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The 14 German words that have entered the lexicon in Austria due to the pandemic

August 25th marks 18 months since the first case of Covid was detected in Austria, with a couple treated in Innsbruck having arrived from Italy. With the pandemic changing Austria immeasurably, here are 14 words which have now entered the lexicon.

The 14 German words that have entered the lexicon in Austria due to the pandemic
The Notbremse has been given a new meaning. Photo: DPA

It’s not just foreigners who have had to add to their lexicon as the pandemic spread across Austria over past 18 months. Locals and internationals alike have also had to internalise a new vocabulary, as the pandemic has up-ended their so many aspects of their lives.

Never known for a love of small talk, meaningless chatter has been reduced even further over the past months in Austria – meaning it hasn’t been the best time to practise your German skills.

But if you have had one conversation, it is likely to be about the pandemic.

Here is the vocabulary you need to be able to keep up when talk inevitably turns to the virus. Some of them are completely new words, and some of them are old words that have been given an entirely new meaning.

Aerosole – (aerosols) The tiny particles produced when you cough, sneeze or speak. Because the virus is transmitted via these little particles that circulate in the air, it is recommended to regularly open the windows to ensure that fresh air circulates through the room.

Abstandsregeln – (distancing rules) The rules on social distancing have meant that German speakers have had to start using the term Abstandregel to describe keeping distance in various contexts. 

Babyelefant – (baby elephant) Named Austria’s word of the year in 2020, Babyelefant became a symbol in the fight against the virus.

During the first wave of the pandemic, Austria sought to encourage participation with the social distancing requirement by telling people to stay ‘a baby elephant apart’, i.e. one metre. 

‘Baby elephant’: Austria announces 2020’s word of the year

The distance was extended to two metres after the introduction of the British variant, with Austria’s Health Minister Rudolf Anschober saying “the baby elephant has grown up”. 

Dritte-Welle – (third wave) The plotted curve of viral infections resembles a wave. The rise begins gently but become ever steeper. The first wave occurred in spring, the second came in autumn. On March 15th, Anschober said publicly that Austria was now entering a third wave

Einkaufswagenpflicht – (shopping trolley obligation) Many supermarkets have decided to control the number of people entering their stores by only allowing people in if they have a shopping trolley. The result is this beautifully German word.

READ MORE: The new German words that perfectly describe the coronavirus pandemic

Impfpflicht – (vaccines mandatory) A particularly hard word to say, as it repeats the unusual “pf” consonant combination.

One of the most heated debates of the crisis has been over whether to make vaccines mandatory.

However, Austrian leaders have frequently reaffirmed the position that vaccines would not be made mandatory. 

Still, initiatives like the Impfpass (vaccine passport) have led to accusations of an Impfpflicht through the back door.

Lieferengpässe – (delivery bottlenecks) Another key plank of the pandemic response that hasn’t worked is the purchase and delivery of vaccines. While other western countries, such as Israel, the UK and the USA, have speedily rolled out vaccines, Austria is lagging behind.

Due to a lack of supplies and logistical problems with deliveries to test centres, the word Lieferengpässe has cropped up repeatedly in the press.

Maskenverweigerer – (mask refuser/refusnik) The people who refuse to wear masks in confined spaces. Unfortunate ticket collectors on trains have had to deal with these people. 

Q&A: Everything you need to know about Austria’s coronavirus vaccination program

Öffnungsperspektive – (opening perspective) As the lockdown drags on, businesses in the retail and gastronomy sectors are becoming increasingly worried about whether they will be able to survive. They have been demanding an Öffnungsperspektive: a definitive timeline for when their businesses can start operating again.

Reproduktionszahl – (R-value) This is a number published which estimates how rapidly the virus is spreading at any given moment. If the number is above one, that’s bad news. If it’s below one, the virus is on the wane (at least temporarily). 

Sieben-Tage-Inzidenz – (7-day incidence) This is another key value used by decision makers and refers to the number of positive tests per 100,000 inhabitants over the past week.

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Cost of living: Austria’s postal service announces prices increases

Prices in Austria continue to rise and, this time, mailing letters and parcels will become more expensive. Here is what you need to know.

Cost of living: Austria's postal service announces prices increases

Austria’s postal service Post said business is “difficult” due to “inflation and uncertainty in the energy market”, stating that the package volume has decreased while their operation costs went up.

The state company’s answer to the challenging scenario is to increase parcel prices, and the changes will be valid starting in October.

Starting on October 1st, prices for posting S letters will go up from €0.85 to €1, M letters from €1.35 to €1.40, S packages from €2.75 to €3 and M packages from €4.30 to €4.50.

READ ALSO: Cost of living: Why are petrol prices in Austria still so high?

“The first six months of 2022 posed major challenges for companies, especially in Europe”, Post said, stating that the “COVID-19 pandemic, its countermeasures and the resulting delays in the global value chain were the starting point for what is now a worldwide inflationary trend.”

“The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the price increases for important raw materials and energy sources. These conditions will continue in the second half of the year. There is also a risk that the energy market will remain difficult to predict and gas supplies in parts of Europe will not be secure.”

Rising inflation and staff shortages

Inflation has been rising in Austria, reaching 9.2% in July, with essential items becoming increasingly more expensive.

READ ALSO: Inflation at 9.2% in July: How to beat rising prices in Austria

So far, the wave of inflation has affected chiefly energy and food prices but has now also arrived in the gastronomy sector, with increasing costs in bars and restaurants across the country.

However, as fuel and energy prices soar, people in Austria will see increases in all sectors, including postage services.

Another major challenge in the Austrian economy is labour shortage – and Post is now having difficulty finding new employees, especially drivers and workers for its distribution centres.

READ ALSO: Five of the biggest challenges facing Austria right now

“We have virtually full employment”, Post CEO Georg Pölzl told the daily Der Standard. He said that the company could immediately hire 1,000 people – if they were able to find the workers.