Funny German phrases

19 German slang phrases you need to master

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If a German 'gets on your cookie', it's probably because they have 'hair on their teeth' – but is it really worth making an 'elephant out of a mosquito'?

If you are living in Germany and want to fit in like a German local, there's not better way than learning the local lingo.

1. Blau machen

Germans don’t 'cut school or work', they 'make blue'.

2. Jemanden aufmischen

A German won't 'beat someone up', but instead 'mixes someone up'.

3. Jemanden durch den Kakao ziehen

Germans don't 'make fun of you', they 'pull you through the cacao'.

4. Nur Bahnhof verstehen

It’s not 'all Greek' to a German if they don't understand – instead they 'only understand train stations'.

5. Einen Korb geben

Germans don’t 'turn you down' if you ask for a date but they will 'give you a basket'.

6. Dreck am Stecken haben

Germans don’t have 'a skeleton in their closet' – they have 'dirt on the stick'.

7. Ordentlich Holz vor der Hütte haben

A German woman does not have a 'nice rack', she has 'a lot of wood in front of her shack'.

8. Ein Brett vorm Kopf haben

Germans are not 'slow on the uptake', but they could have 'a plank in front of their heads'.

9. Ins Gras beißen

Germans don't 'bite the dust' – they 'bite the grass'. 

10. Den Löffel abgeben

Alternatively, they might just 'hand in the spoon'.

11. Auf den Keks gehen

Germans don't 'get on your nerves', but they might 'get on your cookie'.

12. Ins Fettnäpfchen treten

Germans don’t 'commit a blunder' – they 'step in a bowl of grease'.

13. Haare auf den Zähnen haben

Germans don’t have a 'sharp tongue', instead they have 'hair on their teeth'. 

14. Pantoffelheld

A German husband is not 'henpecked', he is a 'slipper hero'. 

15. Den inneren Schweinehund überwinden

German don’t 'overcome their weaker self', they overcome their 'inner pig-dog'. 

16. Aus einer Mücke einen Elefanten machen

Germans don’t make 'a mountain out of a mole hill', they make an 'elephant out of a mosquito'.

17. Die Wahl zwischen Pest und Cholera haben

Germans don’t have to 'chose between the devil and the deep blue sea' but they might have to 'chose between pestilence and cholera'.

18. Geh doch dahin, wo der Pfeffer wächst

Germans are not told to 'go jump in a lake', they are told to 'go where the pepper grows'.

19. Tomaten auf den Augen haben

Germans are not 'blind', they have 'tomatoes on his eyes'.


Barbara Litzlfellner / Reprinted with permission of Matador Network.

Barbara is a German-born Austrian with unresolved identity issues and a degree in Ecology and Nature Conservation. She travels the world whenever she can, equally chasing interesting stories and fluffy cats. If there is no feline to be petted, she writes for Adventure Herald, an adventure travel magazine.

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