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14 words and phrases that perfectly describe the German summer

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
14 words and phrases that perfectly describe the German summer
A family on a cycling holiday stop off at a beach in Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

From battling torrential rain to receiving an "out of office" reply from your dentist, here are the key phrases that perfectly sum up summer in Germany.


Summers in Germany can be a magical experience. Whether you're taking some well-earned weeks off work, exploring the great outdoors or spending balmy evenings in a local beer garden, it's the time of year when everything seems to slow down a little.

If you've lived here for long enough, you'll also know that there are some peculiarities about the summer season that really feel uniquely German - and luckily, the German language has some useful phrases to describe all of them. 

Die Hitzewelle

When summer rolls around, you can expect at least a few of these - and due to climate change, they're becoming a lot more common. When the mercury hits 30C or more for a number of days, it's what's known as a heatwave, or a Hitzewelle. 

Nowadays, it's not unusual to even see temperatures as high as 38C, at which point your only options are to cower indoors with your face pressed against a Ventilator (fan) or sack off work to go to a lake. If it's the latter, you're officially taking what's known as a Hitzefrei, which is when you shorten your working hours because it's just too hot to concentrate. 

Das Gewitter / Unwetter 

Of course, the flip side of those hot and sticky summer days are the ferocious thunderstorms - or Gewitter - that seem to sweep in from nowhere and soak everything in their path.

Expect terrifying rolls of thunder, flashes of lightning and dark grey clouds pelting down sheets of rain - almost akin to a tropical storm. When you want to describe this torrential downpour, you can reach for the word Platzregen, which literally translates as "burst rain". 

Dark clouds on a beach

Dark clouds gather on a beach in Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania in summer. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Büttner

If you're out in one, you'll be wet through in under five seconds, but the good news is that they tend to pass over almost as quickly as they arrive, leaving sunshine, blue skies and a fresh chill in the air. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Platzregen

Zurzeit bin ich nicht im Büro...

If you want to get something important done, it's fair to say that summer is definitely the wrong time to do it if you live in Germany. Whether you're emailing a colleague or your tax advisor, more often than not you'll get an automated email declaring: "Zurzeit bin ich nicht im Büro..." (I'm not in the office at the moment).

Normally, this out-of-office reply will helpfully include a future date when you might be able to reach them again - usually several weeks in the future. And while it can be frustrating, we just take it as a licence to put our feet up and put work on the back burner until September. 


Die Betriebsferien

In a move that seems designed to shock Americans everywhere, some German businesses simply shut up shop for a number of weeks in summer. This is delightfully known as a Betriebsferien - or company holiday - and is another example of Germans valuing a healthy work-life balance, even if it hurts the bottom line. 

Der Grillparty 

For many Germans, it just isn't summer if you haven't had at least one barbecue - but what better way to do it than to invite all the neighbours to your Hinterhof (back courtyard) for a Grillparty? 

So crack open a couple of beers, stick some Wurst on the grill and enjoy socialising in summer with the smell of grilled meat (or veggies) wafting through the air. 

READ ALSO: Grilling in Germany: What you need to know about the Bratwurst

Barbecue vegetables and steak

Steak and green vegetables on a barbecue. Photo by Edson Saldaña auf Unsplash

Das Freiluftkino 

If summer in Germany has taught us anything, it's that you can put anything outdoors if you set your mind to it - including cinemas. The Freiluftkino is a wonderful invention where big inflatable screens are put up in parks, forests and other scenic outdoor locations, alongside little kiosks selling snacks and drinks. 

Visiting the Freiluftkino as the sun sets on a warm summer evening is an essential part of the German summer experience, so don't miss out on checking out a film al fresco.


Die Baustelle 

The warmer weather and longer days makes summer the ideal time to work on construction projects - aside from the odd bit of torrential rain, of course. 

That's why you'll probably see a lot of Baustellen (construction sites) around in summer, and you'll certainly hear about them when you attempt to take public transport and find out that track renovations mean you'll be taking Ersatzbus (rail replacement bus) yet again.

Ab ins Wasser!

"Into the water!" is the rallying cry that echoes through the country as soon as summer arrives.

Whether it's wild swimming in a gorgeous natural lake, heading to the northern coast for a Strandurlaub (beach holiday) or heading to the Freibad (open-air swimming pool), you'll soon discover there's nothing Germans love more than having a refreshing dip on sweltering summer days. 

READ ALSO: 'Go early and stay late': Your tips for making the most of Germany's lakes

A sign at a lake in Bensheim, Hesse, warns swimmers about a steeply sloping bank

A sign at a lake in Bensheim, Hesse, warns swimmers about a steeply sloping bank. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fredrik von Erichsen

Der Mückenstich

Not everything about the German summer experience is positive, and one major downside of the great outdoors are the bloodsucking insects that live there.

Whether you've been at the lakeside all day or stayed too late at a barbecue, polka-dot legs and arms are the tell-tale signs of a Mückenstich - or mosquito bite - and they're a rite of passage in summer. 

Die Küchenmotten 

Another critter that may come to visit you this time of year is the Küchenmotte, or kitchen moth: a prolific insect that seems to defy the laws of physics to make it into every bag of rice or pasta imaginable. 

You can fight back against the invasion with special sprays, airtight containers and even other insect varieties - or simply wait it out until the weather cools down in autumn and they finally disappear.

READ ALSO: How to deal with fruit flies (and other critters) plaguing your German flat


Der Sommerferien 

Between the end of June and the start of August, schools around Germany start heading on their summer break - or Sommerferien. Each state makes their own rules on this, with North Rhine-Westphalia usually among the first to go on holiday and Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg usually the last.

When the children are off school, most families tend to book a vacation - or Urlaub - whether it's jetting off somewhere hot and sunny like Spain or Greece or heading to popular holiday spots at home. 

Die Fahrradtour 

Whether it's camping, hiking or biking, Germans love getting outdoors in summer - and if they can turn it into a mini-break, even better. With around 40,000 kilometres of cycle routes weaving through the country, Germany is a cyclists' paradise.

If you're keen to stretch your legs and spend a few days cycling through the country, you can also find every type of Fahrradtour (bike tour) available, from the forests and lakes of Brandenburg to the chocolate-box Alpine routes of the Allgäu.

READ ALSO: Here are ten of Germany's best (and longest) biking trails

Two men on a cycling trip cross a bridge in Cologne.

Two men on a cycling trip cross a bridge in Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Büttner

Der Stau 

When the summer holidays start in your state or the neighbouring one and you plan to drive anywhere, you'll need to get used to one thing: traffic jams.

The Stau is particularly bad after Germany's populous southern states close their schools for summer, so expect long delays on the roads, especially in popular holiday regions like Bavaria and the northern coast. 


Der Biergarten

You didn't think we'd leave this one out, did you? Of course not! We love a beer garden at (almost) any time of year, but on warm summer evenings they truly come into their own.

So head to the bar, grab a Bavarian Helles and a Brezel the size of your head, and say 'Prost!' (cheers) to your friends as you enjoy this most German of summer experiences. 


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