German phrase of the day: Vitamin B

German phrase of the day: Vitamin B
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
This German slang term has nothing to do with a balanced diet - but could be the key to your success.

“Sie hat Vitamin B!” 

She has vitamin B! 

It can be confusing the first time you stumble across the phrase “Vitamin B”. It often comes up in conversations about job hunts or success. 

It can be a strange experience to discover that your otherwise reasonable German friends think a balanced diet is more important for your career than a good CV. 

Of course, they don’t really. 

“Vitamin B” is a slang phrase for good connections. The capital B is short for the word “Beziehungen”, which means “relationships”. So, the phrase actually means “using your connections to get an advantage in some way” or “knowing the right people”. 

READ ALSO: 10 ways of speaking German you’ll only ever pick up on the street

It can be used in any situation where a person has gained something through their acquaintances, friends or family. That’s anything from VIP concert tickets to a spot at a prestigious uni. 

But it’s most frequently found in job-talk. It can be used in a very negative way – similar to the English “nepotism” or “cronyism”, but it can also be neutral or even positive, when used about someone who is a talented social networker. 

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No doubt the word has been adapted from medicine. Vitamins are important for regulating your metabolism. In other words: they keep things running smoothly in your body, just like connections can smoothly land you a job in the body of a company. 

In Germany, “Vitamin B” is scarily important in the job market. Some studies have estimated that 40 percent of all open positions are filled by “connections”. For managerial positions, the number is even higher, at 70 percent Europe-wide. 

READ ALSO: How to get a job in Germany if you don’t fit all the criteria

So, while it’s a funny phrase and often used in a joking way, it highlights a real issue. Many employers reckon “social capital” (your connections) are more important than “human capital” (your skills and experience) nowadays. 

And of course, people can be born with more social capital than others. Children with working class parents are often less likely to get white-collar jobs simply because their family is not well-connected enough.  

So, just like in medicine: too little Vitamin B can make things difficult, but too much of it can have negative effects too. 

Examples: 

Heutzutage ist Vitamin B genauso wichtig wie das Fachwissen.
Nowadays, good connections are just as important as specialist knowledge. 

Es ist Tatsache, dass viele Stellen über Vitamin B vergeben werden.
It’s a fact that many positions are filled through “knowing the right people”. 


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