Embracing Germany's tradition of the Feierabend

Embracing Germany's tradition of the Feierabend

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

We’ve all been there — a really long day at work. A micromanaging boss, a co-worker who snuck into the fridge and ate your lunch, hours spent in meetings which could have (and should have) been conducted via email. As you watch the clock tick by, it’s almost the end of the day and sweet freedom is just on the other side of the door. Your German friend calls out, “Schönen Feierabend!” — happy end of the workday! Before you ask, this is definitely a real thing.

“Feierabend” refers to the pure, unadulterated joy you feel as you the finish work for the day. It also marks the act of reveling in the non-work part of the day. Before it was used as a celebratory phrase, it was commonly used in describing the evening of festivities before the start of a vacation or a holiday. Very loosely translated, “Feier” means “celebration” and “Abend” equates to “eve.”

Is there an American equivalent?

Sometimes there is no real translation for something — “Feierabend” is one of those things. The closest American cultural similarity is happy hour. During happy hour, friends and co-workers gather together and commiserate about their day over drinks and appetizers. It is also often used to try and lure in prospective clients to business deals. However, “Feierabend” is more of a celebration of the end of the workday and there is usually no business conducted during the revelry.

Why is “Feierabend” a big deal?

In German culture, the workplace or office tends to be more formal than their American counterparts. Our host nation prides itself on a strong work ethic, with employees having almost laser-like focus on the job. Water cooler gossip, coffee talk and other office shenanigans we’re used to are frowned upon in Germany. The notion of “Feierabend” helps foster a better work-life balance and keep it on a more even keel.

How to partake in “Feierabend”

In some of the larger cities such as Frankfurt and Berlin, some locals are so happy to celebrate the end of the workday, they don’t wait until they get home. Don’t be surprised if you’re on the U-bahn or train and see someone crack open a nice cold “Feierabendbier” to enjoy on the ride. Not a drinker? Not a problem! “Feierabend” isn’t just about imbibing in adult beverages. Grab a friend or two and head downtown for delicious gelato in the park. It’s more about celebrating being off the clock for the rest of the day and having the freedom to play and do what you like.

Even though sometimes things tend to get lost in translation, the feeling of sheer happiness and joy of cutting loose after a long productive day at the office is universal. Although there’s no direct English word, “Feierabend” is a fantastic German tradition we can all get behind. Schönen Feierabend, Freunde!

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