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LEARNING GERMAN

Nine expressions that perfectly sum up spring in Germany

As the days get warmer and the streets are awash with bright green foliage and cherry blossom, there are a few German words and expressions that you may find handy this season.

Daffodils bloom near Tegernsee in Bavaria.
Daffodils bloom near Tegernsee in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

German is not an easy language; most people agree about that. However, what many people don’t know (or will only learn once they start learning German) is how amazingly specific it can be.

German speakers have words for all sorts of things, and the way they form their vocabulary is also quite interesting.

As spring gets underway (finally!) and temperatures rise all over Europe, there are certainly a few words and expressions that will be very useful during the coming months.

Like in every language, some idioms shouldn’t be literally translated – but we will do it just for the fun of it. After all, it’s fun sometimes to understand only train station.*

READ ALSO: These eight words show just how different German and Austrian Deutsch can be

Here are a few expressions and words that you will probably hear, or might even incorporate, in the following months:

Sauheiß or Affenhitze

Sauheiß is literally “pig hot”, and Affenhitze would be “monkey heat”.

Both can be used for that extreme heat that is becoming ever more common during European summers.

Das Kaiserwetter

Literally, the “Emperor weather”, or something like a weather fit for an Emperor. Usually, they use that for those days when the sun is shining bright, and the skies are cloudless blue.

READ ALSO: Frosty German sayings that’ll make you a winter wordsmith

Some say the idiom comes from Austria. Emperor Franz Josef had an August summer birthday and enjoyed sunny birthdays.

Etwas Sonne tanken

To fuel up with the sun. It is a very typical sentence, especially by the end of summer days, as winter looms closer and Austrians, Germans, and Swiss know that they need to “stock up” in that summer feeling to face the cold and dark days (weeks and months) ahead.

Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter, es gibt nur falsche Kleidung

This is a very typical expression and a life lesson, really. It means “there is no bad weather, only wrong clothes” and it’s usually said during winter and cold days.

The life lesson could also be employed during summer – at least to a certain degree, unless you go for the FKK (frei korper kultur), of course.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Die Sonne lacht

Literally means the sun is smiling or laughing, and it’s used for when the sun is shining. A less sweet version would be “Die Sonne scheint” (the sun is shining). 

Badewetter

When the weather is hot and sunny as well, there are few things Germans like to do more than take a dip in an idyllic lake or even (for the brave) the North or Baltic Sea.

No matter what part of Germany you find yourself in, there are bound to be at least a few beautiful lakes nearby that are perfect for swimming, complete with options of fun waterslides for kids and artificial beaches. The many public pools and parks options also allow for fantastic swimming opportunities for the city dwellers, so don’t miss out when it’s Badewetter (swimming/beach weather).

READ ALSO: The five best Bavarian lakes for a spring day trip

April April, der macht was er will

Watch out for those days when sun and rain take turns for hours on end, or when it’s the middle of April, and it just starts snowing. This is when Austrians will typically shrug and say: April, April, it does what it wants to.

A man takes a nap on the riverbank of the Tegernsee

A man takes a nap on the riverbank of the Tegernsee in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Auf der Sonnenseite des Lebens stehen

This literally means “to be on the sunny side of life” and is used to say that someone has a nice life – who wouldn’t when standing in a sunny place?

Geh mir aus der Sonne!

Finally, a good expression for those tired of being bothered by someone else. After all, nobody wants to share the sun with an annoyance – or find that same annoyance casting a shadow over their sun-lounger. It means something like “get out of my sun” and is used in the same way as “get out of my face”.

READ ALSO: Why traditional German names are often used as insults

*Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof is a very famous German idiom that is literally translated as “I understand only train station”. It means “I don’t understand a single thing”.

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GERMAN LANGUAGE

10 ways to express surprise in German

From woodland fairies to whistling pigs, the German language has a colourful variety of phrases to express surprise.

10 ways to express surprise in German

1. Alter Schwede!

You may recognise this phrase from the cheese aisle at the supermarket, but it’s also a popular expression in Germany for communicating surprise. 

The phrase, which means “old Swede” comes from the 17th century when King Frederick William enlisted the help of experienced Swedish soldiers to fight in the Thirty Years’ War.

Because of their outstanding performance in battle, the Swedish soldiers became popular and respected among the Prussians, and they were respectfully addressed as “Old Swede”. Over the last three hundred years, the phrase developed into one to convey awed astonishment. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day – Alter Schwede

2. Holla, die Waldfee!

This curious expression literally means “Holla, the wood fairy”. It can be used both as an exclamation of astonishment and to insinuate that something is ridiculous.

Engraving of a fairy in the picnic park in Enfield in the UK.

Engraving of a fairy in the picnic park in Enfield in the UK. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Mareike Graepel

There are various explanations as to how the forest fairy made it into the German lexicon. Some say that it comes from the Grimm’s fairy tale “Frau Holle,” while others say it comes from an old song called “Shoo, shoo, the forest fairy!”

READ ALSO: 10 words and phrases that will make you sound like a true German

3. Das ist ja ein dicker Hund!

Literally meaning “that is indeed a fat dog!” this expression of surprise presumably originates from a time in the past when German dogs were generally on the thinner side.

4. Ich glaube, ich spinne!

The origin of this expression is questionable, because the word “Spinne” means “spider” and also “I spin”. Either way, it’s used all over Germany to mean “I think I’m going crazy” as an expression of surprise.

5. Ich glaube, mein Schwein pfeift!

The idea of a pig whistling is pretty ridiculous, and that’s where the phrase  – meaning “I think my pig whistles” – comes from. Germans use this expression when they can’t believe or grasp something, or to express that they are extremely surprised.

The pig Rosalie stands on a farm in a pasture.

The pig Rosalie stands on a farm in a pasture. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

6. Meine Güte!

This straightforward phrase simply means “my goodness” and is a commonly used expression of astonishment.

7. Oha!

More of a sound than a word, this short exclamation will let the world know that you are shocked by something.

READ ALSO: Denglisch: The English words that will make you sound German

8. heilige Blechle!

Often when surprised or outraged, we might let slip an exclamation that refers to something sacred. This phrase fits into that bracket, as it means “holy tin box”. 

The peculiar expression comes from the Swabian dialect and refers to the cash box from which the poor were paid by the Church in the Middle Ages.

The green house number nine which won an award for energy-efficient renovation and construction in Saxony-Anhalt.

The green house number nine which won an award for energy-efficient renovation and construction in Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

9. ach du grüne Neune!

This slightly antiquated expression literally means “oh you green nine!”, or “oh, my goodness!” and is one you’re more likely to hear among the older generation of Germans.

The origin of the phrase is disputed. One explanation claims that it comes from the famous 19th century Berlin dance hall “Conventgarten” which, although it was located in Blumenstraße No. 9, had its main entrance in “Grüner Weg”. Therefore, the locals renamed it as “Grüne Neune” (Green Nine).

Another explanation is that the phrase comes from fairs where playing cards were used to read the future. In German card games, the “nine of spades” is called “green nine” – and pulling this card in a fortune telling is a bad omen.

10. Krass!

The word Krass in German is an adjective that means blatant or extreme, but when said on its own, it’s an expression of surprise. Popular among young Germans, it’s usually used in a positive way, to mean something like “awesome” or “badass”.  

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