German word of the day: Der Pendler

What’s behind the word that describes over half of the German workforce?

German word of the day: Der Pendler

Der Pendler or die Pendlerin is the German word for commuter and describes someone who leaves the boundary of their local area to travel to work, usually on a daily basis.

The noun Pendler comes from the verb pendeln which means to commute, as well as to oscillate or to swing between.

The origin of the word goes back to the Latin verb pendere, meaning to hang down or to suspend, which was later adapted to describe the swinging weight of a pendulum in the mid-17th century.

The word’s Latin roots perhaps account for the fact that several other European languages share a very similar word for commuter, such as Norwegian (pendler) Italian (pendolare), Swedish (pendlare), and Dutch (pendelaar).

A man with a briefcase walks past an ICE train.

A man with a briefcase walks past an ICE train. Photo: picture alliance / Sebastian Gollnow/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Pendler in Germany

Around 60 percent of German employees are Pendler (also the plural form) and have their place of work in a different federal state than their place of residence. Major cities like Munich, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg and Berlin attract the most commuters.

Die Pendlerpauschale (commuter allowance) is often spoken about to refer to the commuter travel allowance which is routed in German tax law.  

The pro-kilometre allowance means that employees who have a commute to their regular place of work can partially deduct the kilometres for this from their taxes.

In March, the traffic-light coalition government announced an increase to the Pendlerpauschale to 30 cents per kilometre for the first 20km and 35 from the 21st kilometre onwards.


Mein Kollege ist Pendler und verbringt jeden Tag über drei Stunden in der Bahn.

My colleague is a commuter and spends over three hours on the train every day.

Durch die vielen Pendler ist die Verbindung oft überlastet.

Due to the many commuters, the connection is often overloaded.

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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.