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LEARNING GERMAN

German phrase of the day: Abwarten und Tee trinken

“Abwarten und Tee Trinken,” a phrase popularised in the 19th century, is most comparable to the English “wait and see.”

German phrase of the day: Abwarten und Tee trinken
Photo: DPA

While it literally translates to “wait and drink tea,” it more generally means sitting tight, relaxing, and staying patient.

When a problem is complex, or when no answers are readily available, perhaps the best thing to do is to wait, cosy up with a cup of tea, and see what solutions come up when one is in a calm state of mind. 

READ ALSO: Herbal tea and sick leave: An American’s ode to the German attitude towards health

It was often uttered by 20th century Belgian poet Henri Michaux, who is known to have embraced the phrase so much that he made it his life motto. 

He believed that one should not get downtrodden or upset quickly when faced with adversity, but rather to relax and see what solutions may bubble up with time and patience. 

Therefore “Abwarten und Tee trinken” is the proper response to a situation in which nothing more can be done. Or, at the Brits might put it, “Keep calm and carry on.”

On edge before your final exam results come back? Abwarten und Tee trinken. 

Waiting to hear back about Uni acceptances? Abwarten und Tee trinken. 

Stressed about a risky or bold email you sent to your boss? Abwarten und Tee trinken.

That this calm state mind comes with tea, or is achieved by drinking tea, is surely no coincidence as Germans embrace an endless array of teas for every occasion.

“Abwarten und Tee trinken,” therefore can carry quite a literal connotation. Anyone familiar with the German medical system knows that medicine is not readily prescribed in hefty doses as it is in other countries.

Herbal tea may be prescribed instead of pain killers following an injury or operation.

Germans are very embracing of the supposed wonders of tea so much so that healthcare workers will at times recommend it, if not prescribe it, as the first line of defense against colds and other illnesses.

READ ALSO: How to get over a cold, according to the Germans

Aside from the quite literal reference to the belief Germans have in the recuperative effects of drinking tea while feeling encumbered, “Abwarten und Tee trinken” can also be meant as more general life advice. 

Folksingers Jenny and Jonny released a song in 1997 with this expression as its title that encourages listeners to take life easily, to be relaxed, and have “ruhig Blut” (to be cool-headed) when in tricky, emotional, or embarrassing situations.  

The chorus sings:

Abwarten und tee trinken/ schon sagte ruhig Blut

Bloss nicht gleich den Kopf verlieren/

Es gilt ja wieder gut/

Abwarten und tee trinken/ Am besten gar nichts tun

Das schlimmste geht von selbst vorbei/lässt man es einfach gut.

Translation:

Wait and see/ says the calm-headed one 

Just don’t lose your cool right away

It will be good again

Wait and see/ Best to do nothing at all 

The worst will pass by itself/you just leave it good

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Here's how to take this thoughtful word into consideration.

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Why do I need to know Rücksicht?

Because it’s a commonly used word and knowing what it means – and practising it – will make you a better person.

What does Rücksicht mean?

Rücksicht is a feminine noun which means “consideration” or “regard”. It’s made up of the shortened form of the word zurück meaning “back” and Sicht – which means view. So literally, it means, back view, or looking back.

This literal meaning tells you something about how the word is used in German – if you look back to see what’s happened to your friend, you are taking them into consideration.

If you want to really make sure you don’t forget what Rücksicht means – you can watch the following video of Germany’s 1983 Eurovision song contest entry. The catchy ballad – called “Rücksicht” – came in place 5 of the competition that year. 

How to use Rücksicht

When using Rücksicht, bear in mind that it is usually paired with specific verbs and prepositions.

The most commonly used set phrase is Rücksicht auf etwas/jemand nehmen, which is used to mean “to be considerate of” or “to take care of” someone or something. For example:

Radfahrer müssen auf Fußgänger Rücksicht nehmen.

Cyclists must be considerate of pedestrians.

Er nimmt Rücksicht auf die Bedürfnisse seiner schwangeren Frau.

He takes care of his pregnant wife’s needs.

Rücksicht is usually followed by the preposition auf, but it can be preceded by a number of prepositions to compose different phrases. 

Mit Rücksicht auf for example, means “in view of” and ohne Rücksicht auf means “without consideration for”, while aus Rücksicht auf means “out of consideration for.” 

Here are some examples:

Führungen dürfen aus Rücksicht auf die Teilnehmer nicht aufgenommen werden.
Out of consideration of the participants, tours may not be recorded.
 
Er will tun, was er möchte, ohne Rücksicht auf die Anderen.
He wants to do what he wants, without considering other people.
 
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