For members


Essential phrases and customs to survive the German winter

The dark, gloomy (and potentially very cold) time of year is upon us. But not to worry. The Local brings you some of the insider knowledge you need to survive.

Kalt is written on a car covered in snow.
You said it. Photo: DPA.

Mir ist kalt

This man is quite possibly cold and indifferent. Photo: DPA

If you’re new to Germany and your Deutsch is still in the beginner phase, you might want to be careful about how you tell people you’re feeling a little chilly.

If you translate directly from English and say ‘Ich bin kalt’ you’re making a mistake. This means something like ‘I’m indifferent’ (although it’s not really used).

The correct way to say it is ‘mir ist kalt’, using the dative. This is the same for most physical states: mir ist schwindlig (I’m dizzy), mir ist übel (I’m nauseous), etc.

The most embarrassing one to get mixed up though is mir ist heiß/ich bin heiß – the first is to tell people you’re feeling hot, the second to say you’re sexy or sexually aroused. So if you visit a house where the heating is on too high, watch out.


If your German is slightly better and you want to use a more expressive way of saying how cold it is, why not try using saukalt, scheißkalt, or even arschkalt?

These are all ways of saying its very cold by adding a rude prefix to the word. The first one, literally ‘pig cold’ is fairly harmless – the other two you night want to avoid in polite company!


“Gesundheit!” Photo: DPA

Gesundheit (literally health) is the German version of ‘bless you’, and is especially important as the weather and days close in.

But when is it appropriate to say it? Women’s magazine Brigitte has some useful tips, telling readers that it is generally inappropriate to say it in an office atmosphere as it unnecessarily brings the person’s sickness to others’ attention.


This is one you might want to learn for when you go to the Apotheke (pharmacist). If you’ve got a cough this is what you are after.

Or if you’ve got a cold and want something more natural to fight off the bugs, why not buy some frischer Ingwer (fresh ginger) from your local Supermarkt?


Photo: Heilpraxisnet

Literally translated as ‘steam bath,’ you can find a Dampfbad in a spa but you can also make one yourself at home as a quick remedy.

So if you think you’re coming down with a cold or the sniffles in light of the chilly winter months, all you need to do is boil some water in a pot. Then, after transfering the water to a bowl, put your head over it and deeply inhale the steam.

Make sure to do this though with a towel over your head so that none of the steam can escape. Also feel free to close your eyes if the steam gets uncomfortable.

Inhaling the steam for up to ten minutes is believed to free up a stuffy nose and relieve congested sinuses.

Acquiring a favourite schnapps

Finding a favourite schnapps is essential for whiling away the dark months. Photo: DPA

While in the summer we all like to enjoy a cool Radler (beer and lemonade) in the park, we’ve reached the time of year when we want to huddle up in a warm Kneipe (pub) and drink something that puts a bit of fire in our belly.

Depending on where you are in Germany there are different specialities.

Berlin has Berliner Luft, which is a peppermint flavoured schnapps. In fact north Germany has a wide array of spiced cough medicine liquors – each of which looks more unappetizing than the last. 

In the south, which likes to think of itself as more refined, you’ll want to search out Obstschnapps which most good Bavarian Gasthöfe (pub) will provide. Obstschnapps are fruit flavoured and come in many varieties. Birne (pear) is to be recommended.

Also if you’re a smoker you probably want to search out a Raucherlokal (smoking pub) – while they don’t exist in every Bundesland (German state), they will stop you from getting arschkalt every time you step out for a Kippe (cigarette).


Make sure to change your tyres in the winter months. Photo: DPA

If you own a car in Germany you are responsible for changing to winter tyres in the dark months of the year. If you don’t and you drive on snow or slush you face being fined. If you are involved in an accident driving in summer tyres in bad winter weather your insurance will also be held responsible. This applies to cars, lorries and even motorbikes.

While there is no set date by which you have to do this, it makes sense to make the change before the first snow of the year, which depending on where you live could already have happened.

Also pay special attention to weather warnings for Glatteis (black ice) and Schneematch (slush).

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For members


Denglisch: The English words that will make you sound German

Denglisch - a hybrid of Deutsch and English - can refer to the half-and-half way Germans and foreigners speak to each other. But Germans use plenty of English words amongst themselves - although they don’t always mean the same thing.

Denglisch: The English words that will make you sound German

English speakers are no stranger to using certain German words when speaking English—schadenfreude and kindergarten being perhaps the most obvious. The process is possibly even more advanced in reverse.

Many Germans are proud of being able to speak English well, and the Berlin Wall’s fall in 1989 only accelerated the process, as a redefined international community – with English as the main global language – beckoned.

Now English words are found in all parts of German life. Many Germans don’t even necessarily understand why. English-language cultural influence is certainly a part of German life, but the dubbing of television shows, to use just one example, remains far more widespread in Germany than in many smaller European countries, which use original audio with subtitles.

Here’s a selection of anglicisms that Germans use with each other. 

READ ALSO: Could Denglisch one day kill of English?

‘Coffee-To-Go’ or ‘Takeaway’

‘Ein Kaffee zum mitnehmen’ is correct and your coffee shop owner will definitely understand what you want if you ask for it. But plenty of Germans will ask for a ‘Coffee-To-Go,’ even when speaking German to a German barista. This seems to only apply to coffee ordered on the move, however. If you’re sitting down at a table, expect to order the German Kaffee.

Getting a coffee-to-go in Berlin.

Getting a Coffee-To-Go in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

Human Resources, ‘Soft Skills’ and ‘Manager’

‘Personalabteilung’ is still used to describe a human resources department. But plenty of German companies—whether international or mostly German will use Human Resources even in German-language communication. Although ‘Leiter’ and ‘Leiterin,’ meaning ‘leader’ are used, even German job titles will use “Manager.” The word ‘Manager’ has even been adapted to accommodate German noun genders. A female manager, may be referred to as a ‘Managerin’.

READ ALSO: How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The world of work in Germany is also notable for importing another contemporary English term. ‘Soft Skills’ is used in German when recruiters are looking to see if a candidate might fit culturally into a particular workplace. The words actually describing these skills, like ‘Führungskompetenz’ or ‘leadership ability,’ often sound unmistakably German though. But there are exceptions. ‘Multitasking’ is used in German as well.

‘Clicken,’ ‘Uploaden,’ ‘Downloaden’ and ‘Home Office’

As technology that came of age relatively recently, German has imported many English terms related to technology and the Internet. While web browsers might use ‘Herunterladen’ instead of ‘download’ or ‘hochladen’ instead of ‘upload,’ Germans are just as likely to use the slightly Germanized version of the English word, hence ‘downloaden’.

READ ALSO: Seven English words Germans get delightfully wrong

Even before ‘Home Office’ appeared on German tax returns, to calculate what credit workers could get from remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic, ‘Home Office’ was still widely used in German to describe, well, working from home. It can be confusing for English speakers, though, especially those from the UK, because the Home Office is a department in the British government. 

English words that have slightly different meanings in German – ‘Shitstorm’ and ‘Public Viewing’

There are English words Germans use that don’t always mean quite the same thing to a native English speaker. An English speaker from the UK or Ireland, for example, might associate a ‘public viewing’ with an open casket funeral. Germans, however, tends to use “public viewing” almost exclusively to mean a large screening, usually of an event, that many people can gather to watch for free. Placing a large television at the Brandenburg Gate for German Football Team matches is perhaps the most immediately recognisable example of a ‘public viewing’.

Then there’s what, at least to native English speakers, might sound outright bizarre. But former Chancellor Angela Merkel herself used “Shitstorm” more than once while in office. In German though, it can refer specifically to a social media backlash involving heated online comments.

Another typical English-sounding word used in German differently is ‘Handy’ – meaning cellphone (well, it does fit in your hand). It can sound a bit strange to English speakers, though. 

Other words, however, more or less mean what you think they do – such as when one German newspaper referred to Brexit as a ‘Clusterfuck’.

READ ALSO: Shitstorm ‘best English gift to German language’