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These 9 German words perfectly sum up being in your 20s

Emma Anderson
Emma Anderson - [email protected]
These 9 German words perfectly sum up being in your 20s
"Bier" is, of course, the one word that goes without saying. Photo: Claus Rebler on Flickr"

Whether just graduated, just dumped or just now trying to figure yourself out, sometimes you're just at a loss for words in your twenties. But Germans are here to help.


1. Fernweh - longing for a far off place

To be fair, you might get further if you choose a mode of transport that isn't wind-powered. Photo: Moyan Brenn on Flickr

You've probably had this itchy-feet feeling at least once during your twenties of Fernweh - literally a woeful longing for a distant place.

This is basically the opposite of homesickness, meaning a feeling of "anywhere but here", perhaps specifically "anywhere but my hometown where all my high school friends have turned into pricks".

This is probably how you ended up in Germany, trying to pronounce these foreign words in the first place.

2. Schnapsidee - idea that comes from too much Schnaps

We twenty-somethings generally still seem to be figuring out that having a few too many beers or shots (or both) is generally not the best time for decision-making.

So when your friends suggest stealing a street sign right outside a police station - at noon - tell them it's a Schnapsidee and offer to buy them a döner instead.

3. Torschlusspanik - fear that you’ve missed out

Helping friends try on wedding dresses is a well-known cause of Torschlusspanik. Photo: DPA

When your Facebook and Instagram feeds seem to be perpetually filled with engagement and baby photos, you might be feeling Torschlusspanik.

Literally translating to "closed gate panic", this is the feeling that a door has shut on something big, usually like finding a soulmate and settling down.

"Wasn’t our generation supposed to be delaying adulthood, pushing marriage into our thirties or forties? Will Tinder ever help me find my dream person?" you ask yourself as you swipe through another round of virtual suitors.

This also might lead you to feel…

4. Mutterseelenallein - forever alone

Photo: Manolo Gomez on Flickr

This literally translates to "mother's soul alone", or so alone that not even your mother's soul is there by your side.

5. Hotel Mama - living with mum and dad

Hey, she got you this far - of course Mama doesn't mind! Photo: pawpaw67 on Flickr

Maybe a bit the opposite of the previous word, but Hotel Mama is the term Germans use when talking about people who still live with their parents as grown adults.

You might also be called a Nesthocker - a nest squatter.

Many of us may face this at some point in our twenties, and there's no shame in it - especially when suffering under all the debt from attending university outside continental Europe.

6. Lebensabschnittsgefährte - part-of-life partner

Things don't have to last forever to be beautiful, right? Photo: Amy Humphries on Flickr

If you do manage to move out of Hotel Mama and find someone to help you feel less mutterseelenallein, it’ll probably be with someone who isn’t quite your soulmate but more of a you-will-do-for-now mate.

We twenty-somethings may end up going through a slew of these, summed up in the mouthful of a word, usually used in hindsight, Lebensabschnittsgefährte: part-of-life companion.

The fact that there’s a word for this shows that Germans just get the fact that not every person you fall for at a secret bunker band party is going to be your match for life.

7. Kopfkino - mental cinema or daydream

Photo: DPA

This German word is there to help you describe the plenty of times you've been caught with a goofy smile on your face.

Say, for instance, that time you were at the theatres and after noticing a cute worker selling popcorn, your mind drifted off into a daydream. You imagined the person asking you out on a date, then taking a trip together, then wedding bells were in the picture...

When your head runs away with itself and starts to direct its own movie, which it often does in your 20s, count on the Germans to have a word for it - Kopfkino.

8. Zukunftsangst - fear of the future

Getting through your 20s can be a little stressful. But German is here to help you talk about it! Photo: Sodanie Chea on Flickr.

Actually, you didn’t even need to look at the rest of the list, because this one really sums up the essence of being between 20 and 29. This fear at the start of the decade might propel you into graduate school to bide more time before having to really face Your Future.

This fear also might make you avoid certain family and friend gatherings, knowing too well that the f-word will inevitably come up, particularly if you mention that you're working as a waitress, yes, even with that degree.

And even if by 29 you have a job, an apartment and seem to pretty much have it all together, you probably still have this fear as you lurch toward 30, perhaps because that job isn’t exactly what you hope you’ll be doing forever.

Or because you know that there are ever more expectations hiding around the corner of the next ten years. (Ahem, babies).

But have no Zukunftsangst, because there’s another German word that might help change your perspective...

9. Lebenskunst - the art of living

It's not just the destination, but the journey, right? And your twenties, with few responsibilities, old-age-induced ailments and still plenty of energy, are a great time to focus less on what the end goal is, and more on the general process of living.

Lebenskunst and being a Lebenskünstler (life artist) is about approaching life like a work of art - something you might in a way already do with your active Instagram account.

But more fundamentally, it's about making life "magical in myriad ways by putting a positive spin on everything and by taking pleasure in little things others might overlook," as the German Information Center puts it.

So if you're underpaid (like most twenty-somethings) but you still find a way to carve out a budget vacation using buses, couch-surfing or perhaps hitch-hiking, maybe you're a bit of a Lebenskünstler yourself.

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