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German word of the day: Stoßlüften

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Nele Schröder - [email protected]
German word of the day: Stoßlüften
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you're not familiar with this word yet, you'll certainly have felt it when the windows are flung open wide at a German home, school or other public venue.

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Let’s start with the translation. Literally, Stoß means “shock, impact or thrust” and lüften means “ventilating.” Das Stoßlüften therefore translates to “shock ventilation.”

The concept behind that is rather simple: For about five minutes, you turn off the radiator, open all the windows and let the cold air stream in. Then you close the windows again and turn all the heating back on again. That allows a flush of cold air to stream into the room and make it fresh again. 

The outside temperature doesn’t matter – as Germans will tell you, if it gets too cold you can always put on a coat.

Here’s an example: if you have ever been to a German school, chances are you might have noticed a note stuck to one of the classroom walls stating specific rules.

And following up after the point “turn off the radiator when you leave the room,” it probably said something like “Mehrmals täglich stoßlüften.” (Shock-ventilate the room multiple times a day.)

Many teachers follow this rule, which usually leads to a wave of discontent from the students' side. The teacher will then tell them to stop complaining and to wear more layers. 

Meanwhile, when you sign a rental contract in Germany, airing out rooms is usually written into it. 

But in all seriousness, this practice is widely thought to be good for health. The German government advised that people air out rooms often during the Covid pandemic to help reduce the risk of infections spreading. Other countries, such as the UK, even started issuing the ventilation advice too.

READ ALSO: Why Germans are obsessed with the art of airing out rooms

Stoßlüften isn’t just good for the people in the room – it also prevents tor room to get mouldy. Especially in schools, when many (often sweaty) teenagers sit in one room for a long time, the levels of air humidity become quite large. Some good ol' Stoßlüften helps the air to circulate again. 

Use it like this:

Zieht euch eure Jacken an, wir machen eine Stoßlüftung!

Put on your coats, we’re doing a shock ventilation!

Ich hasse Stoßlüften.

I hate shock ventilation.

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Anonymous 2019/01/17 20:12
God, I hate this practice too! My (otherwise) wonderful German wife is always suddenly throwing open the windows in just the same way. But as for the mould theory, which she also expounds whenever I complain, then how come British rooms that never have this shock tactic inflicted upon them do not seem to grow mould on the walls. I somehow think there's more to creating a gorgonzola cave with walls dripping with fungus than keeping the windows constantly shut!

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