Word of the Week: schräger Vogel

Last week we looked at the word Eigenbrötler, which refers to a pecular person who spends most of his time alone, doing his own thing. This week, we have another similar word for you.

The term schräger Vogel translates to “slanted/crooked bird.” But in this case, the word schräg means “strange” instead of “crooked”. And it has nothing to do with our feathery friends.

Instead, the term refers to a semi crazy and strange person. A schräger Vogel is someone that may have unusual habits. Instead of saying “what a weirdo”, you might say “what a schräger Vogel“.

The term first arose in the 16th century. Back then, people used the word Vogel (“bird”) to create metaphors for strange people. Those with pecularlities were often called komischer Vogel (“strange bird”) or seltener Vogel (“rare bird”). In fact, the oldest documented use of this term was in the writings by Reformation leader Martin Luther!

At some point, the term evolved to schräger Vogel, but it is not clear when that evolution occurred. In addition to schräger Vogel, today we continue to use the word Vogel to refer to craziness. Instead of saying “you have a screw loose”, a German might say, “Du hast einen Vogel!” (“You have a bird!”).

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

The Skills Initiative: German Companies Creating US Jobs

German companies with facilities in the USA are applying the German apprenticeship system to train workers for long-term careers, often partnering with community colleges and other training providers. You might catch this video on the German Embassy’s Skills Initiative on local DC channels WUSA9 and WJLA. What do you think about the dual work education system?

Click to learn more about the Skills Initiative and how it brings together German and American businesses and local education/training providers.

Germany’s 2017 Renewable Energy Production

We hope you all had a wonderful transition to 2018!

Looking back at 2017, it is clear that Germany again made strides in its production of renewable energy – and this is bound only to rise even more. A whopping 33.1 percent of Germany’s electricity generation came from renewable energy sources last year according to preliminary data. In fact, Germany experienced many days in which its supply was greater than its demand, causing some German companies to get paid, in a sense, to use it.

In Germany, there are some days where the supply of renewable energy produced is actually greater than needed, usually due to the weather. Examples includes particularly warm or sunny days, some weekends (when businesses and large factories are closed) and days with strong breezes. On such days, large energy consumers (such as factory owners) are occasionally paid to take the power, when the excess power cannot be stored. (This “payment” usually comes in the form of a reduction on a future electricity bill.)

During days when Germany had excess power in 2017, it also often exported this power to neighboring countries.

Throughout last year, Germany broke several renewable energy records. On April 30, for example, 85 percent of its electricity came from renewables, thanks to windy, sunny and warm weather. In the first half of 2017, Germany had generated 37.6 percent of its electricity from renewable energy.

Of course, the fact that Germany produced so much renewable energy is good news. It also highlights the challenges that we face as we make the transition to renewable energy. The extension and adaptation of the power grid to the needs of larger shares of intermittent renewable energy such as sun and wind as well as more storage options are solutions for the future power system.

© Colourbox

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy Washington

Word of the Week: Eigenbrötler

We all know someone who hates teamwork, avoids other people and willingly spends a lot of time alone. You might call someone like this antisocial or introverted. But in German, you would call this person an Eigenbrötler.

Eigenbrötler is a noun that comes from the words eigen (ones “own”) and Brot (“bread”). Basically, this describes someone who eats his or her own bread. But there’s more to it.

The German word Eigenbrötler is a very old word that first arose in the 16th and 17th centuries. Back then, the term was used to identify a person who kept to him or herself in a care- or retirement home. Instead of participating in community meals, an Eigenbrötler would pay to eat his or her “own bread” (meals) all alone. An Eigenbrötler often also paid extra to have his or her own furniture, room and other necessities. Overall, an Eigenbrötler did his own thing, separate from all the other residents in the home.

Today, Germans use this word to describe any type of person who keeps to him or herself. An Eigenbrötler is absolutely not a team player and tries to avoid participating in group activities. Usually, he or she has some peculiar habits or traits and spends more time alone than with others. We all know someone like this – right?

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Germany’s Tallest Mountain Opens New Cable Car

After two years of construction, a world record-breaking cableway has opened in the Bavarian Alps: the new Zugspitze cable car.

This cable car takes passengers up Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze, located near the quaint Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Although there was already a cable car in place before its completion, the new cable car is much more efficient, bringing up to 580 people per hour up the mountain, 30 minutes faster than before. The cable car system has the tallest steel tower in the world, the longest cableway span and the highest elevation difference. It’s no wonder that this cablecar system even made its way into US news this week!

For those who have visited southern Germany for skiing or snowboarding, you’ve surely heard about the Zugspitze – Germany’s tallest mountain at 9,718 feet. The mountain is a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding in the wintertime. For the more adventurous types, it is even home to its very own igloo village, consisting of 20 hotel snow houses in the winter. A true winter wonderland!

But whether you’re skiing on the Zugspitze or celebrating the holidays with family in the US, we would like to take a moment to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a joyful holiday weekend!

View to Garmisch Partenkirchen from the mountain Zugspitze in Bavaria, Germany in the summer

Nicole Glass

Editor, The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Schlimmbesserung

In today’s world, we constantly try to improve our quality of life through technological innovation. But sometimes, these “improvements” have unforeseen consequences. Germans have a word for this kind of situation: Schlimmbesserung or Verschlimmbesserung.

(Ver)Schlimmbesserung is a noun describing an intended improvement that has an opposite effect. When someone tries to make things better but ends up making them worse, that’s a Schlimmbesserung.

The word comes from schlimm (“bad” or “malicious”) and Besserung (“improvement”) and it has been around since medieval times. Can you think of a Schlimmbesserung in your life?

An example of a modern Schlimmbesserung is the invention of cars with airbags to save lives, only to end up with airbags that kill passengers instead. Here, the intention was to improve car safety; instead, some models ended up with airbags that were so powerful that they were a danger themselves.

But the term Schlimmbesserung can also take on a more personal nature. Let’s say you’re trying to comfort a friend who is going through a breakup. You give her a box of hazelnut chocolates to comfort her. After consuming the chocolate, she has a serious allergic reaction and ends up hospitalized. This is a Schlimmbesserung.

Despite your best intentions, sometimes a Schlimmbesserung is unavoidable; it’s not always easy to foresee the outcome.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Apprenticeships in Germany

Some Americans think of apprenticeships as something of the past. Visions come to mind of medieval scenes of tanners, shoemakers, or cobblers. Instead, they may be more acquainted with the phrase “to learn a trade”. Regardless of terminology, choosing to bypass a traditional four year degree for a job-specific training is far less common in the United States than in Germany.

In Germany, half of graduates of high schools and junior high schools chose a track that combines training on the job with further education at a public vocational institution. This apprenticeship model is one reason why Germany has the lowest youth unemployment rate in Europe and has been able to keep manufacturing jobs in the country.

To pull the veil from vocational education and to put a voice to the process, we interviewed an American living in Berlin who is currently in his second year as an apprentice at a German car company.

What kind of apprenticeship are you doing?

I applied at the car company to do a Mechatroniker Ausbildung (Mechanic/Electric apprenticeship). Mechatroniker is a combination of two words: Mechaniker and Elektroniker (Mechanic and Electronic technician). Since most of the vehicles in today’s market have so much technology involved, and with more and more electric vehicles on the streets, they combined both of the fields together, into the one apprenticeship.

Continue reading “Apprenticeships in Germany”

Word of the Week: Bescherung

The Christmas countdown continues: only a few days left until the magical day! German kids continue to open their Advent calendar doors as American children eagerly wait for Santa Claus to arrive and make their wishes come true. So what happens on Christmas Eve (in Germany) and Christmas Day (in the United States)? The Bescherung, of course!

The Bescherung is a noun that refers to the traditional custom of the festive holiday gift exchange. This word is used in the context of Christmas — not birthdays or other gift-giving holidays. Children, in particular, look forward to the Bescherung — but even adults eagerly await it. The Bescherung is more than just receiving gifts; it comes with festivities, warmth and togetherness.

This is a very old word that came from Middle High German, but some Germans continue to use it to describe the gift-giving tradition on Christmas.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany