s often die Grippe, the flu. Symptoms involve Fieber (fever), Schüttelfrost (chills), Gliederschmerzen (muscle aches), Schmerzen (aches) and Appetitlosigkeit (loss of appetite). While both Erkältungen and Grippe are very ansteckend (contagious), the latter is more serious, and you’re more likely to require a doctor for it.


Ich habe die Grippe und kann heute nicht arbeiten.

I’ve got the flu and can’t work today.

Meine Symptome sind hohes Fieber, Gliederschmerzen und Appetitlosigkeit.

My symptoms include a high fever, muscle aches and a loss of appetite.


Having a cough, or Husten, is a particularly galling winter experience. Not only is it frustrating and disruptive, but it can lead to Heiserkeit (hoarseness) and Keuchen (wheezing). It can also be the sign of a more serious illness, Atemwegsinfektion (chest infection) or Lungenentzündung. (pneumonia)Examples:

Ich kann nicht sprechen, weil ich schrecklichen Husten habe.

I can’t speak because I have a terrible cough

 Ich habe seit einer Woche Husten und mache mir Sorgen, dass ich eine Atemwegsinfektion habe.

 I’ve had a cough for a week and I’m worried that I’m suffering from a chest infection

Die Entzündung

Winter illnesses often include Entzündungen (inflammations), which are often schmerzhaft (painful) and cause Rötung (redness). Common inflammations include Nebenhöhlenentzündung (sinusitis), Bronchitis (bronchitis) and Mandelentzündung (tonsillitis), which, unfortunately, are not the easiest terms to remember when you’re not feeling well.


Meine Schläfen tun mir weh. Ich denke, dass ich Nebenhöhlenentzündung habe.

My temples really hurt. I think I have sinusitis

Ich habe eine Mandelentzündung und kann nichts schlucken.

I’m suffering from tonsillitis and can’t swallow anything.

The Apotheke will always make you feel better. Photo: DPA

Die Apotheke

If you’re lucky enough to just have contracted a common cold, rather than the flu, you should be able to make it to the Apotheke (pharmacy). At the Apotheke, you can buy Medikamente (medicines), although these tend to be behind the counter in Germany, so it’s worth knowing how to describe your symptoms before you go. Examples of different types of medications include Tabletten (pills), Lutschtabletten (lozenges) and Hustensaft (cough syrup).


Haben sie etwas, das den Schleim im Hals lösen kann?

Do you have something that can loosen the phlegm in my throat?

Ich suche Tabletten, die Kopfschmerz und eine Nebenhöhlenentzündung lindern.

I’m looking for tablets which soothe headaches and sinusitis.

Ich kann überhaupt  keine Tablette schlucken. Haben Sie dafür auch flüssige Medizin?

I really can’t swallow pills. Do you perhaps have a liquid medicine for it?

Die (Arzt)Praxis

If, however, you’re unfortunate enough to be afflicted with a more serious Krankheit (illness), you might need to go to the doctor, or zum Arzt gehen. A doctor’s surgery is called eine Praxis, and it’s where you’ll have your Arzttermin (doctor’s appointment). You can visit a Hausarzt or Allgemeinarzt (general practitioner), although in Germany it’s relatively easy to visit a specialist, or a Facharzt. It’s worth noting that, in typically German style, most doctors close on Sundays.


Ich gehe Freitag wegen meines Ekzems zur Dermatologin.

On Friday I’m going to the dermatologist for my eczema.

Ich habe die Praxis im Internet gefunden und sie angerufen, um einen Termin zu vereinbaren.

I found the practice on the internet and rang up to make an appointment.

Der Allgemeinarzt hat mich zum Osteopath weitergeleitet.

The GP referred me to the osteopath.

Im Notfall

In case of serious medical emergencies, you can also ring 112 (this is actually the number of the fire brigade, but this department also deals with medical emergencies). After you have given details of your circumstances, they may send a Krankenwagen (ambulance) to take you to the Krankenhaus (hospital), and probably to the Notaufnahme department (Accident and Emergency).


Wir brauchen einen Krankenwagen, weil meine Tochter Blut erbricht.

We need an ambulance because my daughter is vomiting blood.

Wir waren im Krankenhaus, da mein Mannohnmächtig geworden ist. 

We went to the hospital as my husband had fainted.

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REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. German is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, comes with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.