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German word of the day: Der Kiez

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German word of the day: Der Kiez
Picture: DPA
10:35 CEST+02:00
A regional colloquialism popular mainly in Berlin and northern Germany, Kiez basically means neighbourhood.

The non-colloquial translation of neighbourhood is Nachbarschaft, although this is a more formalized way of describing one’s surroundings. 

A like for like comparison would be more in the direction of ‘hood’, i.e. a shorter abbreviated version laced with a significant amount of street cred'. 

Kiez is mainly used in large cities to describe urban neighbourhoods. The existence of a Kiez will normally be evidenced by a community-style vibe, with some considering Kiez to mean a village within a larger city.  

What classifies as part of a ‘Kiez’ however will usually be a much narrower geographical area than what most English speakers would define as a neighbourhood, sometimes only spanning a few streets.

It’s also commonly used as a suffix for the names of popular neighbourhoods based around a street or landmark. 

Gräfekiez, in Berlin’s Kreuzberg, is an example of this, describing the streets and canal immediately surrounding Graefestraße. 

In other cities, a neighbourhood can be so famous that it’s simply referred to as “the Kiez”. Hamburg’s famous Reeperbahn is one such example.

If you tell your friends you’re off to “the Kiez”, they’ll know exactly where you’re headed. 

No border, no nation

Given that Kiez is a colloquial term, it follows that it has limited official relevance. While a Kiez will be small, it is likely not to respect the administrative borders in a city. 

There are some exceptions - Berlin’s Stephankiez is one such example. However part of the charm of a ‘Kiez’ is that it has arisen organically, rather than at the whim of an administrative decision maker. 

A Kiez protest against gentrification in Berlin's Wrangelkiez. Picture: DPA

History

Kiez derives from the Slavic word Kietz, which became commonly used in German during the eastern expansion of German speaking regions.

This originally referred to small townships and fishing villages, but over time changed in meaning.  

The legacy of this word can still be seen throughout some parts of Germany. Küstrin-Kietz, a community on the Polish border, is one such example. 

Regional variations

Kiez is most commonly used in Berlin, although it’s also popular in other urban parts of northern and eastern Germany. 

Although the word is rarely used outside of these areas, it is comparable with similar descriptors in other German-speaking regions. 

In Cologne, a Kiez is called a Veedel - while in Vienna the word Grätzl will be used. 

Know your Kieze

der Kiez (Hamburg’s Reeperbahn): Perhaps Germany’s most famous street, the Reeperbahn is known for beer, bordellos and The Beatles 

'The Kiez' Hamburg's Reeperbahn. Picture: DPA

Bergmannkiez: An upmarket Kiez in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, Bergmannkiez is where you - and your family - move to when the party’s over.

Schillerkiez: Formerly a tad on the gritty side, Berlin’s Schillerkiez is now home to a diverse range of music venues, bars and restaurants - along with a few celebrity residents. 

Examples:

Meine Band hat einen Auftritt im Schillerkiez.

My band has a gig in Schillerkiez.

Mein Mann und ich haben eine Altbau Wohnung in Bergmannkiez gekauft.

My husband and I bought an Altbau apartment in Bergmankiez.

Wollen wir heute Abend auf'n Kiez gehen? Ich geb' in der Eckkneipe beim Fischmarkt einen aus.

Do we want to go to the Reeperbahn tonight? I’ll buy you a beer from the bar by the Fish Market.

 
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