10 everyday German expressions and how to use them

When one thinks about Germany, the first things that come to mind (despite the often inglorious history of Germany if you are a history student) are most likely Munich, the Oktoberfest, pretzels, and beer.

Maybe you have also heard that Germans are very punctual and direct in telling someone their opinion. The German language is popular for its complicated terms; there are many articles that no one – even the Germans themselves – don’t really know how to use.

But many people don’t know that we have many funny sayings we use in our everyday life. If you ever want to go to Germany (maybe on the Oktoberfest?) and impress someone with your skills, here are the top 10 German sayings!

  1. “I think my pig whistles.” (Ich glaube mein Schwein pfeift.)

In a scandalous, surprising, egregious, or shocking situation, Germans love to use this personification of a pig, which is as strange as the situation itself. We know pigs squeak and grunt, but there is no evidence for whistling pigs.

There is also an English term that exists for this kind of situation: “to teach the pigs to play the flute.”

  1. “There step dances the bear.” (Da steppt der Bär.)

This old term refers to medieval fun fairs where trained bears would dance. You want to throw the most hilarious party our University ever had? Invite the Germans with this sentence and we will definitely come!  Where the bear “step dances” is where the best party happens!

  1. “You shine like a honeycakehorse.” (Du strahlst wie ein Honigkuchenpferd)

If someone is really happy and smiles the whole time, Germans call them a “honeycakehorse” and have no idea what they imagine by this term.

  1. “You go me animally on the cookie.” (Du gehst mir tierisch auf den Keks.)

Animally means “a lot” and cookie symbolizes your head. If someone drives you crazy it is common to warn them before having a fit of rage with this sentence.

  1. “That is jacket like trousers.” (Das ist Jacke wie Hose)

If two things don’t differ from each other, you use this term. You can also say this if it doesn’t matter to you (ex. when someone asks if you prefer playing soccer with a red or a green ball)

  1. “Only the hard ones come in the garden.” (Nur die Harten kommen in den Garten.)

If you want to achieve an aim or a target, you have to work for it very hard. Only if you continue working on yourself, you can fulfil your dreams (and get access to the garden).

This very popular saying is often used to motivate people and remind them that you achieve goals by hard work, and not by complaining.

  1. “Enjoy life in full trains!” (Genieße das Leben in vollen Zügen!)

This means that you should enjoy life with every breath you take. Germans use this sentence when they do something that makes them feel happy (ex. holidays, reading a favourite book, go on parties, eat tons of chocolate).

Older people tend to use this sentence ironically when younger people overact something.

  1. “I only understand train station.” (Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof.)

If you don’t understand what the person next to you is talking about, you understand as much as you would when a train passes the station.

We also use this term when we refuse talking. Originally it was used by soldiers after the First World War when they don´t want to speak about anything else than their return to their families.

  1. “With him is not good cherry eating.” (Mit dem ist nicht gut Kirschen essen.)

This term is used if you don’t like a person.

In medieval age, cherries were expensive and only wealthy people could afford to buy them; they would only be shared among other wealthy people. But if they could identify unwanted guests, they spit cherry stones on them and used this expression.

  1. “Holla the wood fairy!” (Holla die Waldfee!)

When Germans are surprised or amazed by something they will call “Holla the wood fairy!”

Now you are prepared for your next visit of Germany. I am sure you can impress Germans with this insider knowledge. And because “everything has an end – only the sausage has two.”* I will close this article and hope that you think it was “very first cream”!**

* = an expression commonly used to put an end to a story.

** = excellent. Cream and fats were luxury products which would only be used for special occasions like birthdays (used on top of the birthday cake). So it was good stuff. When something else in your everyday life was good, you compared it to this treat.