If you live in a shared apartment, who cleans the building? It could be that a company or person is employed to keep the common areas, like the stairway, tidy, and you split the cost of the service with the other tenants or owners.
Time's running out to join the Lingoda Language Marathon. Click here to learn German for free! Limited places, offer ends soon.
But if you live in Baden-Württemberg (or an apartment building that's decided not to pay for a cleaner), you and your neighbours will have to do it yourselves.
This task is summed up in one word: Kehrwoche. Made up off the words kehren – to sweep – and Woche – week – this noun roughly translates to ‘sweeping week’ or ‘week of sweeping’.
When it’s your household's turn for Kehrwoche, you’re in charge of sweeping and mopping the floors as well as keeping the stairway clean. When you’re done, you pass the Kehrwoche sign onto the next neighbour and they must do the tasks the following week.
Although some apartments in modern day Württemberg prefer to pay someone to keep it clean, Kehrwoche is ingrained in Swabian culture and history.
Kehrwoche started at the end of the 15th century to improve household cleanliness. Originally, it meant that households had duties to maintain order and cleanliness inside the common property of the building, like staircases, as well as outside – for example on public pathways. A weekly task, it traditionally took place on Saturday.
In 1988, the Kehrwoche was abolished as a public order law across the state but it can still be part of house rules and rental contracts. If it’s your turn for the Kehrwoche you should also make sure the area outside the apartment is clean and safe. For example, you might have to grit the pavement if there’s ice.
Living in Germany? Never learned German? Join the Lingoda Language Marathon and learn for free.
Other apartment buildings throughout Germany might opt for Kehrwoche too when they decide to take turns to clean the building instead of paying somebody to do it.
However, the Kehrwoche is often said to be something highly characteristic with Swabian or Württemberg culture but this is a stereotype.
Just remember that wherever and whenever you have Kehrwoche, you’ll be judged on how good your cleaning is – and if you decide to give it a miss you will likely have angry neighbours knocking on your door.
How do you know if it’s your sweeping week? You’ll see the schedule that’s probably hung up on the wall but if you forget, don’t worry: a sign will likely be placed on your door that says: ‘Kehrwoche: this week it’s your turn’.
Bitte vergessen Sie dieses Mal nicht, die Kehrwoche zu machen.
Please don't forget to do the sweeping week this time.
Oh nein, die Woche ist fast vorbei und wir müssen ja noch die Kehrwoche
Oh no, the week is almost over and we still have to do the sweeping!
Letzte Woche hatte Herr Schubert Kehrwoche. Das Treppenhaus hat er trotzdem nicht geputzt.
Last week Mr Schubert had to do sweeping week. Despite this he didn't clean the
Zum Glück gibt es in Essen keine Kehrwoche.
Fortunately there is no week of sweeping in Essen.
Learn German in three months, for free. Join the Lingoda Language Marathon today.
Do you have a favourite word you'd like to see us cover? If so, please email our editor Rachel Stern with your suggestion.
This article was produced independently with support from Lingoda.