7 German words you need to know before doing Germany – German Language Basics

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Speaking German – German language basics

Flights booked: check. Car rental: yup. Hotels: you betcha. German language basics: uhhh… I have German ancestry, is that sufficient? OR – I had two and half years in High School, is that going to be enough? Well, fact is, you can definitely get by and survive Germany with English language skills, but that isn’t the point here. It is always more satisfying to go abroad and be able to at least express yourself when you “need to go” or not make a fool of yourself for using the ladies room or pulling on a door that you should have just pushed in the first place. 7 words you need to know before doing Germany.



Drücken : ziehen – opening doors with a charm!

If you have never been abroad before, then you will surely find out that we take some of the simplest things for granted. This is also a prime device to figure out whether somebody speaks a language or not: So imagine. All you want is to try out the newest red starbucks cup(not). But somehow you need to get IN the starbucks. Broad daylight, the place is packed, there are four people behind you. You glance at the door handle. There is a sticker on the door stating “ZIEHEN”. Does that mean they’re open? So you push the door, smack your face on it; and have learned that you should have pulled (ziehen) that door; you just spoiled the crap out of your grand entrance.



Damen : Herren, which gender am I again?

Assuming we aren’t having a discussion about transgender bathrooms, there are usually only two options; You a man or you a woman. And anyone over the age of 18 months old usually doesn’t have to think long about this one. But which bathroom am I allowed to enter? Am I a Frau or a Mann? Thankfully, the word “Mann” or “Männer” starts with the same letter as “Men”. And if you are lucky; you opened up the correct door and are able to meet same-sex individuals doing their duty. And if there is a long line in front of the “Frauen” bathroom…. Most German ladies magically turn into men for a ten second pee session anyways!

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Verboten : Erlaubt – German language basics

Whether you want to make a campfire on quiet lake or take a dive into the baby-pool or before you ride your bike directly through the downtown area…. Please make sure you know the difference between “Verboten”(forbidden) and “Erlaubt”(Allowed). Americans are brought up in a “I can burn whatever the heck I want, wherever I want” mentality. The Germans on the other hand, see smoke from a freshly lit charcoal grill and contemplate whether the neighbor needs firefighter support or not. Those who are literate, have an advantage…. And less stress at the end of a Germanized day.




“Watch out” or “Heads up” is just a fantastic way to get someone’s attention of they need to follow any rules and regulations. So am I allowed to smoke here or not? Just look for a sign with the word Achtung on it, and you will most probably have to get your tush outside to go after your nicotine addiction. And the trick to this word is that most Americans/ Brits have major problems pronouncing it. I would say the word “Achtung” sounds like someone sneezing and getting punched in the gut, all at the same time.


German word in American language

1 Comment

  1. But so often, Germans don’t say “erlaubt,” the say “______-frei.” It took me a while to learn that “Fahrradfrei” means that bikes are allowed.

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