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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

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
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

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.”

Examples: 

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.

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Kladderadatsch

Whether it’s a pile of clothes on the floor or even the downfall of a political system, this is a German word for all things messy and chaotic.

German word of the day: Kladderadatsch

The German language is full of wonderful words that don’t have a true English translation: a personal favourite is Verschlimmbessern, which means to try and improve a situation only to end up making it worse. Der Kladderadatsch is another word which defies simple translation, meaning something like “unholy mess” or “clutter”, but also “chaos”,  “collapse”, or “crash”.

The reason for this slightly strange combination of meanings is that Kladderadatsch is onomatopoeic: it describes the sound that disorganised things make. When the word is used to describe a crash, an English onomatopoeic equivalent would probably be “kerblam!” or something similar. When you’re explaining that your bedroom is a mess, however, you’re most likely instead hoping to convey the idea of clutter – not that your laundry is making a “kerblam” noise! 

In a political sense, Kladderadatsch can also mean a particularly messy scandal.

Although Kladderadatsch can most likely trace its origin back to early 19th century Berlin, the word only became particularly popular following the first publication of a satirical magazine called Kladderadatsch in 1848. This magazine, published weekly from 1848 until 1944, was born out of the radical student protests of the time, which many believed were the signs of the old political system collapsing. 

According to legend, the founders of the magazine – Albert Hofmann and David Kalisch – came up with the name after watching a dog jump up onto a tavern table, knocking over bottles and glasses alike. Watching the chaos before them, they recognised the parallels with their political times, and so Kladderadatsch was christened.

EXAMPLES:

Ich habe den ganzen Kladderadatsch in den Müll geschmissen.

I threw the whole mess into the rubbish

In unserer Stadt gab es deswegen einen großen Kladderadatsch

There was a big scandal in our town because of it

Seine Geschäfte endeten mit einem großen Kladderadatsch

His businesses ended in a big ‘crash!’

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