Speak Like a Berliner: Business German Idioms to Use at the Workplace

Are you looking for a language that will give you access to some of the largest markets in the world? Then it would be hard to find a better choice than German. With 110 million speakers worldwide, German is not only the main language of its home country, it also has official status in Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg and parts of northern Italy.

In other words, if you learn German, you will be able to look for a job in one of the most stable and powerful economies in the world. Now, although your old German school book might be handy to revise basic grammar and vocabulary, if you want to move like a fish in water in the German business world, you will need to learn a few German idioms for business.

German idioms are handy, informal, often funny expressions that allow you to sound natural, seem approachable, and show your coworkers that you’ve really done your homework on German business culture. 

Are you ready to learn German phrases you can actually use? Let’s get started, then.

 

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Kasse machen (to cash in)

How much money do you think you would need to set up a bank?

Kasse machen is a German idiom that literally means “to make a bank”, but it really implies that a person is making a huge amount of money. Similar to the English expression “to cash in”, this phrase is often said in admiration or surprise to suggest that a person is making significant profit from their investments, their work, or even from illegal activities.

Example: 

Betrüger versuchen derzeit im Internet, mit vermeintlichen Goldverkäufen Kasse zu machen.

Fraudsters are currently trying to cash in on supposed gold sales on the Internet.

Die Daumen drücken (to keep your fingers crossed)

Superstitious beliefs and lucky charms may not be exactly the same in every culture, but they surely have a lot in common. Much like “keeping one’s fingers crossed,” “pressing one’s thumbs” is something German people do when they really need things to turn out alright. 

“Hast du die Beförderung bekommen?”

“Did you get the promotion?”

“Ich bin noch nicht sicher. Sie werden es mir in einer Stunde sagen. Drücke bitte auf deine Daumen”.

“I’m not sure yet. They will tell me in an hour. Keep your fingers crossed, please.”

Picture of a woman crossing her fingers

Ins Geld gehen/laufen (to cost a lot of money)

Like most German idioms (like most idioms in any language, for that matter!) this phrase means something more than you would guess by looking at the meaning of every individual word. While this expression literally means “to go/run into the money,” it is actually used to talk about purchases. Saying that you have run into the money means that an item is extremely expensive. 

Example: 

In der Nähe zu arbeiten heißt auch, Transportkosten zu sparen, die ganz schön ins Geld gehen können.

Working nearby also means you get to save transport costs, which can be very expensive.

Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen (to kill two birds with a stone)

English and German are usually described as “sister languages”, as they both belong to the same language family and are closely related in terms of vocabulary. For this reason, it’s hardly surprising that many German idioms seem so strangely familiar to English speakers. Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen literally means “to kill two flies with one swat”, and it means exactly what you think it means!

Example:

“Ich bin so im Rückstand! Und in 5 Minuten haben wir dieses sinnlose Meeting.”

“I’m so behind! And we have that pointless meeting in 5 minutes.”

“Wenn Sie Ihre Kamera ausschalten, können Sie an der Besprechung teilnehmen und die für morgen fälligen Rechnungen ausfüllen. Sie würden zwei Fliegen mit einer Klapple schlagen.”

“If you turn off your camera, you can take part in the meeting and fill in the invoices due tomorrow. You would be killing two flies with one swat.”

Sein Geld zum Schornstein hinausjagen (To pour money down the drain)

When was the last time you bought something that was both extremely expensive and absolutely unnecessary? 

Much like its English counterpart, this German phrase meaning “to send money down the chimney” is the perfect expression to talk about those random shopping sprees that we all go on every once in a while. 

Example:

Ist das ein neuer Drucker? Aber der andere war erst zwei Jahre alt! Sie müssen wirklich aufhören, Geld zum Schornstein hinausjagen!

Is that a new printer? But the other one was only two years old! You really need to stop sending money down the drain!

Picture of a woman going on a shopping spree

Hoch im Preis stehen (To be easy to sell for a good price)

Do you still own a signed copy of your Spice Girls CD? Now that the 90s are back, that’s exactly the kind of item this German idiom refers to!

This phrase is used to talk about a product that is in high demand and, therefore, can be sold for a very good price. 

Example:

Dies ist das Pedalbrett, das Bach benutzte, während er am Klavier saß. Wie Sie sich vorstellen können, wäre es sehr einfach, es zu einem guten Preis zu verkaufen, aber zum Glück gehört es zu unserem Museum.

This is the pedalboard that Bach used while he sat at the piano. As you can imagine, it would be very easy to sell it for a good price, but luckily, it belongs to our museum.

Eine Extrawurst verlangen (To ask for a special treatment)

Can you think of a better treat than an extra hot dog? Well, whoever is in charge of coming up with German idioms can’t either.

Literally meaning “to ask for an extra sausage”, this phrase is used to talk about people who think they deserve special treatment (regardless of what everyone else thinks!)

Example:

Der Sohn des Chefs verlangt immer eine Extrawurst! Deshalb mag ihn niemand.

The boss’s son always asks for special treatment. That’s why nobody likes him.

Den Nagel auf den Kopf treffen (To hit the nail on the head)

German idioms do not always look like strange versions for their English equivalents. Sometimes, they are exact translations. This one, for example, literally translates to “hit a nail on the head,” which is a very common English idiom used to suggest that someone has got something right. You see? And you thought it was impossible to learn German idioms!

“Sie werden nicht erraten, wer gerade entlassen wurde?”

You won’t guess who’s just been sacked?

“Ist es Natalie?”

“Is it Natalie?”

“Nun ja. Sie treffen den Nagel auf den Kopf. Woher wusstest du das?”

“Well, yes. You hit the nail on the head. How did you know?”

Picture of a light bulb

Ein goldener Boden – A pot of gold

If you ever come up with an invention that will allow people to stay cool while walking in the street in summer, you’ll have found a pot of gold.

Like most German idioms, the literal phrasing of this one is slightly different from that of its English counterpart: “a golden floor,” but it’s still used to talk about something that is very profitable or has a lot of earning potential

Example:

Hat jemand schon einmal einen Drucker gefunden, der tatsächlich funktioniert, wenn Sie ihn brauchen? Das wäre ein echter goldener Boden.

Has anyone ever found a printer that actually works when you need it? That would really be a pot of gold

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Do you know what else would be a pot of gold? To learn German for business.

By learning German, you will not only discover one of the most beautiful and expressive languages on Earth, but you will also be able to find excellent work opportunities in some of the most advanced countries in Europe. 

The best part is you don’t have to do it on your own. We can help! Contact us now and we’ll pair you up with a German teacher so you can continue to learn German idioms and, most importantly, start working on your fluency! Sign up for a free trial lesson now!