Did you know ?

A peck, a hug, a handshake … Are you at a loss ?

When we say hello to each other, this is often linked to a gesture. Every country and every region has its own particularity and sometimes there are even different habits within a country depending on the region. In France, for instance, it is common to kiss people on the cheeks to say hello. The number of kisses varies depending on where you are in France. But in most of the regions, you say hello by kissing twice.

In the Muslim countries, people put their hand on the heart and say „salam aleikoum“ („Peace be upon you“). The Jews say in Hebrew „shalom alekhem“, which has the same meaning as in Arabic. The Innuits and the Lapps rub the tips of their noses against each other to check if they are not frozen.

In the western countries you shake hands to say hello. This can be an indication of people’s character.

In Asia, you make a slight bow as a sign of respect: people incline the head in China, the head and the upper part of the body in Japan (which is called „ojigi“) and in India the head with your hands folded.

The Spanish, the Mexicans and the Anglo-Saxons „hug“ each other: they embrace each other and tap each other on the back because in the past, you wanted to make sure that the other one would not carry a weapon hidden behind his back.

The most uncommon way of greeting each other, finally, exists in Tibet where you poke your tongue out to say hello.



Languages, a passport for the whole world

If you ask your family, your friends or even strangers what is the best thing about travelling, many of them will answer you that it is the start of an adventure, the discovery of new landscapes, but most of all getting to know other cultures.

Indeed, every country is characterised by its history, by its culture, which is recognisable thanks to architecture, by its cuisine, by its art and also by its inhabitants. Of course you can acquire a lot of knowledge about a country, by reading about its history, its monuments etc.. Thanks to the internet, this kind of research is available for everyone today. But I think that the immersion into a country remains the most interesting thing, meeting the inhabitants and having the possibility to talk to them grants us a different point of view of the world, a more authentic point of view.

In this context, language skills become a great asset. The language itself is the essence of culture, you will particularly notice this when you deal with idiomatic phrases that are unique to each country and cannot be translated literally. It is funny to state that when a Frenchman „file à l’anglaise“ (secretly disappears), an Englishman, however, „file à la française“ („to take the French way“). Speaking a language, even if you do not have a perfect command of it, is certainly one of the most beautiful ways to discover the world.

femmes joyeuses

Idiomatic phrases

In everyday life, we are in the habit of using idiomatic phrases, proverbs that spontaneously come to our mind. Most of the time, the person you talk to will understand what you mean by these figurative expressions because he or she knows them and uses them, too.

But when you talk to a person in a foreign language, everything gets more complicated, as those expressions that are so familiar to us often do not make sense to foreigners.

The problem is that this kind of expressions are quite hard to explain. The expressions can be the reason for rather irritating confusions, but it is interesting and even amusing to try and learn their counterparts. Therefore, we have a short list of idiomatic phrases in German, of their English counterparts and of their at least enjoyable literal translations for you.


Es regnet Bindfäden

Meaning: It rains cats and dogs

Literal translation: it rains strings


Alle Jubeljahre einmal

Meaning: Once in a blue moon

Literal translation: once in all jubilee years


Reden ist Silber, aber Schweigen ist Gold

Meaning: Silence is golden

Literal translation: talking is silver, but silence is gold


Kommt Zeit, kommt Rat

Meaning: Time will tell – Time will show

Literal translation: comes time, comes a piece of advice


Einen Frosch im Hals haben

Meaning: To have a frog in one’s throat

Literal translation: to have a frog in one’s throat

But (French): Avoir un chat dans la gorge (to have a cat in the throat)


Nicht um den heißen Brei herumreden

Meaning: No beating around the bush

Literal translation: no talking around the hot porridge


Andere Mütter haben auch schöne Töchter

Meaning: There are plenty of fish in the sea

Literal translation: other mothers have beautiful daughters, too


Rutsch mir den Buckel runter

Meaning: Go fly a kite

Literal translation: slide down my hump


Ich habe einen Bärenhunger

Meaning: I could eat a horse

Literal translation: i have the hunger of a bear


Ein Unglück kommt selten allein

Meaning: It never rains but it pours – Misery loves company

Literal translation: one disaster rarely comes alone


Gib niemals auf / Verliere niemals die Hoffnung

Meaning: Never say die

Literal translation: never give up / never lose hope


Ohne Fleiß kein Preis

Meaning: No pain no gain

Literal translation: without diligence no reward


Übung macht den Meister

Meaning: Practice makes perfect

Literal translation: practice makes the master


Das Handtuch werfen / Die Flinte ins Korn werfen

Meaning: To throw in the towel

Literal translation: to throw (in) the towel / to throw the gun in the corn

But (French): Jeter l’éponge (to throw the sponge)


Zu Hause ist es am schönsten

Meaning: There is no place like home

Literal translation: it is the most beautiful at home


Das geht dich (gar/überhaupt) nichts an

Meaning: It’s none of your business

Literal translation: that does not concern you (at all)


Jmdn. im Stich lassen

Meaning: To stand so. up / To leave so. in the lurch

Literal translation: to let so. in the stab

Etw. aus sicherer Quelle wissen

Meaning: Straight from the horse’s mouth

Literal translation: to know sth. from a safe source


Keine Hemmungen haben

Meaning: To have plenty of cheek

Literal translation: to have no inhibitions


Etw. für einen Appel und ein Ei kaufen

Meaning: To buy sth. for a song

Literal translation: to buy sth. for an apple and an egg


Stark wie ein Stier sein

Meaning: To be strong as a horse

Literal translation: to be strong as a bull


Wie der Vater, so der Sohn

Meaning: Like father like son

Literal translation: as the father, so the son


Sich gleichen wie ein Ei dem anderen

Meaning: Like two peas in a pod

Literal translation: to resemble each other like one egg the other


Gleich und Gleich gesellt sich gern

Meaning: Birds of a feather flock together

Literal translation: same and same like to mingle


Frei wie ein Vogel sein

Meaning: To be as free as a bird

Literal translation: To be as free as a bird

But (French): Être libre comme l’air (to be as free as the air)


Der frühe Vogel fängt den Wurm

Meaning: The early bird catches the worm

Literal translation: The early bird catches the worm

But (French): Le monde appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt (the world belongs to those who get up early)


Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen

Meaning: To kill two birds with one stone

Literal translation: to hit two flies with one flap


Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr

Meaning: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Literal translation: what Hänschen does not learn, Hans won’t learn at all


Man kann nicht auf allen Hochzeiten tanzen

Meaning: You can’t have your cake and eat it

Literal translation: you can’t dance at all weddings


Lampenfieber haben

Meaning: To get cold feet

Literal translation: to have lamp fever


Hübsch anzusehen sein

Meaning: Easy on the eyes

Literal translation: to be nice to look at


Todschick gekleidet sein

Meaning: To be dressed to kill

Literal translation: to be dressed fatally chic

In the end, we can say that learning German proverbs is „kinderleicht“ (easy as pie).

Did you know that …

The longest word of the English language has 45 letters?

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis is, according to the Oxford Dictionnary of English (Krulwich), the longest non technical word of the English language. The word refers to an illness you get when you inhale a particular substance that inhibits the breathing (Krulwich).

However, it is not the longest word of all languages. One of the longest German words, Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, has 63 letters (Dutertre). It is the name of a law that regulates the way beef is tested (Dutertre). The Germans, though, got tired of the word’s length, so that it was abolished by the German parliament in June 2013 (Vasagar).

Germany has always been famous for the length of its words, which is due to the fact that Germans like to connect words to form longer words that describe something different (Vasagar).

The word Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft for example, which consists of 80 letters, actually contains several words that compose one long word (Vasagar). The French meaning of this word is „L'Association des fonctionnaires subordonnées du chef du bureau de gestion des services électriques pour les bateaux dans le Danube“ (Vasagar).

The longest French word, however, is not as long as that. „Anticonstitutionnellement“, which has only 25 letters, comes in first. The majority of these words are not often used in spoken language, although they are interesting.



1) Dutertre, France, and Darren Thompson. "The Longest Word in Europe is…." Café Babel International, 10 Mar. 2009. Web. 18 June 2013

2) Krulwich, Robert. "What's The Longest Word In The English Language?" NPR. NPR, 21 Jan. 2011. Web. 18 June 2013

3) Vasagar, Jeevan. "Germany Drops Its Longest Word: Rindfleischeti..." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 03 June 2013. Web. 18 June 2013 drops-its-longest-word-Rindfleischeti....html