German word of the day: Büffeln

If you or your children are gearing up for an exam, this colloquial verb might come in handy.

German word of the day: Büffeln
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Most people will know the feeling: you have an exam coming up and have to work and study extra hard in preparation – often cramming in revision the night before.

Not to be confused with the German word for Buffalo: “der Büffel”, büffeln as a verb that roughly translates to “cramming”.

However there may be some connection to the wild animal – revising to the point of feeling like an overworked buffalo or ox before the plough. Similarly, even the verb “ochsen” is used to signify working diligently at something, with the root of the word stemming from the German word for ox “Ochse”.

Büffeln is a colloquial term (or umgangssprachlich), which can have similar connotations to the British informal term “swot” – a student, perhaps a teacher’s pet, working extremely hard. The noun form of the word, “der Büffler”, can therefore be used in this context. 

Other study terms that are used synonymously to büffeln are pauken, bimsen or stucken.

READ ALSO: What it’s like to study abroad in Germany during a pandemic

Young people sitting an exam at a school in Dresden.

Young people sitting an exam at a school in Dresden in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

The first university semester is coming to an end for many students in Germany, meaning exam season is coming up and a lot are surely planning on some “büffeln” (me included!).


Ich kann heute Abend nicht feiern gehen, ich muss für meine Prüfung morgen büffeln.

I can’t go out tonight, I have to cram for my exam tomorrow.

Obwohl ich versuche, im Voraus zu lernen, scheine ich immer in letzter Minute zu büffeln.

Although I try to study in advance, I always seem to cram at the last minute.

READ ALSO: Studying in Germany: These are the words you need to know

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German word of the day: Lüften

One of the first lessons you learn when living in Germany is that airing out rooms is extremely important.

German word of the day: Lüften

Whether you sublet, rent a flat or own your home in Germany, it’s likely you’ve been told how important it is to lüften, or open your windows and let air in and out regularly. 

Lüften can be a verb or noun in Germany. As a noun it uses the ‘das’ article and stands for ventilation. The verb lüften means to air out something. It comes from the German word die Luft which means air.

The proper airing out of rooms is a very German thing. Hell, it’s a way of life. 

Just check your rent contract. Foreigners in Germany are often surprised to find that ventilating their homes is usually written into their contract and accompanied by instructions. That means it’s literally legally binding! 

There are very important rules to remember, and German even has a set of vocabulary dedicated to getting fresh air safely in and out the room. 

Words like Stoßlüften – which translates to shock or impact ventilation. This is needed at least twice a day (and more in summer) and involves opening the windows or balcony doors wide to let a ‘shock’ of cold air in. According to experts, you should do this for about five minutes a time in winter, 10-15 minutes each time in autumn and spring, and up to half an hour in summer.

Meanwhile, Querlüften or cross ventilation involves opening all the windows of a house or building and letting the fresh air flow through.

The aim of all this lüften is to stop mould from forming, get rid of smells and to stop rooms from getting too humid. The more people that live in your home, the more airing out you’ll have to do. 

Germans recommend that you turn off your heating while airing out your room (to save on money and to protect the climate) – so be sure to have a big jumper on if you’re airing out in winter. 

READ ALSO: Why Germans are obsessed with the art of airing out a room

Lüften took on a whole new meaning in the pandemic as other countries – or at least those that didn’t have the same culture for airing out – began recommending it to people as a way of helping protect against Covid-19 transmission.  

A good German habit

Lüften can quickly become a habit. Whereas before Germany, I was happy to leave a window tilted open for a while to get some fresh air, I’m now obsessed with the proper way to do it. 

I throw open the windows of my flat wide at regular intervals to get that fresh air circulating, even in the dead of winter. When I’m at home in Scotland or on holiday somewhere else, I do the same thing, which can be alarming to people who think you are trying to freeze them.

I find myself feeling pleased when the neighbours across the road from my Berlin flat open their windows or balcony doors wide. It’s like we’re all part of the secret society of fresh air.

There is nothing now that stands between me and Lüften. When I tweeted about this habit, lots of people said they felt a similar way. 

One Twitter user said: “Been telling my family this for years – as they shiver and complain about how cold it is, and my partner and I passive-aggressively follow each other around shutting and reopening windows. Makes for fun times.”

Another said: “My little sister spent an exchange year in Germany before me and when I visited was thoroughly disturbed by her obsessive window opening. A couple years later I was living in Germany and had become a convert, too.”


Hey Karl, Kannst du bitte dein Zimmer lüften?

Hey Karl, can you please air out your room?

In Deutschland muss man die Zimmer richtig lüften.

You really have to air out rooms the right way in Germany.