“Now we have the salad”: German Idioms Part I

Time for another language geek post. And I thought this one could be a small post about a few idioms I’ve been learning at work. Here are my 5 favourite idioms I’ve learnt so far working in Deutschland:

1. Den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sehen: “to not see the forest for the trees”

This is a fun one I learnt after asking a colleague if she knew where the wooden (wie passend!) spoon was – it was sat right in front of me in the drawer I had open. My colleague then told me about this phrase and asked if we had a similar version in English. I couldn’t think of anything, but after research it turns out we do say something similar – learning German and English, all at the same time!

2. Wem das Wasser bis zum Hals steht, der sollte den Kopf nicht hängen lassen: “He who has water up to his neck shouldn’t let his head drop”

This was said to me after a bit of Scheiße happened at work (which I will probably inform you about when the time is right.. oooh, suspense), but it’s quite a nice little phrase pretty much meaning “keep your head held high!”. There are different variations – the one I heard had the German word “Mist” instead of water, and I also found the word “Scheiße” used when I googled it. Nice image for you there.

3. Das ist mir Wurst: “That’s sausage to me”

This is one I’d read about and heard about when studying German, and after a year in Hannover and not hearing it being used, I thought it was perhaps an outdated idiom so thought best not to use it. However, at work, this phrase is used quite a lot – so perhaps it’s more of a dialect thing. Here though, they pronounce “Wurst” a little more like “Wurscht”/”Worscht” due to the accent. It pretty much means “I don’t care”.

4. Jetzt haben wir den Salat: “Now we have the salad”

Possibly my most favourite idiom. Whilst Germans say “now we have the salad”, we’d probably say “shit has hit the fan”. I quite like it because, not only is it a bloody useful phrase, but it also suggests that as we English speakers would think it’s bad if literal shit hit a literal fan, the Germans think all has gone downhill if they have salad… Come on, guys, salad isn’t that bad!

5. Ich mache mich jetzt auf die Socken: “I make myself now on the socks”

You probably don’t have a clue what that literal translation means there unless you know the phrase itself. This literal phrase with socks means “Ich mache mich auf den Weg” – basically, “I’m setting off now”. I was taught this fun phrase just last week as I often take my shoes off at work (it’s comfier!) so when I said “Ich mache mich jetzt auf den Weg” my colleague thought it’d be nice to teach me the sock version because I’m always walking around in my socks…

Isn’t German such a fun language?!


5 thoughts on ““Now we have the salad”: German Idioms Part I”

  1. Hi Dan,
    about the salad thing: It’s that salad is (seen as) messy/chaotic. The image behind “Now we have the salad” is “Now we have a mess (on our hands)”. A mess of entangled cables is called “cable salad” for that reason. 🙂

    1. Hi Karim,
      Thanks for your message! That does make sense with a salad being “messy”. I never put two and two together with the “cable salad” either! 🙂

  2. Hi Dan,

    Yorkshire-living, Joint HonoursFrench/German graduate here – contrary to you, my French has had the most consistent hammer, although I retain a love of, and fascination with, with the German language. It was challenging, this summer, sitting in Dijon, in a French context (with brain totally French-programmed) to have to speak German to a friend’s non-English-speaking husband. I managed it, with some degree of brain-ache. Interesting post about “Socken”. Friends in Munich say “Wir waren total von den Socken!” to indicate that they were flabbergasted. I love the “Jetzt haben wir den Salat” – not one I had heard, superb!

    1. Hi Steve,

      The German language truly is fascinating, huh? I’ve never heard of the phrase “wir warten total von den Socken”! Perhaps a more Bavarian phrase.

      Thanks for reading! I’m planning on posting more about German idioms so keep a look out!


      1. Hi Dan, I grew up in north-western Germany. “Ich war total von den Socken” is very familiar to me, so it’s definitely not a saying confined to Bavaria.

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