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In the long-standing series Sayings + Expressions, we look at Ausdrücke (expressions) and Sprichwörter (sayings) in German. There are some really crazy ones, so have a look at the other posts at this link. Today, we are looking at das Leben. What other Thema (theme) inspires so many weise (wise) things to say than life itself? As always, let’s dive right in with the Sprichwort first!
Literally: Life is not a pony farm
Life ain’t easy / Life is not a bed of roses
This is one of my favorite German Sprichwörter. Life can indeed not be easy, and that shows in tough situations. But a Ponyhof? What do ponies or farms to do with it?
Well, it is the Idylle (idyll) of a heile Welt (“whole world”), a place and time where everything is fun and great. Eltern (parents) take their child to a Ponyhof and enjoy their time. Nothing bad, intrusive or shocking happens – but das Leben… Well, it is quite the opposite!
There are many other Varianten (variants) on this Sprichwort, from das Leben ist kein Zuckerschlecken (“life is no sugar-licking”) or das Leben ist kein Wunschkonzert (“life is not a request concert”).
Especially with the Wunschkonzert variant, but also with the other ones, it can mean something like beggars can’t be choosers as well, because it is also used to show that you can’t always choose everything in life.
Apparently, the first time the Ponyhof was mentioned was in 2001 by the band Die Schröders, who also called their album after it. It became more widespread after it was mentioned in Stromberg, a highly successful German adaptation of the TV show “The Office”.
And what did people say before this? Das Leben ist kein Honiglecken (“Life is no honey-licking”). Why? Because Honig was extremely valuable back in the day, and the ability to just eat… Well, it would make life easy to be in possession of so much of it, that you could simply eat it like that!
Bevor ich in den Urlaub fahre, muss ich noch sehr viel lernen für die Klausur. Das Leben ist leider kein Ponyhof!
(Before I can go on holiday, I still need to learn a lot for the exam. Unfortunately, life is no pony farm!)
Jenny hat ihre eigene Firma gegründet, aber sie wird noch jahrelang Überstunden arbeiten müssen, um einen Profit zu machen. Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof!
(Jenny founded her own company, but she will have to work overtime for many years to make a profit. Life ain’t easy!)
Literally: To stand in the middle of life
To have both feet on the ground
Mitten im Leben stehen – the Ausdruck (expression) is just as wise as the Sprichwort. You stand in the middle of life – it is all around you, and you are at the center, able to reach out to all sides of life, and you are in control. It expresses this quite well.
Of course, what this means differs per person. In Germany, it typically means being finanziell sicher (financially secure), having your own Haus (home), perhaps being verheiratet (married) and having Kinder (children). An upper-class German car and annual holidays are part of it as well.
Now, that may sound posh, and it can be. But really, the expression reflects when you are in control of your life, and you reached things that people aspire to. As if people would like to reach that Mitte (center)!
The word Lebensgefühl (“life feeling” – sense of life) also encapsulates this. You are living the things that make you feel alive to the fullest.
When saying it about somebody, it is meant positively. Either because that person admires them, or because they appreciate that they found in life what makes them happy.
It is a great thing!
Sie scheint ja so glücklich zu sein! Und das obwohl schon das dritte Kind kommt… Sie steht mitten im Leben! Wie macht sie das nur?
(She seems to be so happy! And that even though already the third child is coming… She has both feet on the ground! How does she do it?)
Er ist mit 24 schon erfolgreicher Bänker. So jung, und doch steht er schon mitten im Leben!
(At age 24, he is already a successful banker. So young, and yet he already has both feet on the ground!).
What do you think of this Sprichwort and Ausdruck? What are the equivalents in your language? Let me know in the comments below!