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EXPLAINED: The German phrases you need as bars and restaurants reopen

Nervous about your German skills now that restrictions are easing? Here are some handy phrases for once it's possible to grab dinner or a drink with friends again.

EXPLAINED: The German phrases you need as bars and restaurants reopen
Two restaurant employees in Dresden set up chairs and tables on Wednesday to prepare for the opening of outdoor dining. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

In many areas of Germany, bars and restaurants are once again opening their doors – or at least their terraces – to customers. Months of lockdowns, curfews and pub closures mean it feels like an eternity since we have been able to catch up with friends in a pub or cafe.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rules in Germany on outdoor dining

To help you avoid any embarrassment over the next few weeks, we have compiled a list of useful phrases to try out at your local restaurant or bar:

Small talk

If you are seeing your pals after a long time, before you even get to ordering, you may need to brush up on the small talk you’ve managed to avoid over the past few months.

Wie geht es dir? Lange nicht gesehen! – ‘How are you? Long time no see!’ Easing restrictions mean that many people will be able to socialise with friends they may not have seen since last autumn – or longer. It’s likely that ‘lange nicht gesehen’ will become a very useful addition to your phrase book.

Wie läuft’s bei dir so? – ‘What have you been up to?’ Given the heavy restrictions in place up until now in Germany, the answer to this may be pretty short. Try it out if you want to hear about how your friends have passed the time during lockdown. 

Ich freue mich auf meine Covid-Impfung – ‘I’m excited for my Covid vaccine’ As it is all anyone can really think about at the moment, it is likely the pandemic will come up at some point during your conversation. Especially if you want to make plans for the future, it will be good to know when your friends are getting their vaccine doses. 

READ ALSO: Here’s the German vocabulary you need to get the Covid-19 vaccine

Kann ich einen Tisch reservieren, bitte? – ‘Can I book a table, please?’ With bars and restaurants able to open for outdoor dining for the first time in months, there is likely to be fierce competition for tables. It is definitely worth booking in advance to ensure you aren’t disappointed. 

Ist dieser Tisch frei? – ‘Is this table free?’ If you do try your luck and approach a restaurant without booking, use this phrase to ask staff if they can squeeze you in. 


Ich hätte gern ein… – ‘I would like a…’ Hopefully you haven’t forgotten this basic phrase while the bars have been closed, but in any case, this is your time to use it. You could also try the more colloquial ‘ich nehme ein…’ or ‘I’ll take a…’ if you want to sound a bit more casual when ordering your drinks. 

Ich besorge das Bier – ‘I’ll get this beer’ This one’s for those of you who are feeling generous. Maybe you’ve saved a few cents while the bars have been closed and you want to cover the cost of your friend’s drink for them. Use this phrase to let them know this one’s on you. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How you can visit a bar in Berlin from Friday

         A Berlin bartender pours a drink in November. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau


Guten Appetit! – ‘Bon appetit!’ No matter if you’re in a restaurant or not, this is a good phrase to have in your pocket. In Germany, it is common to say this before you begin any meal and is a friendly way to kick off your dinner. 

Nicht lange schnacken, Kopf in Nacken – ‘Stop talking, start drinking.’ Particularly if you have been waiting months to have a drink in your favourite bar, you may want to cut the small talk and get straight to business. 

Hat es dir geschmeckt? ‘Did you enjoy your meal?’ If you have been out to a restaurant for the first time in what feels like an eternity, you are likely to savour every mouthful. Use this question to check everyone else at your table has enjoyed the experience too.

Wir brauchen ein Katerfrühstück – ‘We need a hangover cure.’ Hopefully you won’t need to use this phrase, but if you’ve overdone it on your first night socialising with friends, you might be on the search for something to ease your headache the next morning. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Der Kater

Lass uns bald wieder treffen – ‘Let’s do this again soon.’ Hopefully your night has gone well, and you have been able to wow your friends with your grasp of the German language. This phrase will let them know you don’t want this to just be a one time thing. 

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Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust

The German word 'Wanderlust' means "the desire to travel" and is used even in other languages. Here are some of the other words commonly used in Germany to describe the nation's love affair with travelling.

Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust

Germans are very connected to nature and a lot of the activities they routinely do, even in winter, involve staying outdoors. So it’s no wonder the language also reflects that passion for walking, travelling, and spending time in nature.

Some of the German words that are most famous to speakers of other languages reference this passion. Perhaps most notably, the term “Wanderlust” which has made its way to other dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, with the definition “a strong longing for or impulse toward wandering”.

The word is composed of “wandern“, which means to hike or roam about and “lust“, meaning “pleasure or delight”.

READ ALSO: Holiday like a local: Five of the best camping regions in Germany

This is not the only unique expression the German language has related to travelling. Another of the hard to translate ones is “Fernweh“. It comes from “fern“, meaning “far”, and “Weh“, meaning “pain”. It is used to describe the longing for far-off places – in contrast to “Heimweh”, a feeling many immigrants might be very attuned to and could be translated to homesickness.

The German language also has several interesting and even funny expressions for walkers and travellers alike. The Local talked with German teacher and travel enthusiast Lutz Michaelis to collect a few of the best expressions.

“So weit dich deine/mich meine Füße tragen”

It literally means “as far as my feet will take me” (or alternatively, “as far as your feet will take you”). It is often said as an answer to the question, “where are you going?”.

READ ALSO: Waldeinsamkeit: Five of the best forest walks around Berlin

“Die Sieben-Meilen-Stiefel anhaben”

“To wear the seven-league boots”. This means being able to walk long distances fast. Lutz explains that it was actually based on a trope in French mythology, in which magical boots could help the wearer cover long distances in a short amount of time. Having been used in The Little Thumb by Charles Perrault, the term was brought into the German language by writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

“Wer rastet, der rostet”

The translation would be “he who rests, rusts”. It is used in the German language to say that being in motion is a good thing, not only with travelling but also to incentivise people to keep learning new things.

“Das Reisen kost’t Geld, Doch sieht man die Welt.”

It’s a very common rhyme used to show the downsides and benefits of travelling: “travelling costs money, but one sees the world”.

“Reisende soll man nicht aufhalten.”

It literally means that “travellers shouldn’t be stopped”. However, Lutz explains that the expression is not only used to refer to travellers but also to anyone that might be going through a transitional situation – such as someone wanting to change their jobs, for example.

Rhododendren park Bremen

Rhododendrons bloom in the Rhododendron Park in Bremen. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

“der Weg ist das Ziel.”

One of the most beautiful ones, and many languages have their own version of it. It translates to “the road is the destination”.

Of course, coming back home, especially for those suffering from Heimweh, can also be something beautiful. One common saying is “Wiedersehen macht Freude“, which means that to meet again brings happiness, used among those looking forward to seeing someone again after a long trip.

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

And one more…

In Germany, there is a common joke about finding German people abroad. The rhyme goes “Hüte dich vor Sturm und Wind, und Deutschen, die im Ausland sind“, which could be translated as “Be on your guard for storm and wind, and Germans in a foreign land”.

“It refers both to the bad behaviour of Germans on holidays or travels and a dark joke and a funny nod to the fact that German troops have invaded other countries”, Lutz, who is a German himself, explains.