Useful German idioms

Useful German idioms

by Gretchen Kessler
Stripes Europe

“My English is under the pig!” you hear your German neighbor say one day when you’re outside enjoying a moment of spring sunshine before it unexpectedly begins hailing. “That’s April weather,” your neighbor remarks. You’re in such a rush to get in out of the hail that you nearly fall through the door. To this, your German neighbor smiles, and says, “That reminds me of another idiom…”

Figures of speech are a great way to fit in to your host country’s culture a little better. Just as in English, it elevates your fluency, and will be sure to impress the locals. The following phrases are just a handful which you can sprinkle into your daily conversations to add a bit of German authenticity.

“Mein Englisch ist unter aller Sau”: “My English is terrible.” Literal translation: “My English is all under the pig” (“Sau” being the female pig). Use it in reverse to tell them with a smile that your German is bad — “Mein Deutsch ist unter aller Sau!”

“Bewegung”: “Give gas!” It means: run, walk, don’t stand still. Get moving! A great phrase to use when you’re trying to get your kiddos to enjoy the great outdoors instead of sitting at home all day.

“Daumen drücken”: This is an expression for good luck. In English we say, “Keeping my fingers crossed for you!” In German: “I press my thumbs!”

“Mit der Tür ins Haus fallen”: “Come straight to the point.” Literal translation: “to fall into the house with the door!”

“Daumen hoch”: “Thumbs up!” This one is the same as in English. Literally “thumbs high.”

“Wie man in den Wald hineinruft, so schallt es wieder raus”: “What goes around, comes around.” The direct translation is “as you call into the forest, so it sounds out again!”

“April April, der macht was er will”: “Oh April, he does whatever he wants!” April weather is almost comically unpredictable in Germany. One April, I observed sunshine, then rain, then hail, then sunshine again—all in the space of an hour. When there’s crazy weather in other months, the only thing to do is shrug and say, “It’s April weather today!”

Keep a handful of these phrases in your back-pocket and impress your colleagues with your deep understanding of German language and culture. Daumen drücken!


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