9 Essential Austrian German Words For A Night Out In Vienna
We break down the best reasons to learn a language before your next trip abroad
Vienna. It’s been on your bucket list for a while now. With its immaculate architecture, picturesque parks and rich musical tradition, it’s bound to satisfy even the hardest-to-impress tourist (which, in fact, you are).
After months of planning and saving (and paying down some seriously overdue student loans), you and some friends — we’ll call them Brenda and Brandon Walsh — have finally arrived in the City of Music and Dreams (City of Music for that Mozart guy, City of Dreams for that Freud guy).
Today, you stood in awe at Schönbrunn Palace, absorbed some culture in the Museumsquartier and marveled at the utility of the Ringsstraße. Now that you’ve seen the sights, you and the Walsh twins are ready for a night out on the town.
Brenda’s dying to go clubbing, Brandon’s looking for something a bit more low key and you’re down for pretty much whatever; despite the group dissonance, you’re all in agreement about one thing: after a touristy kind of day, you’re looking for a more authentic Viennese experience (and no, I don’t mean yodeling, though that could be fun).
To discover the real Vienna, the Vienna beneath the surface, just do as the
Romans Viennese do: speak the words and phrases of the locals.
Here are the 9 essential Viennese words you need to survive a night out in the glorious Austrian capital:
Dessert before dinner? That’s crazy! But why not? — you’re on vacation. Throwing caution to the wind, you decide on the most famous and decadent of Austrian desserts: the strudel. With its doughy flakey goodness and sweet and fruity inside, it’s hard to resist (and even harder to digest).
As a noun, strudel means "whirlpool" or "vortex." Make it a verb, and now you’re “swirling." Add the common German prefix “ab," and you’ve got abstrudeln, meaning “to struggle." Put it all together, and if you strudel anymore, you’ll be abstrudeln to keep your strudel down.
Dessert was great and all, but Brandon’s still grappling with some serious hunger — what the Viennese might call having a real Flamo. Looks like it’s time for some good ol’ Grammelschmalz (crackling fat) and Saumaise (salted meatloaf). Luckily for you, Brenda’s already yelped a super traditional restaurant with like a billion stars. Onward!
You’ve just been seated in one of the quaintest little restaurants, when, without so much as a smile, your server Hans dumps the end piece of a loaf of bread on your table. Brandon’s like, “What?" Brenda’s like, “Huh," and you’re like, “Zo?" But don’t insult Hans by scoffing at this tiding; it’s actually the much revered Scherzl, the first or last piece of bread from the loaf, and something that should be savored in all its edge-of-bread glory. And don’t worry — the main course is still to come.
A Bankl reißen
“Uhhhh," says Brenda, struggling to breath. “Mughh," says Brandon, rubbing his tummy. Between the strudel appetizer, the Scherzl, the plum dumplings and a Wienerschnitzel the size of your head, you’re all stuffed to the gills. In Viennese German, you might just be ready to a Bankl reißen, literally “to tear a bench" (as in, "my a** might just break that bench with all those carbs I ate"); or, figuratively “to die" (as in, "I’m so full I’m going to die").
What a delicious meal! You’re so pleased, in fact, you ask to personally congratulate the chef on a job well done. In your best beginner’s German, you proclaim, “Sie haben so schön gekackt!"
Unfortunately, and despite your best intentions, you just told the chef that he did a really good job… making a number 2. In German, the verb kochen (kock-en), meaning "to cook," is far too close for comfort to the verb kacken (kahk-en), meaning… well… the opposite of eating.
No one needs to be complimented on their “kacken," least of all the chef who just prepared your meal. In Vienna, your error would surely be nedlich, the best word for describing a verbal faux pas. Don’t worry though — you’re not the first to make this mistake (and you certainly won’t be the last!).
After that unfortunate nedlich incident at the restaurant, you’re feeling a bit like a Zwutschkerl, a real idiot (as in, not the sharpest knife in the drawer… or is it shed?). But things are looking up — you’re headed towards the Prater for a nice post-digestion (and post-humiliation) stroll. The Prater, with its carnival rides and potential for debauchery, is also the perfect place — according to Brenda — to spot some real Augenweide (eye-candy).
In fact, before you know it, Brandon’s flirting with some girl next to the Wiener Riesenrad, and Brenda’s just gotten you all invited to a real Viennese party! Sweet!
Wow, this party has a little bit of everything — jello shots, beanie babies, that guy that keeps telling every girl they remind him of his mother — everything! You’re having a really lovely time (and even discussing Freud with a girl in a cow costume), but now Brenda’s being stalked by some guy who complimented the shape of her eyeballs, and some woman is telling Brandon that she’s super ready to get married, and what is he doing later, and how long is he staying in Vienna for, and what are his plans for the future, and could he imagine a future together?!
Being the knight in shining armor that you are (make that dashing knight in shining armor), you act quickly, quietly signaling to your friends that it’s okay, help is just around the corner. With obstacles and landmines on all sides, it seems the best way out of there is to Kurvn krotzen, or to sneak out quietly without anyone being the wiser.
You’ve hardly made it to the sidewalk, when Brenda and Brandon start screaming, “Heisl!" Heisl!" Having just learned the word at the party from someone dressed as a peacock, you’re a bit confused; doesn’t Heisl mean "a lonely and unloved person?" Are they talking about you? They’re talking about you, aren’t they?! And why, of all times, are they choosing this moment to point out that you’re alone and unloved?!
Easy, tiger. Turns out Heisl has more than one meaning (three in fact), and naturally each of you has learned the word from a different party guest. So while Brenda is doing the pee-pee dance, begging for the Heisl (bathroom), Brandon wants nothing more than to go Heisl (home); meanwhile, you’re standing there utterly perplexed by your friends’ incessant reference to a lonely and dejected individual.
After what seems like an hour yelling different meanings of Heisl at one another, you finally remember that you all speak English, clarify your needs and head for the hotel.
It’s morning in Vienna. The birds sing sweetly as the the sun, hanging low and heavy on the horizon, casts its warm glow through your hotel window. Sleepily, and with love in your heart, for good friends and for all this beautiful world has to offer, you turn your gaze to the window and shout, “SHUT UP BIRDS!! I HAVE THE WORST HANGOVER EVER!!"
“SHUT THE CURTAIN! SHUT THE CURTAIN!" screeches Brandon, waking from his slumber on the floor next to you. “IT’S TOO BRIGHT! IT’S TOO BRIGHT! MY EYES!!"
Head pounding, you close the curtains only to realize that the bed next to you is empty, and Brenda is nowhere to be found. Panicked, you scour the hotel room and eventually find 1/2 of the Walsh twins asleep in the bathtub, a giant stuffed Mickey Mouse cuddling next to her (where did she get that?). You ever so gently try and rouse her awake, only to be met with a guttural, “Ughhhhhhhhhhhhh."
In times likes these, there’s really only one solution: the Reparaturseidl, literally “repair beer." So, being the born leader that you are (your 4th grade teacher told you so), you call room service, lie down and wait.
An hour later, and post-Reparaturseidl, you’re sitting on your hotel terrace (you have a terrace now), and this time really with love in your heart, for good friends and for all this beautiful world has to offer, you look out over the city and think, “So this is Vienna. I like."