There are lots of funny German idioms out there and in this article, we will focus on the ones that are especially German.
Whilst you may not begin your German language course by learning a bunch of strange expressions involving beer 🍺, potatoes 🥔 and rolls 🥖, eventually you'll come across them on your language learning journey, and it can be fun to recognise how objects or foods of cultural significance manage to weave their way into everyday language!
You will notice certain foods/animals/names being referenced multiple times in the list of expressions below, such as beer, sausages and pigs. But first, let's explore the cultural significance of these German-associated things together 🤓.
So what's stereotypically German?
A large, heavy beer jug full of foamy Pils is a well-known symbol of German culture. Beer is popularly consumed across the whole of Germany, where a vast variety of regional products are available at supermarkets, bars and beer gardens. Beer also plays a major role at German festivals, especially Oktoberfest- the largest and most famous beer festival in the world!
The history of sausage-making in Germany reaches as far back into the past as the 14th Century. Since then the art of sausage-making has been perfected by German butchers over centuries, with over a thousand varieties of sausage available across the country. The most popular type of sausage is undoubtedly the Bratwurst, made of ground pork and spices, and popularly eaten at street corner food stalls, food markets, festivals and summer barbecues, or sliced up and served with a curry-flavoured ketchup, in the form of the famous German snack - Currywurst!
Pigs + Pork
Pork is one of the most popularly consumed meats in Germany, served in roasts, as ham, as Schnitzel, raw with onions (Mett), or stuffed into sausage casing. Pigs are commonly drawn in greeting cards, and little, pink pigs made out of marzipan are given away as gifts to celebrate the new year. Germany is also home to the largest pig museum in the world, and you can even attend a pig festival every year in the city of Wittlich!
Germany boasts the largest variety of bread and rolls in the world, produced in bakeries that can be found on almost every street corner or supermarket, across the country. It is often eaten every day. For breakfast, rolls are popularly served, alongside slices of cheese and salami, whilst a common lunch or dinner idea is Belegtes Brot - an open faced sandwich.
A very common side dish in Germany is potatoes. Whether in the form of french fries, potato salad, sliced thin and fried as Bratkartoffel, or simply boiled, they are rarely missing from the dinner table. Brought to Germany in the 17th Century, legend has it that the King managed to popularise the vegetable by having soldiers stand guard around his potato fields, in an attempt to make them appear highly valuable. If the tale is true, it worked like a charm!
Now that we have a little more context, let's dig into our list of German expressions too stereotypical to be true:
1. Das ist nicht mein Bier
Literal Translation: that is not my beer 🍺 Meaning: that isn't my style
2. Jetzt geht’s um die Wurst
Literal Translation: now it's about the sausage 🌭 Meaning: it's now or never
3. Schwein haben
Literal Translation: to have (a) pig 🐷 Meaning: to have a stroke of luck
4. Das ist mir Wurst
Literal Translation: that is sausage to me 😅 Meaning: I don't give a damn
5. Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei
Literal Translation: everything has an ending. Only the sausage has two. 🌭 Meaning: everything comes to an end
6. Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen
Literal Translation: to play the insulted sausage 🌭😖 Meaning: to be butthurt
7. Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr
Literal Translation: what young Hans didn't learn, will Hans now never learn 😤 Meaning: you can't teach an old dog new tricks
8. Sein Brot verdienen
Literal Translation: to earn his bread 🍞 Meaning: to make a living
9. Sich die Wurst vom Brot nehmen lassen
Literal Translation: to take the sausage from the bread 🌭 Meaning: tolerating being treated in an unacceptable way (being a pushover)
10. Jemanden (wie eine heiße Kartoffel) fallen lassen
Literal Translation: to drop somebody like a hot potato 🥔 Meaning: to end a relationship (friendship / romantic relationship) with somebody abruptly
11. Ein alter Schinken
Literal Translation: an old ham 🍖 Meaning: a thick old book
12. Weggehen wie warme Semmeln
Literal Translation: to go like warm rolls 🥖 Meaning: to sell like hotcakes (to be snapped up quickly)