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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

9 German words to sum up your 20s perfectly

Whether just graduated, just dumped or just now trying to figure yourself out, sometimes you're just at a loss for words in your twenties. But The Local is here to help.

9 German words to sum up your 20s perfectly
"Bier" is, of course, the one word that goes without saying. Photo: Claus Rebler on Flickr

1. Fernweh – longing for a far off place

To be fair, you might get further if you choose a mode of transport that isn't wind-powered. Photo: Moyan Brenn on Flickr

You've probably had this itchy-feet feeling at least once during your twenties of Fernweh – literally a woeful longing for a distant place.

This is basically the opposite of homesickness, meaning a feeling of “anywhere but here”, perhaps specifically “anywhere but my hometown where all my high school friends have turned into pricks”.

This is probably how you ended up in Austria, trying to pronounce these foreign words in the first place.

2. Schnapsidee – idea that comes from too much Schaps

We twenty-somethings generally still seem to be figuring out that having a few too many beers or shots (or both) is generally not the best time for decision-making.

So when your friends suggest stealing a street sign right outside a police station – at noon – tell them it's a Schnapsidee and offer to buy them a Leberkâsesemmel instead.

3. Torschlusspanik – fear that you’ve missed out

Helping friends try on wedding dresses is a well-known cause of Torschlusspanik. Photo: DPA

When your Facebook and Instagram feeds seem to be perpetually filled with engagement and baby photos, you might be feeling Torschlusspanik.

Literally translating to “closed gate panic”, this is the feeling that a door has shut on something big, usually like finding a soulmate and settling down.

“Wasn’t our generation supposed to be delaying adulthood, pushing marriage into our thirties or forties? Will Tinder ever help me find my dream person?” you ask yourself as you swipe through another round of virtual suitors.

This also might lead you to feel…

4. Mutterseelenallein – forever alone

Photo: Manolo Gomez on Flickr

This literally translates to “mother's soul alone”, or so alone that not even your mother's soul is there by your side.

5. Hotel Mama – living with mum and dad

Hey, she got you this far – of course Mama doesn't mind! Photo: pawpaw67 on Flickr

Maybe a bit the opposite of the previous word, but Hotel Mama is the term some Austrians use when talking about people who still live with their parents as grown adults.

You might also be called a Nesthocker – a nest squatter.

Many of us may face this at some point in our twenties, and there's no shame in it – especially when suffering under all the debt from attending university outside continental Europe.

6. Lebensabschnittsgefährte – part-of-life partner

Things don't have to last forever to be beautiful, right? Photo: Amy Humphries on Flickr

If you do manage to move out of Hotel Mama and find someone to help you feel less mutterseelenallein, it’ll probably be with someone who isn’t quite your soulmate but more of a you-will-do-for-now mate.

We twenty-somethings may end up going through a slew of these, summed up in the mouthful of a word, usually used in hindsight, Lebensabschnittsgefährte: part-of-life companion.

The fact that there’s a word for this shows that Austrians just get the fact that not every person you fall for at a secret bunker band party is going to be your match for life.

7. Zukunftsangst – fear of the future

Getting through your 20s can be a little stressful. But German is here to help you talk about it! Photo: Sodanie Chea on Flickr.

Actually, you didn’t even need to look at the rest of the list, because this one really sums up the essence of being between 20 and 29. This fear at the start of the decade might propel you into graduate school to bide more time before having to really face Your Future.

This fear also might make you avoid certain family and friend gatherings, knowing too well that the f-word will inevitably come up, particularly if you mention that you're working as a waitress, yes, even with that degree.

And even if by 29 you have a job, an apartment and seem to pretty much have it all together, you probably still have this fear as you lurch toward 30, perhaps because that job isn’t exactly what you hope you’ll be doing forever.

Or because you know that there are ever more expectations hiding around the corner of the next ten years. (Ahem, babies).

But have no Zukunftsangst, because there’s another German word that might help change your perspective…


Granny pussy.  Photo: Paul Pour/Flickr

8. Kopfkino – picture this

Ever had someone mention a few words to you, and suddenly images start running in your head?  Especially something quite… tasteless.  Words like… “two girls, one cup”… “goatse”… “lemon party”… or “granny pussy.”   (Don't Google any of these, please.  You'll regret it.)

Those images, which form up like infantrymen and present themselves for inspection, are known in German as Kopfkino.

9. Lebenskunst – the art of living

It's not just the destination, but the journey, right? And your twenties, with few responsibilities, old-age-induced ailments and still plenty of energy, are a great time to focus less on what the end goal is, and more on the general process of living.

Lebenskunst and being a Lebenskünstler (life artist) is about approaching life like a work of art – something you might in a way already do with your active Instagram account.

But more fundamentally, it's about making life “magical in myriad ways… by putting a positive spin on everything and by taking pleasure in little things others might overlook,” as the German Information Center puts it.

So if you're underpaid (like most twenty-somethings) but you still find a way to carve out a budget vacation using buses, couch-surfing or perhaps hitch-hiking, maybe you're a bit of a Lebenskünstler yourself.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

How to swear like an Austrian

We are certainly not advocating the use of these words, but they are important to know (in case anyone uses them against you). Here are some words you certainly shouldn’t use with the in-laws or around the kids.

A specific book listing Austrian words
An Austrian language (i.e. German) book. Photo: Wikicommons

Geil

We’ll start with a word so common you’ve probably even heard some embarrassing politicians use it as they try to get down with the cool kids. 

Geil is used to mean “cool” or “wow”. To show extreme approval, you can draw it out and say guy-el.

The word literally means “horny”. It is often used in the following phrase “ej, du geile Sau”, which is a pretty crude way of telling someone you find them attractive (hey, you horny pig).

Our advice: be careful with this word! As common as “geil” is in everyday slang, it could still cause your conservative father-in-law to choke on his Lebkuchen during Christmas dinner.

Kruzifix!

This one is a shout out to all the old Austrian men out there. “Kruzifix!” or “Sakrament!” is something you shout out in pain in the southern state if you’ve stubbed a toe or accidentally hit your finger with a hammer.

Our rule: don’t scream this word out in the presence of a priest. Avoid using on Sundays.

Mist

Here is a classic German joke for you: An American tourist driving through the countryside is lost. He pulls up at a farm and shouts to the nearest farm hand “Hey Mister, I need some help.” The puzzled farmhand replies “Ich bin nicht der Mister, ich bin der Melker.”

The joke being – a Melker is someone who milks the cows. A Mister would theoretically be someone who cleans out the Mist, the manure.

The word Mist, which you mutter when something has gone wrong, literally dung, is even an acceptable word for children to use and is equivalent to “flip or “darn it” in English.

Our advice: one to avoid if you’re trying to impress teenagers, otherwise safe.

Leck mich im Arsch!

Literally translated, this means “lick my ass/arse.” But for any of you budding sexy smooth talkers out there, it’s not to be used in an amorous context – it’s English equivalent would be “kiss my ass/arse”, although it’s perhaps a little harsher. 

For you classical music fans out there, it’s also the name of a Mozart canon composed in Vienna in 1782. As you can probably guess, it’s not one of his best-known works – think of it as the Mozart equivalent of a diss track. 

Our rule: It generally shouldn’t be directed at anyone you like. Other than in a classical music context, you’re most likely to hear it screamed by frustrated bus drivers or footballers. 

<em>A young Mozart, presumably about to have his mouth washed out with soap. Image: Wikicommons</em>
A young Mozart, presumably about to have his mouth washed out with soap. Image: Wikicommons

Schattenparker!

This word belongs to the fantastic tradition of making up insults to throw at people based on perceived cowardly behaviour.

A Schattenparker is literally someone who parks in a shadow. Sensible behaviour, one might think. Not to the hardy driver though – parking in shadow proves you can’t take the heat.

Famed members of this very manly collection are Warmduscher (warm showerer) and Frauenversteher (woman understander) – even if these should not exactly be insults.

You can make up just about anything to add to the list, as this website proves.

Our advice: throw in a few original ones at Christmas dinner and your future relatives will be cooing at the progress you’re making in German.

Vollpfosten

This word is the equivalent to the English expression “as thick as two planks.”

You use it to insult someone’s intelligence “Ej, du Vollpfosten”, which means “hey, thicko”, or literally “you big pole”.

Our advice: One to keep in your arsenal if a driver cuts you off on your cycle to work and then fails to apologise.

A book listing uniquely Austrian words
You won’t find most of these words in this book. Photo: Von DONT TALK TO MY CAT – Eigenes Werk, CC, Wikicommons

Scheiße

We all know the German word for shit, but one of its most appealing qualities is the fact that you can stick it to the front of just about any noun to indicate disapproval.

“Der Scheißkerl” means “that arsehole”, but you can add it to anything, really. Scheißwetter, Scheißaufgabe, Scheißauto (weather, task, car)… the possibilities are endless.

In Austria, the term “Geh scheißn“, is often used, which politely put is a command telling someone to go use the bathroom because you don’t care what they do.  A similar expression is “es ist mir scheißegal”, which means “I don’t give a shit”. 

Another colourful term is “Dir haben’s ins Hirn gschissen”, translated as “Someone must have taken a dump in your brain”.  

Our advice: have fun with this one, but keep in mind that non-German speakers are probably going to understand you. 

Viennese swear words

The Viennese dialect features a number of colourful swear words including Schiache Funsn (ugly woman), Heast du Beidl (you dick) and Oasch (Arse). 

A Schastrommel is a word describing a gossip who spreads bad news about other people .

Fetznschädl means “cloth head”, and can be used to berate a forgetful person. 

If you want to really up the Viennese feeling, simply add the term Oida to any swear word. It can be loosely translated as ‘dude’, but can be used in almost any situation. 

So one way to tell some one to get lost is to say: “Schleich di Oida”, which means, “slither away dude”. 

Arschkalt

A seasonally relevant one to end things. Literally “arse cold” – we’re not really sure why – but it’s a good way to hate on the long, grey winter.

Our advice: We don’t recommend swearing in front of someone you’ve not met – but on a cold winter’s day, all you need to do is nod and say “Arschkalt, oder?” and you’ll have a new friend. 

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