Word of the Week: Gernegroß

Man with mp3 player

Gernegroß. This German word sounds like it would be simple to define – but it’s not. Although it translates to “wanting to be big”, it has nothing to do with one’s height, weight or physical appearance.

Gernegroß is a noun defining a person who sees himself in a better light than others do – someone who likes to brag, show off or act more experienced than they are. There is no English translation, but the words “wannabe” and the colloquial term “whippersnapper” (an overconfident or presumptious young and inexperienced person) come close. Unlike a young whippersnapper, however, a Gernegroß can be any age.

Being called a Gernegroß is not positive. If someone calls you a Gernegroß, they are probably annoyed by how you are acting. It may be time to stop bragging and gain a more humble spirit.

The benefits of learning German in 2019

We’re two weeks into a new year – a time of resolutions and planning. Why don’t you make learning German one of your intentions?

About 130 million people worldwide consider German their native or second language. It is the most widely spoken native language in the European Union, the third most widely taught foreign language in the US and the EU, and the third most widely used language on websites. It is the official or most widely spoken language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and several other regions such as South Tyrol. Plus, one tenth of all books worldwide are being published in German. It is no secret that learning German makes you more employable (while also allowing you to read the works of Kant and Hegel in their native language – another plus!).

For many, learning German might seem like a daunting task. After all, Duden states that there are 23 million words in the German language. But an average German speaker only uses 12,000 to 16,000 words in his or her everyday life, which makes learning German a little more manageable! And even with a small vocabulary you can create bigger, longer words. For those of you who know a little bit of German already, we’re sure you know what we mean! German words are like chemical elements: you can combine several of them to make something entirely new!

Germans are also the single largest ethnic group in the US (with almost 50 million Americans claiming German ancestry), and 1.38 million people in the US speak German, according to the US Census. A 2015 study also found that interest in German is growing at a particularly high rate in China, India in Brazil, and that 15.4 million people worldwide are currently learning German.

At GermanyinUSA.com, we regularly post a German Word of the Week to share fun, interesting or unusual German words with our readers, and also provide information to help you learn German wherever you may be. We invite you to take a look at our latest words and feel free to suggest others in the comments!

Word of the Week archive

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 care 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 a colleague who speaks too much in meetings, I’m sure we have all got a Dampfplauderer in our lives!

Garmisch-Partenkirchen: The Aspen of Germany

Aspen, Colorado and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany have many traits in common: both are picturesque towns built against the backdrop of some of the world’s most beautiful mountains, attracting hikers, explorers, and winter sports enthusiasts who seek an escape from city life. Although Aspen has multiple sister cities across the world, its partnership with Garmisch-Partenkirchen dates back to September 23, 1966 — the first of its sister cities.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is located in Bavaria, near the Austrian border and close to Germany’s tallest mountain at 9,718 feet tall — the Zugspitze. Thanks to its proximity to the Alps it is one of Germany’s major resort towns, but it also has a turbulent past.

© colourbox

For many centuries, Garmisch and Partenkirchen were separate towns. The original Roman road passed through Partenkirchen and was first mentioned in history in the year A.D. 15. From the 13th century until the early 19th century, the prince-bishops of Freising ruled the region, and governed from the nearby Werdenfels Castle. Like much of Europe, during the 16th century the towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen were subject to hardships including the bubonic plague outbreaks and witch hunts. Those accused of witchcraft were tried and burned at the stake at the Werdenfels Castle. In the 17th century, the castle was seen as a place of terror, and was abandoned. Today, only ruins remain.

During Adolf Hitler’s ruling in the early 20th century, the region was chosen as the site for the 1936 Winter Olympics. In preparation for the games, Hitler decided to unify the two towns, calling the new city Garmisch-Partenkirchen. After World War II, the town was used as a recreational center for the U.S. military. Some long-term residents still consider themselves loyal to either Garmisch or Partenkirchen and refuse to recognize the name change.

© colourbox

Continue reading “Garmisch-Partenkirchen: The Aspen of Germany”

Winter Sports in Germany

© dpa / picture-alliance

Skiing and Snowboarding

For those who enjoy skiing and snowboarding, Germany has a number of renowed resorts, many of which lie in the mountainous state of Bavaria. While the neighboring countries of Austria and Switzerland are well-known for their Alpine ski resorts, Germany too has destinations that transform themselves into a winter paradise. One of the most popular Alpine ski resort towns is Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which lies near Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze (elevation: 9,718 ft). The Rhön Mountains feature gentler slopes ideal for beginners, while the picturesque Black Forest has about 200 ski lifts that allow winter sports enthusiasts to experience a change of scenery.

While Bavaria contains the biggest ski resort, the Black Forest contains the oldest: Germany’s first ski tow was built in the Black Forest, and Germany’s oldest ski club was formed there in 1985.

Recommended ski destinations in Germany:

  • Garmisch-Partenkirchen / Zugspitze
  • Oberstdorf (Fellsdorf/Kleinwalserthal)
  • Schwarzwald (Black Forest)
  • Willingen-Upland
© dpa / picture-alliance

Continue reading “Winter Sports in Germany”

Word of the Week: tote Hose

If you’ve ever been to a party that had nothing going on, you might want to call it tote Hose.

The German word tote Hose is a slang term that originated in the 1980s. Literally translated, tote Hose means “dead trousers”, but it has nothing to do with your pants. The phrase tote Hose is used to describe something that is boring, uneventful or dull – like a bad party or event.

Although it sounds like it should be used as a noun, tote Hose is mostly used in place of an adjective. You might tell your friend, “Gosh, last night’s party was so tote Hose – I only lasted an hour before I ditched my friends to go somewhere else.”

There is no English equivalent for tote Hose; you must simply imagine a phrase that describes an extremely boring or uneventful situation. The phrase remains highly popular among youth in Germany today. There is even a German rock band that named themselves Die Toten Hosen.

So next time you’re bored at a party, feel free to describe it as tote Hose to impress your German friends with your cool new slang. Just don’t tell the host that – or you may never get another invite!

A night on the Zugspitze: travelers camp out in an igloo village

The summit of the Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest mountain. © dpa / picture-alliance

As a thick blanket of snow covers the icy mountains of Bavaria, some adventurous travelers choose to spend a night on Germany’s tallest mountain – the Zugspitze. But rather than sit by a fireplace in a cozy hotel, these travelers spend the evening curled up in a sleeping bag, protected only by the icy walls of a man-made igloo.

Situated atop the Zugspitze, the Igloo Village is open from December 28 until about mid-April, depending on the weather. Travelers can rent an igloo to spend a starry night on Germany’s peak, which would otherwise be impossible, since there are no traditional hotels atop the mountain.

© Iglu-Dorf GmbH

Those who rent a room in an igloo are provided with thick sleeping bags, food and drink and the option to participate in activities such as evening hikes and snowshoeing. Depending on the igloo they choose to stay in,
visitors can also enjoy the evening in a private jacuzzi or a sauna, or simply cozy up in candle-lit rooms.

The Iglu-Dorf GmbH is responsible for building seven igloo villages across Europe. The Zugspitze is their only location in Germany, but the company also has snowy igloo hotels in Andorra and the Swiss regions of Davos- Klosters, Engelberg-Titlis, Gstaad and Zermatt.

An igloo village in front of the famous Matterhorn mountain in Zermatt, Switzerland.

Each location is decorated with snowy art in line with a specific theme. This season, the Zugspitze’s igloo village is decorated with sculptures that remind visitors of ancient Rome.

The idea to build the igloo hotels came from Adrian Günter, who always sought to be the first one on the mountains in order to obtain photos of sunrises and take his snowboard down untouched slopes.

“I want to be the first one on the mountain in the morning to enjoy the ambient [setting] and go downhill with my snowboard,” was his guiding principle, according to the Iglu-Dorf website.

To make his dream an achievable reality, Günter and his friends built several igloos at a ski resort in Switzerland and spent the night in their structures, which allowed them to be the first ones on the mountain the next morning.

Other winter sport adventurers soon asked Günter for permission to sleep in his igloos, which sparked the idea to start an igloo hotel company. Now, since building its very first igloos in the winter of 1995/1996, the company has hosted tens of thousands of overnight visitors in igloo villages across Europe.

But building these villages is no easy task: the traditional procedure was long and laborious, so Günter invented a method that would speed up the process. To build the igloos, inflatable balloons are covered with snow, thereby forming their basic shapes. Still, the company claims that it takes an average of 2,700 hours to build all of its structures in a village (there are up to 20 igloos per village).

For those eager to camp atop Germany’s tallest mountain, make sure to dress warm: Temperatures in the igloos are typically freezing, and the gondala that takes visitors down the mountain stops running at night. None of the igloo hotels have showers, so most visitors only stay for one night.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Looking back at 2018

The year 2018 has been eventful and rewarding. Let’s reflect on a few highlights!

Early in the year, Germany participated in the Winter Olympics, coming in second with a total of 31 medals! In March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was sworn in for a fourth term, along with a new government. In April, the Chancellor visited Washington, D.C. for meetings with US President Donald Trump. In June, we welcomed our new Ambassador, Emily Haber, to Washington, where she serves as the German Embassy’s first female ambassador! Throughout the year, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift – a turning point in the German-American relationship. In October, we launched the start of Wunderbar Together, a year-long celebration of German-American friendship with over 1,000 events across the US. A highlight of this initiative was a stunt by a German slackliner from One Inch Dreams, who walked across a highline between two hot air balloons over Monument Valley.

We know next year will be just as busy, with hundreds more events taking place across the US for Wunderbar Together. Next year, we will celebrate 100 years of Bauhaus, the famous art school that opened in Weimar in 1919. We will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – a monumental day in German history.

We wish you a Happy New Year and a great start to 2019!

Word of the Week: Schrottwichteln

If you’re American, you’ve probably heard of “Secret Santa” or “White Elephant” gift exchanges. In Germany, however, we have what’s called Schrottwichteln, which basically means “the exchange of crap”.

The holiday season is all about gift exchanges. Even if you’re giving away junk – it’s the thought that counts, right? In German schools, workplaces and social circles, people often organize a so-called Schrottwichteln. The word Schrott means “crap”, “garbage” or “junk”. Wichteln is the organized exchange of gifts during the holiday season. So people who participate in Schrottwichteln essentially give each other things they don’t want themselves – like that ugly Christmas sweater they received from their grandmother or an overly fancy candleholder for which they have no use. Often times, they will regift an item or contribute a gag gift. It is not
uncommon for these gifts to be wrapped up in newspaper, rather than gift wrap – anything to make it look more like junk.

When people organize a Schrottwichteln, they will often set a limit on the value of the item – perhaps 5, 10, 15 or 20 Euros. Participants usually have a few days to decide on a gift – and will often search for the ugliest, funniest or most useless possible item they can think of. Sometimes Schrottwichteln organizers will choose a “winner” – a gift that is the most worthless of all.

Those who participate in Schrottwichteln parties do so for the holiday spirit and the humor associated with it. And if the gift they receive is perfectly useless, they may regift it the following Christmas at another
Schrottwichteln party.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

The history of German Christmas markets

If you’ve ever been to Germany in December, you are likely familiar with the Christmas markets that decorate almost every city. Christmas markets can be found in many countries today, but they originated in the German-speaking part of the Roman Empire and remain a big part of German culture today.

© dpa / picture-alliance

German Christmas markets date back to the Middle Ages, when townspeople held winter markets as an opportunity to stock up on food and supplies to get them through the colder months. These open-air markets were usually only open for a day or a few days – just enough time to allow people to buy what they needed. A famous example of this is Vienna’s Dezembermarkt (“December market”), which was first held between 1294 and 1296 and sold goods for the winter.

© dpa / picture-alliance

Over time, the wintertime markets began to evolve. Craftsmen began to set up stands selling products such as toys and woodcarvings, which people bought as gifts for Christmas and New Year’s. It is believed that some of the oldest Christmas markets were first held in Dresden in 1434, in Bautzen in 1384, in Frankfurt in 1393 and in Munich in 1310, although some of these may have had more of a resemblance to wintertime markets. The Protestant Reformation also had an impact on the markets. When the markets first came into being, they were often associated with Saint Nicholas (Munich’s first market was called the Nikolausdult). After the Protestant Reformation, the markets gradually became associated with the Christkindl (“Christ child”) instead – and in 1805 Munich changed the name of its market to the Christkindlmarkt. Parents started to tell their children that the Christkindl would deliver gifts on Christmas. As time passed, all of Germany’s winter markets evolved into Christmas markets.

© dpa / picture-alliance

Today, there are so many Christmas markets in Germany that it is almost impossible not to stumble upon one if you’re there during the Advent season. And even the United States has countless Christmas markets of its own. If you haven’t already, take a look at our list of German-style Christmas markets in the US!