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GERMAN LANGUAGE

10 ways to talk about being drunk in German

Austria is famous for its love of beer, schnapps and wine. So here are some phrases to help you express various levels of inebriation in the German language.

10 ways to talk about being drunk in German
(Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash)

1. Betrunken sein

The most straightforward way to express alcohol-induced intoxication in German, which will leave no one in any doubt as to your state, is to use the word betrunken meaning “drunk”.

Example:

Es ist ihm egal – er ist betrunken!

He doesn’t care – he’s drunk!

2. Saufen

Next up is the most common word for “boozing” in German. Saufen can be used both as a verb and a noun to mean “to get drunk” or “drinking”.

Examples:

Lass uns einfach weiter saufen!

Let’s just keep drinking!

Ich habe kein Problem mit dem Saufen

I don’t have a drinking problem. 

3. Alkoholisiert sein

This is more of a formal way to talk about being drunk, and is equivalent to the English “to be under the influence of alcohol”. You’ll usually hear authorities and newspaper reports using this phrase to talk about alcohol-related incidents.

Examples:

Der Fahrer war alkoholisiert

The driver was under the influence of alcohol

Es ist aus Sicherheitsgründen untersagt, vor Spielbeginn alkoholisiert anzukommen.

For safety reasons, it is prohibited to arrive intoxicated before the start of the game.

4. Blau sein

This expression, meaning literally “to be blue” has a pretty disgusting origin story.

In the middle ages, the plant woad was used to create a blue colour for dyes.

As only a small amount of alcohol was needed to speed up the dyeing process, using human urine containing alcohol was supposedly the cheapest way to ferment the dye.

READ ALSO: Hugo, Almdudler and Radler: 5 drinks to try in Austria

So the dyers drank beer all day and urinated into the vat where the plant was fermenting. Remember that next time you wear your favourite blue t-shirt. 

Example:

Er war so blau, dass er seinen Schlüssel nicht in die Tür bekam

He was so drunk that he couldn’t get his key in the door

5. Beschwipst sein

The phrase beschwipst sein is equivalent to the English “to be tipsy” and not yet in the full throws of drunkenness.

READ ALSO: Austrian old folks toast success of ‘Grandma and Grandpa’ beer

The word was first used in Austria in the 19th century and can be traced back to the verb schwippen, meaning to sway, as it describes a drunk person who finds it increasingly difficult to walk in a straight line.

Example:

Ich bin nicht betrunken, nur ein bisschen beschwipst

I’m not drunk – just a little tipsy

6. Zu tief ins Glas schauen

This idiom is most likely a jokey rethink of the idiom tief ins Augen schauen meaning “to look someone too deeply in the eyes” as a way of saying “to fall in love with someone”.

This phrase for drunkenness has been in use in the German language since around 1700 and has even made appearances in many literary works, including those of Goethe.  

Examples:

Du solltest nicht zu tief ins Glas schauen, sonst musst du dir ein Taxi nehmen

You’d better not get too drunk, or you’ll have to take a taxi

Immer mehr Rentner schauen oft zu tief ins Glas

More and more pensioners get drunk often

 7. voll wie ein Eimer sein

This expression, meaning “to be as full as a bucket” is just one of a multitude of German expressions that include the word voll (“full”) to express drunkenness.

Beer buckets (Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash)

There are numerous phrases that start with voll wie (“as drunk as”) and end in something heavy, such as Granate (grenade), Schwein (pig), Kanone (canon), and even voll wie ein tausend Russen (“full as a thousand Russians”). Why not try making up your own variation?

8. Einen im Tee haben

This idiom, which is not that common in Austria, is believed to have originated in northern Germany, where a drop of rum was often added to tea on cold winter days for a warm comforting feeling and to protect against the cold – especially by sailors. After one or two, of course, you would be drunk, or at least a little tipsy.

Example:

Er hatte ganz schön einen im Tee

He’s pretty wasted

9. einen sitzen haben

This phrase is a shortened version of the older einen Affen sitzen haben meaning “to have a monkey sitting” which was used to express a heightened state of inebriation. 

READ ALSO: Tips: How to buy wine in an Austrian supermarket

The origin of the phrase is disputed, but most believe it is to do with the fact that fools and jesters would often carry a monkey on their shoulder.

Example:

Ich hatte gestern so richtig einen sitzen

I was so drunk yesterday

10. Kater

Although Kater is also the name for a male cat, this is the German term for “hangover” that you will inevitably need to use after consuming too much alcohol.

It’s widely believed that the origin of this word comes from the medical term “Katarrh”, an inflammation of the mucous membrane, which leads to symptoms such as cough, cold, malaise and headache – similar to those of a hangover.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Example:

Ich hatte am Sonntag einen schrecklichen Kater

I had such a terrible hangover on Sunday

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GERMAN LANGUAGE

The seven stages of learning German every foreigner goes through

German is a notoriously difficult language to learn and the path to fluency is marked by milestones that every budding German speaker will recognise.

The seven stages of learning German every foreigner goes through

Stage 1: Terror

You’ve just set foot on Austrian soil and are ready to begin your new life in Österreich. While you may have left home feeling excited and full of enthusiasm for learning the German language, you now find yourself in a world of alarmingly long and confusing words containing strange symbols which are impossible to pronounce – and that’s before realising that there are regional dialects to make things harder.

You’re confronted with long words like Ausländerbehörde, Aufenthaltsbescheinigung, and Wohnungsanmeldung and the prospect of having to get to grips with a language whose average word contains 14 letters slowly dawns on you. It’s terrifying.

Tip: Don’t panic. At first, learning German can seem like a daunting prospect, but as you start to take your first baby steps into the language, you’ll soon realise it’s not as bad as you think. And those long words are just lots of smaller words squashed together.

READ ALSO: ‘Brutal’: What it’s really like to learn German in Austria

Stage 2: Determination

You’ve got over the initial shock of realising the true scale of the linguistic mountain you’ll have to climb to learn German – and you resolve to conquer it.

You enrol in a language course and arm yourself with grammar books and language learning apps, and you start making progress very quickly. You realise that a lot of German words have the same roots as their English cousins and that words and phrases are sticking in your head more quickly than you expected. The flames of optimism begin to grow.

A couple practices the German language. Photo: Annika Gordon/Unsplash

Tip: Keep up that spirit and persist with the grammar books and vocab learning, ideally on a daily basis and start speaking the language as much as you can – even if it’s just reading aloud to yourself. 

Stage 3: Obsession

Spurred on by your new ability to introduce yourself, talk about the weather and tell people about your pets, you launch an all-out assault on the German language.

READ ALSO: How to remember the gender of German words

You’ve got post-it notes filled with vocab stuck all over your flat, you’ve got three tandem partners and ORF is blasting 24/7 from your Laptop.

You are now officially obsessed with the German language.

Tip: Don’t be too hard on yourself once this phase of unbridled enthusiasm burns out. Though it’s great to have a period of immersion in the long-run, regular learning – even for shorter periods – is the key to progress.

Stage 4: Experimentation

You’ve now got a solid base of internal vocab and you’ve got to grips with the most important grammar rules. You can use the dative and genitive cases with increasing ease and you’re using modal verbs on a regular basis. 

You now feel ready to road-test your new language skills in the big wide world. You don’t ask Sprechen Sie englisch? (do you speak English?) any more and instead try to communicate only in German. 

Tip: Bolster this experimentation phase by consuming more Austrian media. Listen to Austrian podcasts, check out Austrian TV shows and try to read the news in German. 

READ ALSO: 8 Austrian TV series to watch to improve your (Austrian) German

Stage 5: Frustration

Just as you were starting to gain confidence in the language, you hit a brick wall. You spent an evening in the company of German speakers, or you attended a meeting at work where you found yourself fumbling for vocabulary and stumbling over grammar.

You can’t, for the life of you, remember whether it’s der, die or das Licht even though you’ve looked it up at least a hundred times. 

A German dictionary. Photo: Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash

What’s the point, you ask yourself. You want to give up and just switch to speaking English permanently, as everyone you meet seems to speak perfect English anyway.

Tip: Everyone feels like this at some point when learning a new language and it’s likely to happen more than once on your language-learning journey. Keep going and don’t compare your German language skills with the English skills of German natives. Remember that most Austrians have grown up listening to songs and watching films in English, so it will take you a bit longer to get to grips with German in the same way. 

Stage 6: Breakthrough

You’re not quite sure what’s happened, but something seems to have clicked. You’re suddenly using the right past participles 90 percent of the time and you’re using reflexive verbs with ease. People are rarely switching to English when speaking to you and you’re understanding almost everything you see and hear.

READ ALSO: Six ways to fall in love with learning German again

Tip: Remember this feeling when you are revisited by frustration in the future. 

Stage 7: Acceptance

You still make mistakes, you don’t know all of the words in the German dictionary, and you still mix up der, die and das – but it’s ok. You’ve come a long way and you accept that your German will probably never be perfect and that the learning process will be a lifelong pursuit. 

Tip: The more you use the language, the more you’ll improve. Keep reading, speaking and listening and, one day, it won’t even feel like an effort anymore. 

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