Ever listened to a conversation between Austrians and even though you understand German, you couldn't get half of what was said? It's not you''oida'', it's the slang! Strongly linked to local cultural particularities, slang is evolved in all cultures around the world, where words and phrases make sense only when one is familiar to their cultural context. Dive right into it by reading this article.
While learning German is admittedly not an easy task in general, learning the language in Austria can come to be twice as tricky... but only if you let it. Due to differences between Austrian German and Standardized German - Hochdeutsch, you, my dear reader, will need to practice your skills not only in class during listening exercises, but in the outside world as well, where the language is spoken in real settings and pace. If you put in the effort, the mighty Austrian culture gods will "pfiat di".
To help you during your journey of language discovery and exploration, we created a guide series (find part 1 here) with words and phrases that are essential, taking from the fact that you will probably hear most of them, if not all, dozens of times in everyday life in Austria. We have chosen words and phrases that are contemporary and fun at the same time so you can use the newfound knowledge of their context to impress local friends and fellow language learners alike!
Useful, Everyday Words
Deppert. Also pronounced with a "T" instead of a "D" (ie.teppert), this adjective is synonymous to silly, stupid or slow. Not a particularly nice word as such, deppert is however very much used to show excitement, bewilderment or amazement. It is therefore not always used in a pejorative manner and you will most probably hear it amongst friends or individuals talking to themselves, staring angrily at their computers for not executing the obvious. If you ever drag-and-dropped an image into a Word file and the consequent formatting chaos doesn’t cause you to loudly exclaim “Bist deppert, oida?!”, we don’t know what will. Also, we would like your meditation tips as soon as possible, thank you very much!
Häusl/Heisl, das. Did you know that in Austria (and lower Germany), the suffix -l is used to describe something as small or cute, in the same way that -chen and -lein are? Using the logic of diminutive suffixes, can you guess what a friend of yours means when they ask you to show them the way to the Häusl? What do you mean no? Häusl is clearly (sarcasm!) another word for toilet. Deriving from the times when toilets were built separated from the main structure of houses, the toilet came to be known as a small house, hence Häusl. It can, however, happen that someone can indeed refer to an actual small house as Häusl. Just keep context in mind, will you?
Schanigarten, der.This is one of our favorite Austrian words, and it soon will be yours, too. A Schanigarten is the area directly outside of a bar, restaurant or cafe, usually the sidewalk, where as soon as the sun makes longer appearances and the temperature nears 20℃, owners will claim with tables and chairs for their guests to enjoy food, the weather and the passing traffic.
There are many possible backstories to the name Schanigarten but we have a favorite so we’ll stick with that. It is said that the first half of the word comes from the syllabic shortening of the phrase “Schau nur hin” (en. “Just watch”) → Scha n i.
Years and years ago, these restaurant-claimed public spaces attracted the gaze of stunned passersby who watched curiously as people enjoyed meals and drinks out in the open. Allegedly, this phrase was also used by aforementioned onlookers to indicate amusement, in that such locations were also frequented by women (God Forbid!), a rare sight at the time. Whether this backstory is true or not, or Schanigarten indicated the first establishment with tables and chairs in the open because it belonged to someone named Johann or Jean (Schani is a diminutive for those names) we’ll never know...That won’t stop us from chilling in various Schanigärten all summer long with a beer at hand though, we promise! ("Kleines Café" in the first district and "Frida" at Yppenplatz are two of our favorites.)
Häferl, das. We’ll give you a hint: You can pour milk into one, yet not make milk out of one. Häferl is not another way to say Hafer (en. Oats), which was our initial guess when we first heard the word. Häferl is the diminutive form of Hafen which indicates a pot, therefore meaning nothing else than a cup. However, when someone orders a Häferlkaffee, they want filter coffee with lots of milk served in a big cup with a handle. To say that Austrians can be picky with their coffee is an understatement.
Habern. Do you know this moment when you have decided that you are going to start eating healthily and consume less than your average during the day, then arrive home very hungry and… devour everything in the fridge with supersonic speed? Or when you fly back home, after a while in Vienna, and your family welcomes you with a feast, which you ingest almost without taking any breaks to breath? Well, you get the gist! Habern means to eat food with a great appetite and speed.
Haberer/Hawara, der. Now, not to confuse this as having anything to do with the verb habern, der Hawara is just your average dude, guy or male friend. A German synonym would be the word Kumpel. It can be also used to indicate someone’s boyfriend in informal settings, as in “Der Blond da ist der neue Hawara von Laura”. The word is said to have derived from Hebrew.
Useful, Everyday Phrases
Pfiat di. You know how "Grüß Gott" and "Grüß di" are equivalent to "Hallo" and "Guten Tag". Pfiat di/ Pfiat eich is synonymous to "Tschüss" or "Auf Wiedersehen", an especially popular way of saying farewell amongst the older generations and in the countryside by people of all ages. The word Pfiat has originated from the verb "behüten", meaning to watch over/protect, so it is a way of saying may God protect/watch over you. What a wholesome way to part ways with someone. Still struggling to understand how "behüt dich" turned to "pfiat di"? You can ask in class for a more detailed explanation of the change in phonetics. Ah..the wonder of Austrian German!
Geh, hear auf. Usually accompanied with an exaggerated break of the wrist facing forward, geh, hear auf translates really well to come on, stop.
It may be said in a cutesy way when one is receiving a compliment:
- Wie schön siehst du denn, aber? (en. You look so good!)
- A geh, hear auf!
Or a means to signal that you don’t buy what your friend is saying:
- Ich hab Conchita gestern Abend auf dem Weg nach Hause gesehen, sie saß neben mir im Bus. (en. I saw Conchita yesterday night on my way home, she sat next to me on the bus.)
- Geh, hear auf!
Or a way to just say stop it!
- Ich werde nie einen Job/Mann finden.. (en. I will never find a job/guy)
- Geh, hear auf!
Eh, Kloar. This translates to clearly or obviously and is used both earnestly and ironically.
- "Grelle Forelle" heut’ Abend? (en. Grelle Forelle tonight?) ("Grelle Forelle" is a famous techno club in Vienna)
- Eh, Kloar!
- Meine Mitbewohnerin hatte versprochen am Sonntag die Wohnung zu putzen..Sie schlaf stattdessen, den ganzen Tag! Sie ging Samstag in Grelle Forelle tanzen. (en. My roommate promised to clean the apartment on Sunday. She slept the whole day instead! She went dancing in "Grelle Forelle" on Saturday.)
Self explanatory which is meant earnestly and which ironically, right? Yes, you can answer with eh, kloar.
Na No Na Ned. No, the cat didn’t just walk all over the keyboard. Yes, it is a real expression used by the Viennese everyday, we swear! A word to word translation would result in four consecutive no’s. HOWEVER. This phrase actually means..drumroll please.. obviously. It’s so weird that we can’t help but love it! Shortened versions of na no na ned can be heard as no na ned and no na.
-Soll ich auch die Trüffelpommes bestellen?
-Na no na ned!
I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat truffle fries? (Tip: Try the ones at Kleinod bar right on the edge of Stadtpark.. Yum)
Beware though. If there is a slight pause after "na", which essentially would indicate a comma if written, then the phrase “Na, no ned” would translate to “No, not yet”!
On Learning New Words and Phrases in Austrian German
We hope you are having as much fun reading and learning these, as we have writing them. Overtime we came to understand that learning Austrian German little by little is like someone handing you a map of a secret city full of wonders, and letting you explore it exponentially day by day. Understanding what locals are saying and/or implying can give you a liberating feeling. This will make you more comfortable and confident in your everyday life, it can create opportunities for small talk and blending in and it will probably make you love the country and its quirkiness even more.
Today you have learnt the adjective deppert, the nouns Häusl, Schanigarten, Häferl, and Hawara, the verb habern, as well as the phrases Pfiat di, Geh Hear auf, Eh Kloar and Na No Na Ned.
Which of these Austrian German words and phrases surprised you the most? Did you happen to know any of them beforehand? Let us know in the comments below.