Word of the Week: Tatendrang

Have you ever leapt out of bed on a particular morning flooded with the uncontrollable urge to get something done, such as hit the gym, clean up your home, or finally start writing that novel you’ve already mapped out in your mind? Then you were gripped by a sense of “Tatendrang.”

Germans are often defined in international organizations, when experts suggest how to work with folks from all over the world, as “task oriented people.” Such generic cultural cliches may not, of course, apply in each and every individual case. (Some German teenagers, for instance, may exhibit the same lack of “Tatendrang” when their parents suggest they clean up their rooms as many of their similarly cheeky and rebellious counterparts all over the world.)

So “Tatendrang” – which literally means “action urge” – describes that feeling you have when you just can’t wait to start getting stuff done. Another in a long and proud line of awesome German compound nouns, it is based on the words “Tat” (action, deed, task) and “Drang” (urge). (This is not to be confused, however, with “Tatort” (Scene of the Crime), which just happens to be the most popular and longest-running detective series on German television.)

Clearly the opposite early morning urge (rising early is another classic German cultural trait) to “Tatendrang” would be the desire to hit the snooze button and sleep in. People who do not like mornings in Germany are, moreover, known as “Morgenmuffel” (morning curmudgeons, morning grumpus) – and they are definitely a minority in a nation of “task oriented” early risers.

Chemnitz named the European Capital of Culture for 2025

Residents of Chemnitz celebrate the nomination of Chemnitz as the European Capital of Culture 2025. © Jan Woitas / dpa

A European selection jury has named the German city of Chemnitz the European Capital of Culture for 2025. The Saxonian city beat four other German cities on the shortlist: Hannover, Hildesheim, Magdeburg and Nuremberg.

The European Capitals of Culture initiative highlights and celebrates the diversity of European culture. It also brings international awareness to cities that receive these awards, often boosting tourism and bringing new life into a city’s culture. The initiative began in 1985, bringing more than 50 European cities into the spotlight thus far. The nomination of Chemnitz marks the third time that a German city has received the title; Weimar was a Capital of Culture in 1999 and Essen received the nomination in 2009.

To understand what makes Chemnitz unique, let’s take a look at a few fun facts about Saxony’s third-largest city:

1. Chemnitz is a city of contrast, a city where tradition meets modernity. Downtown Chemnitz features Bauhaus-style architecture, examples of New Objectivity and traditional structures such as the Rathaus.

2. Chemnitz’s town hall is a major attraction – and it consists of two parts. The Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) was built in the 15th century and gives visitors a glimpse into the city’s past. The New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) was built in the early 20th century in the Art Nouveau style.

3. Chemnitz is an art lovers’ paradise: From the Chemnitz Art Collections to the Gunzenhauser Museum, visitors can enjoy seeing collections of classical modernism.

4. In 1953, the East German government named the city Karl-Marx-Stadt and built a 23-foot tall bust of Karl Marx. Chemnitz was renamed after German reunification. The Marx statue remains one of the city’s major tourist attractions.

5. The city received its name from the River Chemnitz, which has a total length of 47 miles. The name Chemnitz means “stony brook”.

6. Chemnitz is just a short drive away from bountiful nature. The city lies at the foot of the Ore Mountains, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This mountain range is a great place for hiking, skiing and other outdoor activities.

Learn more about Chemnitz in this Deutsche Welle video below:

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Überzeugungskraft

Top politicians tend to possess it. So do the best trial lawyers and the most charismatic of silver screen sirens. It’s called “Überzeugungskraft” – literally “the power to convince” – and it’s something most of us either admire in others or aspire to achieve ourselves in various fora, from the personal to the political.

There is no plural form for this compound noun composed like so many German expressions of (at least!) two separate words – “Überzeugung” (conviction or – depending on the context – convincing) and “Kraft” (strength, power).

So it literally means “the power of convincing,” as opposed to “the power to persuade” which is “Überredungskraft” (which essentially means the power to persuade or talk someone into something).

The verb form is “überzeugen” (to convince). If someone is “überzeugend,” they are “convincing.” And if an individual is “überzeugt” he or she is “convinced” (or dedicated) or – in the religious sense – “devout.”

In this vein, you could for instance say: “Die Deutsche Mannschaft hat überzeugend gespielt.” (The German team gave a convincing performance.) Or one might say: “Sie kann sehr überzeugend sein.” (She can be very convincing.)

To ease the mind of a supporter of renewable sources of energy you could moreover, for instance, suggest: “Sie dürfen überzeugt sein, dass Deutschland die Energiewende schafft.” (You may rest assured that Germany will achieve its energy transition. – In this context: from a complete phaseout of nuclear power by 2022 towards more renewable sources of energy.)

At the same time, the expression “zu der Überzeugung gelangen / kommen dass … ” translates into “to become convinced that … ” or “to arrive at the conviction that … ” something or other may be the case. “Kraft” – not to be confused with a certain American company that produces cheese products and other foodstuffs – meanwhile adds the “oomph” to round out this expression.

Alternatively, a lack of strength in the physical sense is described via the adjective “kraftlos,” whereas a lack of power in the political sense is “machtlos.” Someone who has been stripped of their power, in turn, has been “entmachtet.”

Power, pure and simple, is “Macht” in German. But to achieve bona fide power, at least in the democratic sense of the word, you will need to convince others to genuinely believe in the particular course you would like to chart. To this end, you would be well advised to burnish your own personal powers of conviction, or “Überzeugungskraft.”

Word of the Week: Weichei

A “Weichei” (soft egg) has nothing to do with eating breakfast in Germany and everything to do with insulting a (usually) male individual by suggesting he really should “man up” about something or other, lest he run the risk of mockery for his wimpy ways.

This expression, like many jocular insults, is often used in jest of course. But it can be deployed to suggest someone is really being a “wimp” – either as a general character trait or within the context of a certain situation.

Yet another German compound noun, it is comprised of the words “weich” (soft) and “Ei” (egg), to literally mean “soft egg,” but actually mean “wimp.” It is thereby a synonym of sorts for “Feigling” (coward).

Another similar expression that boils down to mean just about the same thing is “Warmduscher”, which literally means “hot showerer.” This expression is used to connote someone who is a “wimp” because he (again, this usually applies exclusively to guys!) takes hot showers.

So if you are a guy and happen to be in Germany and hear someone call you a “Weichei” or a “Warmduscher”, you may want to ask why you have been branded a “wimp” by somebody.

“Waschlappen” (wash cloth) and “Memme” – a reference (like Mamme, or mammory) to female breasts – are also similar to “Weichei” in that they may be used as to describe a “wet rag” or “womanly” type of “wimpy” or “sissy” guy.

A “Weichei”, however has nothing to do with the soft-boiled eggs Germans enjoy during breakfast.

This is not the kind of Weichei we’re talking about.

Word of the Week: Leseratte

Do you read every night? Are you obsessed with your book collection? Do you feel like there’s something missing whenever you’re without the pages of your favorite author? Germans would likely call you a Leseratte!

In German, lesen means “to read” and Ratte means “rat” — yes, the kind you might find in the subway tunnel… or the pet store. So directly translated, Leseratte means “reading rat”.

But don’t feel insulted.

The word Ratte is often used to define someone who loves something very much. A Leseratte is a person who loves picking up a good book. Meanwhile, a Wasserratte is a person who loves being in the water (Wasser means “water”) and a Landratte is someone who is afraid to set foot on a boat and would rather spend his or her life on land.

But unlike a “book worm” (in German: Bücherwurm) who lives with his nose between the pages (and doesn’t get out very much!), a Leseratte simply loves to read. The closest English equivalent would be an “avid reader”.

The colloquial term originated in the late 19th century and has been used ever since. Rats were considered voracious creatures and people who “devoured” books without end were thus compared to rats. Although the presence of the word “rat” may give the word a slightly negative connotation, a Leseratte describes someone who possesses a love of books — which is in no way negative. So crack those books and keep on reading, you Leseratte!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Schlaumeier

© dpa / picture alliance

A “Schlaumeier” is someone who is clever or cunning. Given that this expression is deployed more often than not in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, it is best to be on your guard if someone calls you a “Schlaumeier.”

In German, “schlau” means clever, whereas “Meier” is a common surname, like “Smith” in English. Back in the Middle Ages, a “Meier” was someone who administered the property of a noble or ecclesiastical landowner. They often worked on a “Meierhof” or “Meiergut” (farm or estate). Later, as regular folk acquired more property rights, a “Meier” was also an independent sharecropper or farmer. Similarly, a “Meierei” was a “Pachtgut” (leasehold) farm or a dairy, which is also known as a “Molkerei.

Somehow over the centuries the expression “Schlaumeier” evolved to mean a clever, cunning or crafty person. Somebody who believes they are particularly clever may, in this vein, be jokingly branded a “Schlaumeier.”

© dpa / picture alliance

Synonyms for “Schlaumeier” include “Schlauberger,” “Schlaufuchs” (clever fox), and “Schlaukopf” (clever head). More critical synonyms might be “Angeber” (show-off), “Besserwisser” (know-it-all), “Intelligenzbestie” (intelligence ‘beast’) or – more colloquially – “Klugscheißer,” “Klugschnacker” or “Klugschwätzer” – all variations of what could essentially be defined as a kind of “know-it-all” teller of tall tales.

So “Schlaumeier” is usually a verbal imposter: This would-be compliment might more often than not be laced with a facetious undertone. Yet this expression is usually issued as a missive from one person to another in jest. So if someone exclaims in a teasing tone “Hey, du Schlaumeier du!” (Hey, you Schlaumeier you!), it could be interpreted as an exasperated or mocking term of endearment, especially when accompanied by a friendly pat on the back and a hearty chuckle.

A fun and oft-used related phrase in German is “Vereinsmeier” (Club-Meier). It pertains to Germans’ penchant for joining all sorts of clubs, such as athlectic clubs, gardening clubs or chess clubs. Germans like to get together in such clubs or associations (Vereine). Someone who, however, might be considerd to be too involved in too many such clubs, or take his or her involvement in such clubs just a tad too seriously, is often mockingly or derisively described as a “Vereinsmeier.”

Both “Schlaumeier” and “Vereinsmeier” are masculine nouns that are hardly ever used in a feminine form. Variations of the surname Meier, incidentally, include Maier, Mair, Mayer, Mayr, Meyer and Meyr.

Word of the Week: Dampfplauderer

You know that friend of yours who just won’t stop talking? That person you can never get off the phone, or the person who goes on and on with pointless stories? Germans have a name for someone like this: a Dampfplauderer! A Dampfplauderer is a person who has always has something to say, but never says anything of substance. This sort of person likes to hear him or herself talk. Unfortunately for the rest of us, we’re often stuck listening to a Dampfplauderer, pretending to be interested while contemplating how to end the conversation. The English translation for the word Dampfplauderer is “chatterbox” – and that’s a pretty good translation. The word chatterbox, after all, is usually associated with someone that has a lot of idle chatter, but says very few meaningful things. Listening to a Dampfplauderer, you might start wondering what the point of their story is, only to realize there is no point. The term consists of the words Dampf, which means “steam”, and plauder, which means “chat”. So a literal translation could be “steam chatter” – someone whose words come out like steam – lacking real substance.

Whether it’s a friend who likes to talk or someone who speaks too much in meetings, I’m sure we have all got a Dampfplauderer in our lives!

The Bastei: one of Germany’s most Instagrammable places

If you’re looking for a place with jaw-dropping views, add The Bastei to your bucket list. This rock formation stands 636 feet above the Elbe River in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, southeast of Dresden.

What makes this majestic rock formation even more spectacular is a wooden bridge that connects several of these rocks together. Visitors have been walking across the bridge since it was constructed in 1824 (and replaced by a sandstone version in 1851).

From the 12th to the 15th century, a fortress known as the Felsenburg Neurathen stood by the rock formations. This fortress, however, was burned down by an opposing army in 1484 and there is little left of it to see.

In 1801, tour guide Carl Heinrich Nicolai perfectly described the rock formation from one of its lookout points:

“What depth of feeling it pours into the soul! You can stand here for a long time without being finished with it (…) it is so difficult to tear yourself away from this spot.”

The rock formations have impressed so many people that The Bastei was even the location for Germany’s very first landscape photographs, taken by photographer Hermann Krone in 1853.

The Bastei continues to draw in photographers, as it has done for many years!

 

Word of the Week: Lebenskunst

Is your life as beautiful as a painting in an art gallery? Then you have mastered Lebenskunst! Lebenskunst means “the art of living well”. It comes from the words leben (“to live”) and Kunst (“art). If your life is filled with fine wines, exotic travels, delicious food, strong friendships and many hobbies, you have probably mastered the art of living; in other words, your life itself is beautiful – like art. You don’t have to be wealthy to be a Lebenskünstler (“artist of life”). You simply need to understand how to make the journey through life as joyful as possible.

Every individual has a different idea of how to create an artful, magical life that gets you excited to wake up every morning. Some people may be struck by the magic of a beautiful sunrise, and need nothing more to experience joy. For others, drinking a $300 bottle of wine would be an example of Lebenskunst.

But here’s one tip we can give you: if you see the beauty in every detail of life and use this beauty to create your own happiness, you’ll be on your way to becoming a Lebenskünstler. In very little time, examples of Lebenskunst will surround you.

A Survival Guide To Recycling in Germany

One of the most immediate culture shocks of traveling to Germany, especially if you grew up in the United States, is Germany’s seeming obsession with recycling. Whereas in the U.S. you are lucky if you can locate a recycling bin in public areas like parks or street corners, you’ll have the opposite problem in Germany, where you’ll find a sometimes confusing plethora of multi-colored bins. If you have been in this situation, looking around desperately to strangers or waiting to see what items other drop in each bin, we feel you. YOU are not alone. Even Germans sometimes question which bin is appropriate for which items.

Due to this common culture shock and the often harsh punishment one receives for a wrong move, we thought we’d give you the lowdown on German recycling.

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Step 1: Prevent creating waste in the first place

Germany has created and continues to develop a culture of minimal waste. This is true for projects big and small: here are a few examples of major reducers of waste.

Bag fee: Germany combats the environmental threat of excessive plastic bag-use by adding a small fee onto bags at stores. Even though it’s small, the fee has further motivated people to bring their own reusable bags or carts to stores. Some stores now don’t offer plastic bags at all–opting instead to offer paper bags for those who need them.

Lack of excess packaging: Say tschüss to those individually wrapped fruit packages or items wrapped individually in plastic, then wrapped collectively in plastic.

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Quality over quantity: According to a 2016 report by Germany Trade and Invest, Germans are well researched and particular consumers. They are much more risk averse and likely to return items that don’t meet their expectations. This makes things like quality labels or reviews really important and generally lends towards a population that has fewer, but higher quality possessions that don’t need constant replacement.

Step 2: Pfand

Imagine if, for every bottle–plastic or glass, you bought, you had to pay extra for it. The deal in Germany is that you pay more initially but then receive that surcharge back when you give the bottles back for recycling. So, just like when you weekly take the garbage out in the States, in Germany it is a regular habit to return your bin of recycling to super markets where you will find a machine like this:

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This machine scans the bar code of your items, and prints a receipt for you to redeem at the register. Basically, if you don’t recycle your eligible items for Pfand, you are losing money.

As a tourist, you have potentially experienced Pfand in a different way. At Christmas markets, stands will charge you extra for the mug that hot drinks are served in. You can choose to keep the mug as a memento, or to return it for Pfand.

You may have also been asked for your empty bottle in public by someone collecting them to return. This is potentially convenient for you, earns them a little money by returning them AND it is good for the earth. Triple whammy! There are even entire non-profits that fund themselves by collecting Pfand at events or concerts.

Step 3: Choose your bin

This part sounds really uncomplicated from an American perspective. Trash or recycling…right?

After giving back bottles for Pfand, Germans sort trash typically by paper, plastic, bio/organic, glass, and other. Though details are dependent on town or region, a general breakdown goes like this:

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Paper= blue bins. This bin is for cardboard, newspapers, magazines, waste paper, paper bags, etc, etc.

Plastic = Yellow bins. This is for plastic such as body wash, shampoo, sunscreen, laundry detergent, and juice bottles

Glass= Glass is sorted by color. There are different slots for depositing green, brown and clear glass. In this bin you should be putting any kind of jars (mustard, jam, yogurt, etc), oil bottles, wine bottles or the like.

Bio (organic) = green bins. This is for food waste like egg shells, banana peel, or scraps of food you didn’t eat.

Other = black bins. You choose your size and you’re charged accordingly. They send you a sticker each year to show that you’ve paid for it. Residual waste is garbage that neither includes pollutants nor reusable components. For example ash, dust bag, cigarette ends, rubber, toiletries, and diapers are thrown into the black bin.

Step 4: Enjoy a cleaner earth!

Though the effect of one person caring about the environment is small, the collective effort of a nation makes a dent. Germany leads the European nations in recycling, with around 70 percent of the waste the country generates successfully recovered and reused each year.

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Recycling is only one part of Germany’s environmental efforts. Find more about national and local environmental initiatives here: http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/07-Econ-Energy-Innovation/01-Energy-Climate-Env/Energy-Climate-Env.html