Word of the Week: Sauregurkenzeit

With four or more weeks of vacation per year, many German workers are out of the office during the summer months – especially in July and August, when schools are also closed. As a result, this time period is often referred to as the Sauregurkenzeit, which translates into “pickle time.”

But what does this have to do with pickles? Well, not much!

The word originated in the late 18th century in Berlin, where pickles from the nearby Spree Forest hit store shelves at the end of the summer. Although Sauregurkenzeit has nothing to do with pickles, pickle season coincided with the time when people were typically on vacation and stores and offices were empty, which is how the term received its name. Sauregurkenzeit means something along the lines of a summertime “off-season”. Businesses often found it difficult to make money during the late summer, and those who did come into work could sometimes be found taking naps, trying to pass the time or avoiding the heat.

“We are on vacation.” ¬©colourbox

Newspaper reporters, in particular, complained about the Sauregurkenzeit, since there wasn’t much to write about with politicians and businessmen out of town.

To this day, people continue to experience the effects of the Sauregurkenzeit. And although this term is uniquely German, the phenomenon occurs around the world: in Washington, D.C., for example, Congress is on recess for the month of August, leaving some political offices and newspaper bureaus with less work than usual.

And Germans even have a second word to describe this time period: the Sommerloch (“summer hole”), which is most often used by the media when they are unable to fill up their programs or newspapers.

Is your workplace empty? Do you have less work than usual? You can now refer to this period as a Sauregurkenzeit!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy