For members


Eight things Germans believe bring good luck

Germans have several ways of bringing good fortune, from breaking things to chimney sweeps. Here's what you can do in Germany to bring yourself as much luck as possible.

Eight things Germans believe bring good luck
A group of chimney sweeps hike up the Brocken mountain on German Unity day last year to bring everyone luck. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

A lot of superstitions about bad luck in Germany are well-known across the world. From lighting a cigarette with a candle to gifting knives, there are a whole load of possible missteps which might end up cursing you and your friends to years or even decades of bad luck.

But no fear- there are plenty of ways to ensure that you get lucky too. Here’s your eight-step guide to getting lucky according to German tradition. 

READ ALSO: Eight strange superstitions the Germans hold dearly

  • Pigs

One popular German phrase is ‘Schwein haben’ (literally ‘to have a pig’), which means that you got lucky. Similarly, ‘Schwein gehabt’ (literally ‘got pig’) is used as an expression of good fortune along the lines of saying ‘lucky you!’ or ‘lucky me!’. 

It is common to gift friends and family with a marzipan Glückschwein (good luck pig) to mark New Year. 

A German girl with her Sparschwein – or piggy bank. Yes, pigs are lucky. But it’s even luckier to have a pig full of money. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Patrick Pleul

Piggy banks (Sparschweine) are also given to youngsters to encourage them to save (because who doesn’t want a pig full of cash?).

Pigs are considered lucky because of their connection with fertility, successful harvest and thus prosperity. Piglets in particular are seen as portending good fortune. It is thought that this custom might have arisen in the Middle Ages, when to own pigs was a signal of wealth and status. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Sau

  • Smashing things

Smashing anything breakable, such as glass, china or ceramic is thought to bring good luck in Germany. Loud crashes and bangs from breaking household objects drive evil spirits out of the house, and are thought to bestow a few years of good fortune to the person who broke them. 

The German saying ‘Scherben bringen Glück’, meaning ‘shards bring luck’, was coined for this situation. Around wedding days, breaking porcelain plates is often a part of the celebration. According to custom, the more shards created by the process, the better luck the couple will have in married life.

This tradition is called Polterabend, and while it used to take place until midnight on the night before the wedding, nowadays it more frequently happens either on the wedding day itself or around a week before.

Ulrike and Martin probably smashed things at the Polterabend just before their wedding. We wonder if it brought them luck and they’re still together. Photo: picture-alliance / dpa | Roland_Witschel

So even if you might not be inclined to lather someone with well-wishes after they’ve just broken your favourite plate, remember to give a shout of ‘Scherben bringen Glück!’ to help them cash in on their years of good luck.

  • Salt

Salt (das Salz) is thought to have the power to bring good luck in Germany. Because of this, it’s seen as lucky to give salt and bread as a housewarming gift, and is thought to mean that the person moving in will never go hungry in their new home. 

It is believed that the superstition arose from a time when salt was a valuable commodity and a symbol of wealth and success. Only the richest and most prosperous could afford it. 

However, don’t think about combining superstitions and spilling your salt. Unfortunately, this will bring you seven years of bad luck.

Pass the salt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Catherine Waibel

In addition, make sure you don’t bring a knife with you to slice the housewarming bread. Giving a knife as a housewarming gift is seen as wishing death on the person you are gifting the present.

READ ALSO: Eight strange Austrian superstitions foreigners should know about

  • Black cats – but only if they’re moving in the right direction
This gorgeous lad is called Arne and he’s at the association Tierschutz Hildesheim und Umgebung e.V, Lower Saxony, if you’d like to check if he’s still available. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

Although in some countries black cats unequivocally bring bad luck, in Germany the relationship is more complicated. A black cat moving from left to right will bring bad luck, whereas a black cat moving from right to left will bestow good luck on the person whose path it crosses. 

The German saying relating to this superstition is ‘schwarze Katze von rechts nach links, Glück bringt’s’, which means ‘a black cat from right to left brings good luck.’

  • Chimney sweeps 
Consider yourself blessed with luck! Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Bein

Seeing a chimney sweep (der Schornsteinfeger) is meant to bring good luck in Germany – particularly on New Year’s Day or on your wedding day. This is thought in part to be because traditionally chimney sweeps would collect the fee for their services on the first day of each new year, meaning they were often among the first to wish families a happy new year. 

There’s a lovely story behind the main photo on this story, and the one above. It’s a group of chimney sweeps from Saxony-Anhalt who hiked up the Brocken mountain on the 30th anniversary of German reunification in October 2020. The group of 16 meet once a year and want to bring luck to everyone. 

It is thought to be even luckier if you turn one of the silver buttons on their uniforms, get ash on your face from a chimney sweep or if you see a chimney sweep in the presence of a pig! 

Alongside the marzipan pigs often gifted on New Year, you can also often find little chimney sweeps modelled out of marzipan. 

Befriending a chimney sweep can be seen as having good luck on demand, as inviting a chimney sweep to almost any social event will, according to tradition, ensure that it runs perfectly smoothly.

READ ALSO: Friday the 13th: Eight strange superstitions that the Germans hold dearly

  • Knocking on the pub table

Having a pint in a German pub might seem like a more raucous occasion to you than you’re used to, particularly if you notice your friends knocking their fists against the table as you walk in. However, this tradition isn’t just about greeting your pals and preparing for a fun-filled evening: it’s actually a way of communicating to them that you’re not the devil in disguise. 

Did these friends knock on wood before the Germany played France on June 15th during the Euros? (France won 1-0, sob).

Traditionally, pub or tavern tables were made out of oak because it was seen as a holy tree that the devil was unable to touch. By knocking on the wood (Holz klopfen), the people sitting around the table are able to prove that they haven’t been possessed by the spirit of evil. 

But be sure to make eye contact as you’re clinking glasses in the pub and saying ‘Prost’ (cheers), or according to German superstition you’ll be cursed with seven years of bad sex. 

READ ALSO: Why do Germans make eye contact when they clink glasses?

  • Putting a coin in a new wallet

Gifts are a tricky business according to German superstition, and it’s easy to accidentally slip up and buy something that could leave the recipient silently cursing you for condemning them to years of bad luck.

A wallet is always a versatile gift for a good friend, but one thing to remember is that if you’re buying someone a new wallet for their birthday or Christmas, you should remember to slip a penny or another coin in it for good luck. This should mean that the person you are gifting it to will never be poor.

Everyone wants a bulging wallet. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez
  • Hanging up a horseshoe

Before the dawn of technology like social media and text messaging, lovers would send love letters which were delivered by horse and carriage. Waiting for word from their significant others, they would listen out for the telltale sound of horses trotting up to their houses. Finding a horseshoe (das Hufeisen) was actually seen as more lucky and desirable than receiving the letter itself. 

“Good luck! feel free to grab a horseshoe,” tweeted one person after finding a ton of horseshoes last year. 

Traditionally, horseshoes are hung from the front door to bless visitors with good luck, though there are mixed opinions on which way they should be hung. 

It was thought that when a witch saw a horseshoe hanging over a door, she would have to ride every single road touched by that horseshoe, deterring her from bringing wickedness to the house in question.

However, if you do have a lucky horseshoe, you are running the risk of bad luck too – misplacing or losing it is thought to bring bad fortune.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Germany

It’s that time of year again when many of us will be coughing and blowing our noses. If you're feeling a bit under the weather, here are the German words you'll need and some tips on what to do.

Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Germany

Corona – In German, Covid is most commonly called Corona. Self-isolation and quarantine (Quarantänepflicht) rules currently vary from state to state, but if you test positive for Covid, you’ll generally have to isolate for a minimum of five days and a maximum of 10. 

READ ALSO: Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of ‘difficult’ winter

Eine Erkältung – this is the German term for a common cold. You can tell people “I have a cold” by saying either saying: ich habe eine Erkältung or ich bin erkältet.

A cold usually involves eine laufende Nase – a runny nose – so make sure you have a good supply of Taschentücher (pocket tissues) at home.

If you have a verstopfte Nase (blocked nose) you can buy a simple nasal spray (Nasenspray) from your local drugstore. 

But in Germany, because only pharmacies are able to sell medicines, you will need to pay a visit to die Apotheke if you want to get anything stronger.

READ ALSO: Why are medicines in Germany only available in pharmacies?

At the pharmacy, the pharmacist will usually need you to describe your symptoms, by asking you: Welche Symptome haben Sie?

A woman with a cold visits a pharmacy.

A woman with a cold visits a pharmacy. Photo: pa/obs/BPI | Shutterstock / Nestor Rizhniak

If it’s a cold you’re suffering from, you may have Halsschmerzen or Halsweh (sore throat), Kopfschmerzen (headache) or Husten (cough).

For a sore throat, you might be given Halstabletten or Halsbonbon (throat lozenges).

If you’re buying cough medicine you will probably be asked if you have a dry, chesty cough – Reizhusten – or if it is a produktiver Husten (wet, productive cough).

If you have one of these you may need some Hustensaft or Hustensirup (cough medicine). If you have a headache, you may also want to pick up a packet of Ibuprofen.

While selecting your Medikamente (medication), the pharmacist might ask you a couple of questions, such as:

Sind Sie mit diesen Medikamenten vertraut?

Are you familiar with this medication?

Haben Sie irgendwelche Unverträglichkeiten?

Do you have any intolerances?

They will also tell you about any Nebenwirkungen (side effects) the medicine could have.

Die Grippe – if you’ve struck down with a more serious illness, it’s likely to be die Grippe – the flu.

Flu symptoms usually include Fieber (fever), Schüttelfrost (chills), Gliederschmerzen (muscle aches), Schmerzen (aches) and Appetitlosigkeit (loss of appetite). While both Erkältungen and Grippe are very ansteckend (contagious), flu is usually more debilitating and might require a visit to the doctor.

However, as the pandemic is still with us, many German doctors’ surgeries (Arztpraxen) still ask patients to stay away or come in during special hours if they have cold or flu symptoms. 

But if you need a sick note (eine AU-Bescheinigung) and are suffering from mild respiratory diseases, you can get this over the phone, until at least November 30th, 2022.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

If you are really unwell, however, you will need to go to the doctor at some point to get ein Rezept – a prescription. More serious cold and flu-related illnesses (Krankheiten) often involve Entzündungen (inflammations), which are often schmerzhaft (painful) and cause Rötung (redness).

Common inflammations include Nebenhöhlenentzündung (sinusitis), Bronchitis (bronchitis) and Mandelentzündung (tonsillitis).