The one German word you’ll need in Austria this winter

Gemütlichkeit is one of the defining characteristics of Austrian culture - and it really comes into its own in the colder months. Like many useful German words, it has no real equivalent in English. It refers to a lifestyle or attitude that combines comfort and cosiness with a sense of belonging, community and contentment.

The one German word you’ll need in Austria this winter
A roaring fireplace and a glass of wine... ganz gemütlich. Photo: Christian Rasmussen

It can be rather a foreign concept to stressed out and overworked Brits or Americans, but is something we could definitely learn from.

Whilst most English speakers understand Schadenfreude or Zeitgeist, Gemütlichkeit should be added to the English lexicon too. Both gemütlich and Gemütlichkeit (the adjective and the noun) are now included in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), but are yet to become common usage.

Gemütlichkeit is perhaps best translated in one word as “cosiness”, but the English word can only express one aspect of the German meaning. Gemütlichkeit or cosiness could be epitomized by the image of a snug room with a sofa nestled next to a roaring open fire, but the German word also describes a friendly, jovial atmosphere, and the resulting state of mind.

The OED proves this point by defining Gemütlichkeit as “the quality of being pleasant and cheerful; cosy, snug, homely; genial, good-natured”. It can also go further and describe a feeling of belonging (also summed up in one German word – Zugehörigkeitsgefühl), or peace of mind and social acceptance.

As the weather gets colder, there's no doubt you'll long for a bit of Gemütlichkeit as you make your way back from work in the frozen dark. You may hear your Austrian friends use the word to describe a whole host of things from people, to a beer in a warm bar, a hearty and leisurely meal, to evenings at home watching a film. Bascally anything that nourishes your soul and warms your heart without being hurried or hectic.

The word instantly conjures up the perfect situation: a candle-lit room, comfy sofa, cup of something hot, and someone to cuddle up with. Or, just as easily, a meander through a town centre lit up with Christmas lights and stands selling hot Maroni (chestnuts) and candied almonds. A feeling of true wintry contentedness.


Today in Austria: A round-up of the latest news on Friday

Find out what's going on today in Austria with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Person getting vaccinated

Extra doses of vaccine to come to Austria

Austria will receive 198,815 additional doses of Biontech Pfizer vaccine doses, after the EU purchased an extra 10 million for member states, Der Standard newspaper reports. Austria had hoped the EU would give it even more extra doses to make up for AstraZeneca delivery problems which means it may fall behind in vaccination this year. 

No Austria-wide lockdown for now, says Kurz

The lockdown in the eastern states of Austria will stay limited to these regions for the time being, Chancellor Kurz  said on Thursday.  He said the country’s intensive care units, showed big differences between regions. States should help each other in the admission of intensive care patients, the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports. 

Record deficit in Austria 

The pandemic has driven the deficit in Austria  to a record level of 8.9 percent of GDP in 2020. The €33.2 billion missing from the state budget, is the highest deficit since records began in 1954. The national debt ratio also rose in 2020 by 13.4 percent to  83.9 percent of economic output, it reports. Preliminary results from Statistics Austria show government spending rose by 12.6% or €24.4 billion compared to 2019 to a total of €217.4 billion, the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports. 

Unemployment fell in March

Unemployment fell significantly in March, but is still at a high level. At the end of March, 457,817 people were registered as unemployed or in AMS training, 51,106 fewer than last February and 104,705 fewer than in March 2020. The unemployment rate at the end of March was 9.4%, a decrease of 1.3 percentage points compared to February and 2.9 percentage points compared to March 2020, the Wiener Zietung newspaper reports 

E-moped sharing scheme comes to Vienna

A new e-moped sharing has been available in Vienna since Thursday. The Go Sharing company starts renting its e-mopeds. Initially the fleet will comprise 200 vehicles, by the end of the year 500 of the green-painted mopeds should be on the road, broadcaster ORF reports.