Lüften: Germany’s Airing Obsession & Covid-19 Posted by Constanze on Mar 17, 2021 in Culture, Language, News, Traditions
Guten Tag! In a recent post on things you can expect to find in a German home, I talked about how die Heizung (the heating) and die Lüftung (the airing/ventilation) systems in German homes are different to those in US homes, meaning the Germans have to open their windows more often to prevent mould & mildew build-up. In fact, it is a bit of a stereotype that Germans are ‘obsessed’ with airing out rooms, otherwise known as lüften. Today we’ll talk a little about that, and how it’s become even more important in Germany in the age of Coronavirus.
lüften / die Lüftung
The verb lüften means ‘to air out’ or ‘to ventilate’. It stems from the noun die Luft – air. There is also a noun, die Lüftung, meaning ‘airing’ or ‘ventilation’. Here are a couple of article headlines using these words. The first uses the verb, the second uses the noun:
Zimmer richtig lüften: Die besten Tipps
‘Best tips for airing rooms out correctly’
Lüftung für Schulen
‘Airing/ventilation (solutions) for schools’
stoßlüften / die Stoßlüftung
But there is another word, stoßlüften (noun: die Stoßlüftung), which translates literally to ‘shock ventilation’. Der Stoß means shock, impact, or push. Though it sounds pretty aggressive, it is literally just a case of opening the windows to let some fresh air in for a few minutes, before closing them again. This tactic is used to ventilate stuffy rooms as quickly as possible. The point to make about stoßlüften is that Germans do this all year round. Yes, even on the coldest of winter days, they will throw open the windows to ‘shock ventilate’ the rooms. This is common practice in schools and offices as well as in homes – it is even written into some tenancy agreements as a must-do activity to keep rented homes free from der Schimmel (mould/mildew)!
querlüften / die Querlüftung
One step further is querlüften (noun: die Querlüftung), whereby ALL the windows in a home/building are opened for a few minutes as a means of ‘cross ventilation’. The word quer translates to across, diagonally, aslant.
As can be expected, many do not like the tradition of stoßlüften/querlüften, complaining that it’s simply too cold to have all the windows open. There is a common saying about it:
‘Erfroren sind schon viele, erstunken ist noch keiner!’
‘Many have frozen to death, but no one ever died from a bad smell!’
Lüften and Coronavirus
During the pandemic, the importance of lüften in Germany is apparent – this time, as a means of keeping the virus at bay. The German chancellor Angela Merkel herself has stressed the importance of proper ventilation, saying it could be one of the cheapest, easiest ways to contain the virus.
Late last year, the German public health guidelines for Coronavirus were changed to include two new instructions. Known by the acronym ‘AHA’, it has since changed to ‘AHACL’, which includes a very familiar instruction! Take a look:
Corona-Warn-App (Coronavirus alert app)
What do you think of the concept of lüften, Stoßlüften, and Querlüften? Are you the type to ventilate your home even during the winter, or do your windows stay firmly shut until the summer?? Let me know in the comment box!
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