German phrase of the day: Als hätte der Himmel seine Schleusen geöffnet

If you have dared to step outside in Germany over the last few days, it's likely you've ended up resembling something closer to a drowned rat than a human. This evocative German phrase describes the kind of weather that leaves you soaked to your skin. 

German phrase of the day: Als hätte der Himmel seine Schleusen geöffnet
A brave cyclist in the pouring rain in Frankfurt, Hesse, on June 29th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Germany has been experiencing some fairly apocalyptic weather over the last week. One moment you are lying in the park, bathing in glorious sunshine, the next you are running home, your summer clothes drenched by a sudden downpour. The phrase als hätte der Himmel seine Schleusen geoeffnet translates to ‘as if the heavens had opened their floodgates’ and refers to a heavy, sudden rain shower. 

We have a similar idea in English, and you might have heard the phrase ‘the heavens have opened’ thrown about on a particularly wet day. This idiom evokes the image of an unavoidable cloudburst, from which there is seemingly no shelter. 

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: What’s going on with Germany’s weather right now?

The phrase comes from the idea that this kind of rain is sudden and unavoidable. Usually rain will start falling lightly and then get heavier over time but, if der Himmel seine Schleusen öffnet, the rain seems to come down all at once. It is as if the only thing holding the water back was a gate or door somewhere high in the sky and, once this is opened, the rain is free to pour through and hurtle down to earth. 

You would not use this phrase if it were merely drizzling, instead this idiom refers to the type of rain that clatters down, sometimes even rendering umbrellas useless. If you get caught in this kind of weather, it is best to resign yourself to the fact that you will return home soaked through and dripping with rain. 


Wir sitzen gerade zufrieden an unserem Lagerfeuer als der Himmel plötzlich seine Schleusen öffnet.

We were sitting happily by the campfire when the heavens suddenly opened. 

Das Wetter war gestern so schlecht, es war als ob der Himmel seine Schleusen geöffnet hat. 

The rain was so bad yesterday, it was raining cats and dogs.

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German word of the day: Umgangssprache

This is a good word to be aware of when you're looking out for phrases to add to your everyday vocabulary in Germany.

German word of the day: Umgangssprache

Why do I need to know Umgangssprache?

We may be getting a little meta here, but we think it’s worth knowing this word so you can listen out for the words around it (or know when not to use this type of language).

What does it mean?

Umgangssprache, which sounds like this, means ‘colloquial language’ or ‘slang’. These are the kinds of words and phrases you might not find in a textbook, but they are heard in everyday life.

By using slang vocabulary, you’ll be able to bring your sentences to life and sound like a true local.

The term is said to have been introduced into the German language by the writer and linguist Joachim Heinrich Campe at the beginning of the 19th century.

Umgangssprache is shaped by the world around it, whether its regional factors or social circumstances of the time. 

Here are a few examples of colloquial phrases and words:

Geil means horny in German, but it is also used colloquially to describe anything you think is cool. In English, you might use the word ‘sick’ or ‘awesome’ in the same context.

Krass is another colloquial word that can mean lots of things. It is usually used to intensify the meaning of something very bad or something very good depending on the tone and context. So something disgusting is krass, and something amazing can also be krass

Das ist mir Wurst translates to ‘that’s sausage to me’, and means you don’t give a toss. 

Das ist doch Käse translates to ‘that’s cheese’ and expresses that you mean something is absolute nonsense. 

And a ruder one is: Das ist am Arsch der Welt. It means ‘that’s the arse of the world’ and refers to a place that is far away or very difficult to reach. In English you might say ‘back of beyond’. 

You would hear these kinds of phrases in relaxed conversations in cafes and bars, but they aren’t so common in formal situations. 

Use it like this:

Ist das Umgangssprache oder kann ich das bei meinem Chef benutzen?

Is that colloquial language or can I use it with my boss?

Mir gefällt die umgangssprachliche Floskel: auf dein Nacken!

I really like the colloquial phrase ‘this is on you!’