Word of the Week: Biergartenwetter

© dpa / picture-alliance

It is no secret that Germans have some of the best beer. The country also has plenty of beer gardens. On a beautiful, sunny afternoon, these beer gardens are often filled with people. After all, most of these locales are outside (thus the term beer “garden”). Beer gardens are emptier when it rains, although some brave souls may choose to sit under the umbrellas. If you’re in the mood for a beer and good company, you may find yourself wishing for Biergartenwetter. Biergartenwetter is the German word for “beer garden weather”, and it describes the most favorable weather conditions to enjoy a day at the beer garden.

Biergartenwetter is usually sunny and warm (but not too hot). Imagine a 70 degree day with plenty of sunshine and perhaps an occasional passing cloud: the perfect beer garden weather!

But even if you have no plans to visit a beer garden, you can still use the term Biergartenwetter to describe the beautiful weather. In Germany, even weather channels will sometimes talk about Biergartenwetter in the forecast. When you step outside and feel the rays on your shoulders, you may be tempted to go meet your friends at a Biergarten – even if you’re just having a soda (or a snack). Better yet: pack a picnic basket with bread, radish, cheese and sausage to take with you and just buy an Apfelschorle at the Biergarten, as many Germans do. Because after all, who wouldn’t want to soak up the sun with friends at a Biergarten?

© colourbox

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Ostalgie

The year 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – a monumental day in German history. But despite Germany’s reunification, some Germans still exhibit Ostalgie – a deep yearning for the East German way of life.

The word Ostalgie is a hybrid of the words Ost (“east”) and Nostalgie (“nostalgia”). Thus, the word literally means nostalgia for the east. Germans who grew up in the socialist system of the east sometimes feel nostalgic for certain aspects that disappeared after reunification, ranging from staple food items no longer on store shelves to the workplace under a socialist government.

©dpa / picture alliance

Germans exhibiting Ostalgie often retain images of their East German childhood about which they have fond memories. Popular items that may instigate feelings of Ostalgie include Spreewaldgurken (gherkins from the Spree forest), Rot-Weiss toothpaste, chicken-shaped plastic egg cups, the Sandmännchen (“sand man”) television show, Trabant cars and traffic lights depicting the famous East German Ampelmännchen.

While some Germans feel Ostalgie in relation to East German products, others sometimes miss the sense of community they felt when the borders were closed. They occasionally also complain about poverty in the west, claiming that while they lacked freedom to travel beyond the GDR, everyone had a job.

The things that trigger Ostalgie, however can vary. Likewise, the feelings of Ostalgie can range from missing the products associated with someone’s childhood to a deep yearning for the socialist system of government. Feelings of Ostalgie, however, are sometimes criticized for downplaying or even glorifying the negative aspects of the East German socialist government, which can easily become overshadowed with the positive memories from ones past.

Over the years, the word has even been used more broadly to describe the nostalgia for life under the socialist system felt by anyone from the communist countries of Eastern Europe (such as the Soviet Union and Poland). But most commonly, the word describes the longing felt by East Germans that miss certain aspects of their lives behind the wall.

In Berlin, the Ampelmann store chain has profited from the feelings of Ostalgie, selling products that contain the famous image of the Ampelmann. But throughout Germany, you might be able to find remnants or reminders of East Germany. To you, they might mean very little. But to former East German residents, they might trigger feelings of Ostalgie.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

These 6 celebrities speak German! (Video evidence)

If you’ve ever mentioned to a friend that you’re trying to learn ein bisschen Deutsch, you’ll immediately be confronted with platitudes about how difficult the long words are, or how tough it is to remember all the grammar. In the worst case scenario, they’ll put on a harsh accent and yell out “Schmetterling!” (“butterfly!”).

But learning German can be something for everyone. With enough practice, anyone can become at least a little conversational. As inspiration, here’s a list of celebrities that can speak German, some more fluently than others, of course.

Because the skill-level is so variable, we thought it would be fun to go from least to most fluent. No judgements here! We realize short clips might not be the best demonstration of one’s language abilities.

#5 Chris Pratt

Pratt, star of Parks and Rec and Guardians of the Galaxy, learned some German in high school. In this clip he appears to struggle with anything beyond the most basic questions. However, he is able to engage in a basic conversation in a noisy environment, something a lot of people aspire to. Take a look:

#4 Gene Simmons

Gene, lead singer of Kiss, claims to speak a bit of German, Hebrew, and Japanese. In this clip he demonstrates an impressive ability to understand what the interviewer is asking of him, even if he fails to respond in a grammatically correct way. Still, a little broken German is German nonetheless. You be the judge:

#3 Christopher Lee

Christopher, Saruman in Lord of the Rings and Count Dooku in Star Wars, sang some in German, as well as did some filming. Though he seems a bit annoyed by the German interviewer in this clip, he does seem fully capable of understanding what’s being asked, and of responding to the questions, even if only briefly. Check it out:

#2 Leonardo DiCaprio

Leo needs no introduction. As he explains in this clip, his grandmother was from Germany and taught his some important phrases. Though quite halting, there’s certainly a little skill!

#1 Sandra Bullock

Holy cow! Golden Globe Winner Sandra Bullock speaks German at an incredible level. Her singing coach was German, as well as one of her grandfathers. No need to explain too much as her abilities are made abundantly clear by listening to her speak. In this clip, watch her literally forget her award acceptance speech at a ceremony, but then recover by giving the speech without notes:

So that’s the list…But wait, there’s one more!

Honorable Mention: Tina Fey

It’s not totally clear if Fey, known for SNL and 30 Rock, actually speaks German, or if she simply learned enough in school to pronounce it properly. What we can say is that anytime a German phrase leaves her mouth, it’s absolutely hilarious. Enjoy!

30 Rock: Liz’s high school level German

Tina Fey German Study Abroad

30 Rock Liz Lemon Singing German Luftballons

30 Rock- Liz Lemon Yelling in German


By William Fox, German Embassy

These maps show the most popular German dog breeds in all 50 states

“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog” sang Elvis. For any German listening, it was slightly redundant. That’s because the word “hound” has its origin in the German word “Hund”, which means “dog”.

So…

“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog”
sounds a lot like,

“You ain’t nothing but a dog dog”

But shared German-American dog culture goes far deeper than redundancy in Elvis lyrics! There are nearly 90 million dogs in the United States, and a good number of them have German origins. The Boxer, the Pomeranian, the German Shepherd, the Dachshund, and many more breeds come across the Atlantic from Deutschland.

The American Kennel Club publishes a yearly list of the most popular dog breeds nation-wide, and Labrador and Golden Retrievers (neither a German breed) always top that list. 

In 2018, the faithful German Shepherd ranked as the second most popular dog breed in the whole country! Not bad!

However, these data points from the AKC don’t provide us with breed popularity in each state, and don’t provide rankings for us to make a lovely map.

So which German breeds are the most popular in each state in the nation?

To find out, we took Google Trends data from the last 12 months. The percentage of search traffic for German breeds was then accounted for on a state-by-state basis. Then, we made several maps!

* It’s important to note that the drawback of these maps is that they account for search traffic and not ownership.They represent interest in a breed, not the number of dogs in a state. *

Continue reading “These maps show the most popular German dog breeds in all 50 states”

Word of the Week: Stacheldrahtsonntag

The events of August 13, 1961 brought a new word into the German language: Stacheldrahtsonntag, which means “Barbed Wire Sunday”.
If you’re familiar with German history, it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out the meaning of this word. Stacheldrahtsonntag was the day that GDR authorities began sealing off the border between East and West German using barbed wire and other barriers that which were quickly replaced by a wall. The day became so significant that it was referred to without the date. Everyone knew about “August 13” or, in other words, “Barbed Wire Sunday.”

Between 1945 and 1961, around 2.7 million people fled East Germany for the West, which was about 15 percent of the GDR’s population. To stop the mass emigration, GDR authorities hastily closed the border on the night of August 12 – and they didn’t wait long before sealing it with physical barriers. The use of barbed wire was quick and efficient, keeping people from crossing the border until a system of metal and concrete walls reinforced it a few weeks later. Nearly 17 million people were trapped inside the GDR on August 13, and 533,000 East German troops and police were employed to make sure no one escaped.

Families were separated, East German residents were unable to go to their jobs in the West and some of those along the border even lost their homes. As barbed wire further separated the two Germanys, August 13 quickly became known as Stacheldrahtsonntag.

©dpa / picture alliance

As the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaches, Stacheldrahtsonntag is a word you might hear in conversation – especially among those who lived through that fateful day.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Amazon forest fires: Germany stands ready to help

You might have heard about the massive wildfires that are burning in the Amazon rainforest at the present moment. The Amazon generates more than 20% of the world’s oxygen and 10% of the world’s known biodiversity. It is often referred to as the “lungs of the planet”, so when it is threatened, it becomes an international issue. Leaders around the world have expressed their concern about the fires, and on Friday, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared that Germany is ready to help.

“When the rainforest burns for weeks on end, then we cannot remain indifferent,” Minister Maas said. “We cannot allow fires to destroy the green lungs of the world. Protecting the unique natural heritage of the Amazon rainforest is an international task that concerns us all. Germany stands ready to offer help and support for tackling the fires.”

Continue reading “Amazon forest fires: Germany stands ready to help”

Rennpappe: the “racing cardboard” of East Germany

If you’re familiar with East German cars, you probably know that they’re not the best quality. But that’s probably an understatement: they were so bad, in fact, that Germans began referring to them as Rennpappe, which means “racing cardboard”.

The colloquial term Rennpappe comes from rennen (“to race/run”) and Pappe (“cardboard”). The term mockingly refers to the cheaply-produced Trabant cars – an East German automobile made of inexpensive materials.
The Trabant (also referred to as a Trabi) featured a two-stroke engine and was constructed using Duroplast – a hard plastic consisting of recycled materials. Since the vehicle was built using recycled waste, there was a widely-held misconception that it was made of cardboard, and over time, East Germans referred to the Trabi as a Rennpappe.

©dpa / picture alliance

Between 1957 and 1991, the German Democratic Republic produced 3.7 million Trabis. Due to its poor economy and lack of materials, however, the wait time for the four-passenger vehicle was 14 years.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, many East Germans drove to the West in their Trabants. But many soon realized they would rather have a second-hand western car than a new Trabi, since western cars were more efficient, produced less pollution and were overall better quality. As a result, the Rennpappen were often given away for free, abandoned, or in some cases sold for 1 Deutsche Mark (DM). The Trabant factory, located in Saxony, was shut down in 1991 due to low demand.

©dpa / picture alliance

Over time, however, the Trabant became a symbol of East Germany, and its value began to increase. Having a Rennpappe today is special: they are viewed as antique collector’s items, and often put on display during German festivals, parties and events. And although they are more frequently called Trabis, Germans who used to own one back in the day might still refer to them as their Rennpappe.

©dpa / picture alliance

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Berlin has a museum dedicated to currywurst. We’re not joking.

© dpa / picture-alliance

If you’ve ever been to Germany, you surely know about Germans’ love for currywurst!

In fact, Germans love currywurst so much that they even have a museum dedicated to it.

The Currywurst Museum, located in downtown Berlin, is dedicated to the popular sausage dish, presenting everything from the history of the currywurst to its presence in film, TV and music. The interactive museum also features exhibits such as spice sniffing stations, a sausage sofa, ketchup-bottle-shaped audio stations and virtual currywurst-making stations.

Located right near Checkpoint Charlie, the Currywurst Museum is an unusual and entertaining addition to any Berlin trip – especially with kids!

But how did this strange museum come into being?

© dpa / picture-alliance

The museum opened its doors in August 2009 – 60 years after the invention of the currywurst. This popular German sausage was created by Berlin resident Herta Heuwer in 1949. Back then, Germany was suffering the aftermath of World War II and there was a shortage of food. So Heuwer experimented: she got a hold of some ketchup and curry powder from British soldiers and added these ingredients to a traditional German Bratwurst. She then began to sell this newly invented currywurst at a stand near Checkpoint Charlie. Her creation was a hit, and she eventually reached a point where she was selling up to 10,000 currywurst sausages a week.

The founder of the Currywurst Museum, Martin Loewer, realized how important this food item became in Germany and created the museum to acknowledge its impact. The museum currently receives about 350,000 visitors per year.

© dpa / picture-alliance
© dpa / picture-alliance

This map shows the German-born German population in the USA in 1870

*Before the actually blog post, it should be stated from the outset that we are dealing with raw numbers here, not percentages* Ok, let’s get into it!

All yee German-born, step right up and be gezählt (counted)!

The practice of taking a head-count of the population of a nation dates back to ancient Egypt. It helps governments know if they’re growing, shrinking, where to send government services (or soldiers 😮 ), and it’s just kind of nifty information to have!

The US follows this tradition. The very first US census of 1790 occurred while the ink was still drying on the US Constitution. President Washington was a year into his first term, and Congress wanted to make sure they knew “the aggregate amount of each description of persons”. While it was a highly imperfect system, it started a practice that has lasted through the life of the nation.

One such census occurred in 1870. Well, it actually went all the way in 1871, but that’s not such a critical detail! As you can see in the old map below, the Census Bureau had a particular interest in the presence of an ever-increasing segment of the population: Germans!

© Wikimedia Commons

A few German immigrants made it over for the Jamestown colony, and the largest and earliest German settlers went to Pennsylvania. The number of Germans really picked up in the 19th century, exceeding any other group. And that can be seen on our map today, which shows the raw number of German-born people in each state, according to the 9th Census in 1870.

Here’s a table of the data from the census, and below it, our map. Enjoy!

Don’t forget to follow us @GermanyinUSA for more content about the links between Germany and the USA!

By William Fox, German Embassy

Why did the GDR build the Berlin Wall?

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – an important date in German history. But while this year’s focus is on the events leading to Germany’s reunification, let’s not forget how everything began.

During this month in 1961, the GDR established the border that kept Germany divided for years to come. Between 1949 and 1961, 2.7 million people had fled the GDR and moved to the west, ignoring emigration restrictions. The dividing line between East and West Berlin was a border-crossing hotspot. In the year 1960 alone, 200,000 East Germans defected, leaving behind their old lives for new ones in the west.

GDR authorities panicked over the mass emigration and sought to put an end to it. On the eve of August 12, 1961, the East German communist government closed the German border, and on August 13, construction of the Berlin Wall began. Families and friends were separated as GDR authorities tore up roads and sealed the border with barbed wire fencing and concrete blocks. It wasn’t long before a 12-foot concrete wall stood as a barrier between the east and the west.

Continue reading “Why did the GDR build the Berlin Wall?”