Mülltrennung – How the Germans Separate Their Waste

Posted on 29. Jul, 2014 by in Culture

It is probably something that is not talked about much – but different in every country. When I was in the United States (I was in Arkansas), I was shocked by

In Germany, we separate our waste generally in Restmüll (residual waste), Bioabfall (biowaste), Gartenabfall (garden waste), Altpapier (paper waste), Altglas (glass waste), and Grüner Punkt (Green Dot) waste. The Grüner Punkt labels the so-called Leichtstoffverpackungen (LVP) (Lightweight Packaging). This LVP is already enough prepared by the producer for recycling that it does not have to be taken back, but can be disposed of. That is many kinds of plastic and some aluminum, like most packaging you find in products.

This LVP is collected in the Gelbe Sack (Yellow Bag), or in some cities, the Gelbe Tonne (Yellow Bin). This Gelbe Sack is available for free in supermarkets!

Altpapier is gathered in the Papiertonne (Paper bin). This includes anything that is paper.

Restmüll includes everything that cannot be categorized in the other types of waste. These are things such as Babywindeln (baby diapers), Staub (dust), or Asche (ash).

Bioabfall is organic waste, so anything plant-based or animal-based, that can be broken down and eaten by microorganisms and enzymes. You get the point :).


Different waste bins in Germany – from left to right, biowaste, residual waste, a Yellow Bin, and paper waste. (Image „Mülltonnen diverse“ by 3268zauber. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 at Wikimedia Commons.)

That includes all waste you can put in your bins. But there is other waste too, of course.

You can put your Altglas in the Altglascontainer (glass waste container), which are made available by the municipality. Altglas is separated in Weißglas (white glass) and Buntglas (colored glass). Buntglass can be further divided in Braunglas (brown glass) and Grünglas (green glass). The same counts for the Altkleidersammlung (old clothes collection). You can bag your clothes and just put them in there. Even shoes!

Furthermore, there is Sperrmüll (bulky waste). This includes furniture that is too large for the bins or is not suitable for it by its nature. Sperrmüll can be put on your sidewalk, and will be picked up by a truck. However, before the truck comes, many people come with Anhänger (trailers) and Kleinbusse  (minibuses) to pick up what they think is still usable.

Braunglas, Grünglas, Weißglas, and Altkleidersammlung next to each other. (Image „Laer 4462“ by Rüdiger Wölk. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 at Wikimedia Commons.)

Batteries, lamps and other electronic waste can be disposed of in bins made available in some supermarkets and electronics stores.


All of this is strictly managed in the law. Burning your waste is strictly prohibited. Well, of course you can use wood to fire up your Kamin (fireplace), but you may not burn plastic, for example. I observed that with great disbelief in the United States.

How is waste management coordinated in your country or area?


An Introduction to Bavarian

Posted on 27. Jul, 2014 by in Culture, Geography, Language

Well, when I first started writing for this blog I promised I would bring some Bavarian into it. So here goes!

Bavarian flag featuring coat of arms. Photo by federer.cale on Flickr.com

Firstly, why Bavarian?

The German side of my family come from Bavaria. I grew up speaking Bavarian more than Hochdeutsch (standard German), and even today, hearing it is as natural for me as hearing Hochdeutsch. When I speak German now I use Hochdeutsch with a few Bavarian influences, which a lot of German speakers find unusual (especially combined with my English accent!). I feel lucky that I was able to learn two ‘types’ of German, rather than just the one. Now I’d like to share my knowledge of it with you!

You may think that learning Bavarian is useless when you already know Hochdeutsch, but if you’re passionate about the German language then I assure you it is not. If you visit München, for example, you will most likely hear and see the Bavarian language in one place or another. And if you’re planning on going to Oktoberfest, you’ll hear plenty of Bavarian being spoken, including Bavarian Trinklieder (drinking songs)! Furthermore, all sorts of people speak it – not just the older generation. And lastly (if you need another reason), it’s just a great language to learn!

So if you feel like taking on a new challenge with your German, or if you are just visiting Bavaria and want to know a few words and phrases to understand the locals, then please read on!

This post will be a brief introduction to the Bavarian language, and then more posts will follow for those of you who want to learn some vocabulary and phrases.


The Facts

1. The name of the Bavarian language in German is Bairisch. That is not to be confused with the word bayerisch, which refers to anything Bavarian (eg. “ein bayerisches Haus” a Bavarian house). Basically, Bairisch = language, bayerisch = anything Bavarian.

"Oberdeutsche Dialekte" by Brichtig - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

“Oberdeutsche Dialekte” by Brichtig – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

2. Bavarian is spoken across southern Germany and parts of Austria. But Bavarian differs slightly according to the region you’re in. The different dialects are split up as follows:
1. Nordbairisch (Spoken in Oberpfalz, Oberfranken, Mittelfranken, Oberbayern),
2. Mittelbairisch (Spoken in Niederbayern, München, Donau, Wien/Österreich)
3. Südbairisch (Spoken in Tirol, Sudtirol Italy)

(I speak Mittelbairisch, so my spelling/pronunciation on here will reflect that.)

3. Bavarian is still German, but it is so different to Hochdeutsch that it is often considered a language, rather than a dialect (for the sake of being consistent, I will refer to it as a language on this blog). Even natives from other parts of Germany have difficulty understanding it. So even if your German is very good, you will probably find it a challenge to understand at first! Do not let this make you doubt your German language ability.

4. Although Bavarian can be written, it is predominantly spoken. Even if they spoke Bavarian in daily life, most people would write in Hochdeutsch. This could be because Bavarian is not taught in schools. In addition, there is no official spelling for many Bavarian words; instead, they are written phonetically.

5. However, the Bavarian media often uses the language, especially in adverts and pop songs (which is why you’re likely to see/hear the language a lot when in this part of Germany). Many TV programmes are also in Bavarian.

6. Most Bavarians speak Hochdeutsch. They may or may not speak Bavarian in daily life. In my experience, this is different with everyone – even in a big city like München, you will still find plenty of shopkeepers etc. speaking Bavarian rather than Hochdeutsch. However, they will usually switch to Hochdeutsch if they realise that you are a tourist and/or are having difficulty understanding them.

7. In order to preserve the language, an Englishman (!) has started writing an official Bavarian dictionary. Apparently, it will be finished in 2050. Read more here.

8. Finally, what does Bavarian sound like? To demonstrate, here is a little video of Thomas Müller from the German football team speaking in Bairisch to a reporter after Germany won the World Cup (how have I not mentioned that yet??).

YouTube Preview Image

The reporter in the video is asking him how he feels to have missed out on winning the Golden Shoe. He replies:

“Des interessiert mir ois ned, der Scheissdreck! Weltmeister samma! Den Pott hamma! Den Scheissdreck goidener Schua kannst da hinter’n Oan schmian!”

Here’s how this translates into Hochdeutsch. You will see that there are some significant differences:

“Das interessiert mich überhaupt nicht, dieser Scheissdreck! Wir sind Weltmeister! Wir haben den Trophäe! Dieser Scheissdreck goldener Schuh kannst du hinter deine Ohren schmieren!”

And finally, this is how it translates into English:

“That shit doesn’t interest me at all! We’re world champions! We have the trophy! You can stick this shit with your golden shoe!” (He literally says “You can smear it behind your ears”)

That all sounds pretty rude and aggressive in English, right? It is important to point out that what Müller is saying is more light-hearted and humorous in Bavarian, with no offence intended. Bavarian is full of blunt, witty turns of phrase that often include swear words, so even though it might sound rude, it’s usually not!

Now you have some basic knowledge of the Bavarian language, plus an idea of how it sounds.

How do you feel about the language? Are you interested in learning it? And are there any specific topics (in terms of phrases, vocabulary, etc.) that you’d like me to cover in future posts?

Until next time – Pfiat eich! (That’s a colloquial Bavarian way of saying ‘goodbye to you all’)

Sayings + Expressions 3 – The Winner and the Oil

Posted on 24. Jul, 2014 by in Language

Hi there!

Today, I will go over one saying and one expression again. Both are related to actions – if you dare, what can happen? That connects both the saying and the expression. As always, let’s start off with the saying!

Wer nicht wagt, der nicht gewinnt

Who doesn’t dare, doesn’t win (i.e. no guts, no glory)

Its origin is not really known, and this saying probably just started by use. The premise that you have to do something to achieve something is logic. That this often also involves exposing oneself to harm also makes sense. From this, wer nicht wagt, der nicht gewinnt is quickly made.


This widely known saying has a clear meaning – take a risk if you want to achieve something, otherwise you will never be successful! So the next time you have to advise a good German friend that is too scared to talk to someone he or she likes, say this. The use is exactly the same as in English. Example:

Markus traut sich nicht Lisa anzusprechen, obwohl er sie wirklich mag. Daraufhin mutigte sein Freund Lars ihn an: Wer nicht wagt, der nicht gewinnt!

(Markus doesn’t dare to talk to Lisa, even though he really likes her. Thereupon his friend Lars encouraged him: Who doesn’t dare, doesn’t win!)


Öl ins Feuer gießen 

Pour oil into the fire (i.e. Add fuel to the fire) 

Öl ins Feuer gießen - this is what happens! (Image by Al404 at Flickr.com)

Öl ins Feuer gießen – this is what happens! (Image by Al404 at Flickr.com)

This expression already existed in Roman times. Back in those days, they had figured out the flammability of oil already. The Roman poet Horace already used this expression (oleum addere camino) in his Sermones. When you pour oil into fire, it burns even stronger. As in the English expression, it describes an act that makes a situation even more severe. In one word: provozieren (provoke).


The use of this expression is basically the same as in English. For example:

Die Vereinigten Staaten schicken weiter Waffen in Krisengebieten und lindern die Kämpfe dort damit nicht. Das Land gießt damit nur Öl ins Feuer.

(The United States continue to send weapons to crisis areas and do not soothen the fights there that way.  With this, the country only adds fuel to the fire.)


As always, if you have any suggestions for sayings or expressions – also English ones – that you want to see translated and broken down a bit, please write a comment below!