Nine tasty German food and drink idioms

The Local Germany (7 October 2015)

Germany is famous for a lot of things, not least its mouth-watering array of national foods and drinks.

From world-renowned Oktoberfest beers to the tantalising selection ofChristmas goodies gracing the shelves this month, German cuisine certainly hits the spot for many visitors.

But for Germans themselves, talk of food and drink isn’t just reserved for the dining table.

Here are some of our favourite German culinary phrases that actually have nothing to do with eating or drinking.

Guten Appetit!

1. In den sauren Apfel beißen (to bite the bullet) – Literally “to bite into the sour apple,” this means to bite the bullet, swallow the pill or just generally do something you’re not that keen on. We’d rather make those sour apples into strudel, to be honest.

2. Das ist nicht dein Bier! (that’s none of your business) – If someone yells “that’s not your beer!” at you, it could well be that you’ve picked up their Erdinger by mistake. However, they could also be warning you to mind your own business. Germans are just as protective over their private lives as they are over their beers, apparently – or vice versa.

3. Das ist kein Honiglecken (it’s no picnic) – “It’s not like licking honey,” someone might warn in German if you’re about to embark on something particularly tricky or taxing. We’re not sure we really get this one – licking honey on a regular basis sounds like a surefire way of racking up frequent dentist appointments.

4. Wer Bären fangen will, muss sich mit Honig versehen (you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar) – Typical. In English we catch flies, while in Germany they’re catching bears. Like the English saying, this phrase means that if you want something from somebody, you’re better off using sweetness and flattery than making rude demands. What is it with Germans and honey?

5. Ein Haar in der Suppe (a fly in the ointment) – When you go to a fancy restaurant, what’s the one thing that’ll spoil your meal more than anything else? Yep. Finding a hair in the soup. It’s a pretty gross image, but it’s also an effective way to describe a small irritation that really takes the enjoyment out of something.

6. Das ist kalter Kaffee (that’s old hat) – No-one likes cold coffee. This phrase describes something which has really gone past its sell-by date and is now painfully familiar and outdated. Maybe no-one’s told Germans they can always reheat their coffee in the microwave.

7. Jemanden durch den Kakao ziehen (to make fun of somebody) – To “drag someone through the cocoa” is apparently not a nice thing to do in Germany. To us, it sounds pretty fun. But maybe that’s just because we can’t get images of Willy Wonka’s chocolate river out of our heads.

8. Im Wein liegt die Wahrheit (in wine lies the truth) – Germans might be known for their love of beer, but in times of doubt it looks like agree with Willy Shakespeare that there’s only one drink when you need answers. This is by far our favourite idiom here at the Local.

9. Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei (everything must come to an end) – Of course there had to be a sausage in here somewhere. Germans can get quite philosophical about their sausages, we’ve found – there’s a whole world of idioms devoted to the humble Wurst. Sadly, this brings us to the end of our culinary travels. It’s been fun, but as the Germans say: “everything has an end; only sausages have two.”

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  1. Hello,
    Firstly, thank you for the lovely lessons. There is one phrase I heard from a German man spoken in English. The phrase I think was about old relationships. He said, “You can’t re-heat cold coffee”. Is this how it is meant?


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