As it drops into the sub-zero temperatures, kalt (cold) is just not going to hack it. Instead, the word you need is saukalt. Literally translating as “pig-cold” it means it’s flipping cold, and it's the perfect description as we head into the frozen months.
As you walk past the delicacies on offer at the Christmas markets, this word may also come in handy. A Naschkatze (nibble-cat) is the term for someone with a sweet tooth, and who can blame you when there’s such a delicious selection of cakes, cookies and sweets to delve into this winter?
The colder it is outside, the warmer it feels inside, and that’s why we’re grateful for the German word Gemütlichkeit (its closest translation is “cosiness”). As you pile into a warm wood-panelled bar and wrap you’re hands around a steaming mug of Glühwein, you only need to exclaim: “So gemütlich!”
Many of you are probably hoping for some snow this winter. But the main downside of the white stuff is when it starts to melt. Yes, when it turns to slush, snow suddenly loses its magic. The German term Schneematsch (snow mud) describes that slurry of white and brown that starts to pile up on street corners and seep through your shoes.
But when it does snow, make the most of it and get outside for a snowball fight (the German word literally translates as ‘snowball slaughter’!). And make a Schneemann (snowman) whilst you’re at it.
Die Kuh vom Eis holen
If someone tells you “du hast die Kuh vom Eis geholt” (You’ve got the cow off the ice), they’re probably not being literal (unless you’re a dairy farmer next to a frozen lake). Instead, this rather wintry idiom really means that you’ve saved the day. If someone manages to rescue a situation as you teeter on the edge of disaster, that’s the way to thank them.
Sich freuen wie ein Schneekönig
If you get everything you want for Christmas this year you can say “Ich habe mich gefreut wie ein Schneekönig über die Weihnachtsgeschenke” – I was as pleased as punch with my presents. Schneekönig is actually a nickname for the little songbird known as a wren – so it’s similar to saying you’re as happy as a lark.
Aufs Glatteis führen
Another winter-inspired idiom, aufs Glatteis führen means to “lead [someone] onto the black ice”. The English equivalent is to “lead someone up the garden path”, or to lead them astray. So next time you think you’ve clinched a great deal on that hat at a Christmas market, and then you see it for half the price in a shop window on the way home, you’ll know that the convincing vendor has led you “aufs Glatteis”.
Schnee von gestern
Das ist jetzt Schnee von gestern (literally “that’s yesterday’s snow now”) is best translated as “that’s water under the bridge now”. It's a great phrase to bring out this Christmas, when it seems that an old family argument is about to kick off again. Just tell them calmly that “it’s yesterday’s snow”.