German words you need to know: Die Herbstfärbung

Next time you're lamenting Germany's cold, wet weather, why not head out for a walk and pay special attention to the fiery oranges, yellows and browns of the autumnal leaves around you? Unsurprisingly, German has a word to describe this beautiful part of the season: die Herbstfärbung.

Chalkboard depicting German word of the day
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

When the nights start getting longer and the days shorter, it’s clear that summer is well and truly over, and autumn has arrived.

But though you may feel a little morose about the long winter ahead, autumn isn’t without its joys – most memorably the vibrant leaves of red, yellow and brown decorating the trees and lifting people’s moods at this time of year. In Germany, there is of course a compound noun to perfectly describe this colourful transition.

“Die Herbstfärbung”, meaning autumn colouring, or “die Herbstlaubfärbung”, literally translated to autumn foliage colouring, describes the changing colours of the leaves across Germany from September through to November. This process typically creates a picturesque landscape, whether in one of Germany’s countless forests or on the tree-lined streets in the middle of a city.

It’s no wonder that German’s often nickname the autumnal month of October as “Golden October” due to the “Herbstfärbung” – especially when the sun shines in a yellow-reddish hue onto the colourful leaves – and enjoy spending their time on walks and hikes amongst the trees and the autumn foliage.

READ ALSO: German Word of the Day: Der Kürbis

Of course, the land of poets and thinkers has plenty of poems describing the “Herbstfärbung” process – Rainer Maria Rilke’s Blätter, Ludwig Strunz’s Herbst, Anita Menger’s Wenn Blätter bunt sich färben and Theodor Fontane’s Herbst amongst many others.

Next time you’re on an autumn walk with some of your German friends, point out the “Herbstfärbung” to impress them with your knowledge of a classic German compound noun. And if you’re feeling crafty, why not gather up some of those colourful autumn leaves to create an autumn wreath, or “ein Herbstkranz”, and give your front door a seasonal touch of “Herbstfärbung”.


Die Herbstfärbung verleiht der Stadt ein wirklich herbstliches Gefühl.

The autumn colours are making the city feel really autumnal.

Ich freue mich schon auf die Herbstfärbung in Berlin.

I’m already looking forward to the autumn colours in Berlin.

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German word of the day: Lüften

One of the first lessons you learn when living in Germany is that airing out rooms is extremely important.

German word of the day: Lüften

Whether you sublet, rent a flat or own your home in Germany, it’s likely you’ve been told how important it is to lüften, or open your windows and let air in and out regularly. 

Lüften can be a verb or noun in Germany. As a noun it uses the ‘das’ article and stands for ventilation. The verb lüften means to air out something. It comes from the German word die Luft which means air.

The proper airing out of rooms is a very German thing. Hell, it’s a way of life. 

Just check your rent contract. Foreigners in Germany are often surprised to find that ventilating their homes is usually written into their contract and accompanied by instructions. That means it’s literally legally binding! 

There are very important rules to remember, and German even has a set of vocabulary dedicated to getting fresh air safely in and out the room. 

Words like Stoßlüften – which translates to shock or impact ventilation. This is needed at least twice a day (and more in summer) and involves opening the windows or balcony doors wide to let a ‘shock’ of cold air in. According to experts, you should do this for about five minutes a time in winter, 10-15 minutes each time in autumn and spring, and up to half an hour in summer.

Meanwhile, Querlüften or cross ventilation involves opening all the windows of a house or building and letting the fresh air flow through.

The aim of all this lüften is to stop mould from forming, get rid of smells and to stop rooms from getting too humid. The more people that live in your home, the more airing out you’ll have to do. 

Germans recommend that you turn off your heating while airing out your room (to save on money and to protect the climate) – so be sure to have a big jumper on if you’re airing out in winter. 

READ ALSO: Why Germans are obsessed with the art of airing out a room

Lüften took on a whole new meaning in the pandemic as other countries – or at least those that didn’t have the same culture for airing out – began recommending it to people as a way of helping protect against Covid-19 transmission.  

A good German habit

Lüften can quickly become a habit. Whereas before Germany, I was happy to leave a window tilted open for a while to get some fresh air, I’m now obsessed with the proper way to do it. 

I throw open the windows of my flat wide at regular intervals to get that fresh air circulating, even in the dead of winter. When I’m at home in Scotland or on holiday somewhere else, I do the same thing, which can be alarming to people who think you are trying to freeze them.

I find myself feeling pleased when the neighbours across the road from my Berlin flat open their windows or balcony doors wide. It’s like we’re all part of the secret society of fresh air.

There is nothing now that stands between me and Lüften. When I tweeted about this habit, lots of people said they felt a similar way. 

One Twitter user said: “Been telling my family this for years – as they shiver and complain about how cold it is, and my partner and I passive-aggressively follow each other around shutting and reopening windows. Makes for fun times.”

Another said: “My little sister spent an exchange year in Germany before me and when I visited was thoroughly disturbed by her obsessive window opening. A couple years later I was living in Germany and had become a convert, too.”


Hey Karl, Kannst du bitte dein Zimmer lüften?

Hey Karl, can you please air out your room?

In Deutschland muss man die Zimmer richtig lüften.

You really have to air out rooms the right way in Germany.