Austrians are very connected to nature and a lot of the activities they routinely do, even in winter, involve staying outdoors. So it’s no wonder the language also reflects that passion for walking, travelling, and spending time in nature.
Some of the German words that are most famous to speakers of other languages reference this passion. Perhaps most notably, the term “Wanderlust” which has made its way to other dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, with the definition “a strong longing for or impulse toward wandering”.
The word is composed of “wandern“, which means to hike or roam about and “lust“, meaning “pleasure or delight”.
This is not the only word the German language has related to travelling. Another of the impossible to translate is “Fernweh“. It comes from “fern“, meaning “far”, and “Weh“, meaning “pain”. It is used to describe the longing for far-off places – in contrast to Heimweh, a feeling many immigrants might be very attuned to and could be translated to homesickness.
The German language also has several interesting and even funny expressions for walkers and travellers alike. The Local talked with German teacher and travel enthusiast Lutz Michaelis to collect a few of the best expressions.
“So weit dich deine/mich meine Füße tragen”
It literally means “as far as your feet will take you”. It is often said as an answer to the question, “where are you going?”.
“Die Sieben-Meilen-Stiefel anhaben”
“To wear the seven-mile boots”. This means being able to walk long distances fast. Lutz explains that it was actually based on French mythology and brought into the German language by writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
“Wer rastet, der rostet”
The translation would be “who rests, rusts”. It is used in the German language to say that being in motion is a good thing, not only with travelling but also to incentivise people to keep learning new things.
“Das Reisen kost’t Geld, Doch sieht man die Welt.”
It’s a very common rhyme used to show the downsides and benefits of travelling: “travelling costs money, but one sees the world”.
“Reisende soll man nicht aufhalten.”
It literally means that “travellers shouldn’t be stopped”. However, Lutz explains that the expression is not only used to refer to travellers but also to anyone that might be going through a transitional situation – such as someone wanting to change their jobs, for example.
“der Weg ist das Ziel.”
One of the most beautiful ones, and many languages have their own version of it. It translates to “the road is the destination”.
Of course, coming back home, especially for those suffering from Heimweh, can also be something beautiful. One common saying is “Wiedersehen macht Freude“, which means that to meet again brings happiness, used among those looking forward to seeing someone again after a long trip.
And one more…
Mainly in Germany, but also in Austria, there is a common joke about finding German people abroad. The rhyme goes “Hüte dich vor Sturm und Wind, und Deutschen, die im Ausland sind“, which could be translated as “Beware of storm and wind, and germans, that are abroad”.
“It refers both to the bad behaviour of Germans on holidays or travels and a dark joke and a funny nod to the fact that German troops have invaded other countries”, Lutz, who is a German himself, explains.