10 German words you need to know to keep up with the coalition talks

10 German words you need to know to keep up with the coalition talks
Traffic Lights outside the German Bundestag. Are you in favour of an Ampel coalition? Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte
There's a whole set of German vocabulary you'll need to know if you want to follow the ins and outs of the coalition talks. Here are ten words that can help you impress your friends during your next heated political debate.

1. (die) Sondierungsgespräche

Right now the Sondierungsgespräche – or exploratory talks – are happening between parties. These talks are for the political big-wigs to sound each other out, to see if there is a possibility to work together or if it will be too difficult. It’s basically the talks before the talks. And of course there’s a word for that in German.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s upcoming coalition talks

2. (die) Selfie-Sondierung

The very first exploratory talks took place in secret on Tuesday night and caught everyone by surprise. The Greens co-leaders Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck, along with the pro-business FDP’s head honchos Christian Lindner and Volker Wissing then almost broke the internet by posting a selfie of the group to each of their Instagram accounts. And that’s why we are including “selfie exploration” as a word you need to know. 

“Jokes or not – the four have achieved what they wanted to achieve with their joint post: to be the talk of the town everywhere,” said Bavarian broadcaster BR24.

“Some even want to recognise a historic moment. Media journalist Stefan Niggemeier says maybe it’s ‘silly to be impressed by such cheap Instagram symbolism, but this still feels like a bigger moment that you’re witnessing here.'”

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3. (die) Gesprächsrunde

Formulated with the German word for conservation or discussion (das Gespräch), this is basically a round of talks. A little more substance than the exploratory talks, the round table discussions will involve a bit more thrashing out of the key policy issues, like that niggling question of the Tempolimit on the Autobahn (to speed or not speed – that is the question). We told you this was riveting vocabulary right? 

4. (die) Regierungsbildung

Now that the election is over, the parties have been entrusted with the formation of a government – or Regierungsbildung. 

In this election the two smaller parties – the Greens and the FDP have wasted no time in teaming up in their quest to make a new government. They’re keeping the two bigger parties – the Social Democrats (SPD) and the centre-right CDU/CSU on their toes.

5. (die) Koalitionsverhandlungen

Finally we get to the official coalition negotiations. This is the moment where the finer details will be discussed in preparation for launching a new government partnership. We’re expecting three political parties in the new German government (more on the formations below). As you can imagine, it will take a good bit of time to keep everyone happy in the negotiations. 

Now you can see why it takes months for Germany to form a government.

6. (der) Rücktritt

All is fair in love and war… and politics. And it may come to a point where we see someone having to hand in their resignation – der Rücktritt.

At the time of writing on Friday, there were calls for CDU leader and chancellor candidate Armin Laschet to stand down. A majority of people in Germany believe he should give his resignation, according to a recent poll.

7. Ampelkoalition

Let’s look at those coalition formations starting with the Ampel – or Traffic Light. It’s part of the German obsession with colour-coded politics. 

An Ampelkoalition describes a coalition government led by the SPD (red), with the Greens and the FDP (yellow).

The term Traffic Light coalition originates from Germany and has subsequently been picked up by other countries to describe similar coalitions between social democrats, liberals and green.

A majority of Germans say they want this type of coalition following the election, with the SPD’s Olaf Scholz as chancellor.

READ ALSO: Jamaica or Traffic Light? What’s next for Germany and what does it mean?

8. Jamaika-Koalition

There’s another contender for the hearts of the Greens and the FDP – that’s CDU leader Armin Laschet. He wants to form a coalition with these two parties which would be a Jamaica formation. It has nothing to do with the country. It’s called that because the party colours of black, green and yellow match the Jamaican flag. 

Even though the SPD scooped first place in the election, it’s not inconceivable that the CDU could form a coalition government.

9. Große Koalition (GroKo)

A Große Koalition, or a grand coalition in Germany describes a governing coalition of the two biggest parties in one parliament.

In the caretaker German government, a Große Koalition (GroKo for short) exists between Angela Merkel’s CDU party and the SPD party. But neither side is eager to continue this so you probably don’t need to be talking about this too much at the moment unless you want to declare how annoyed you are at GroKo, or that GroKo is dead which would probably earn you some brownie points among your German friends.  

A guest at the SPD election party in 2017 holds up a 'no more GroKo' sign.
A guest at the SPD election party in 2017 holds up a ‘no more GroKo’ sign. Photo: picture alliance / Christian Charisius/dpa | Christian Charisius

10. bevorzugte Regierungsoption

What is your bevorzugte Regierungsoption – preferred government option?

Are you an Ampel, Jamaika or GroKo kind of person? Or did you have a completely different wish for the next German government? Take your pick and impress your friends with your German current affairs knowledge and vocabulary because who doesn’t love a politics nerd? 


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