The German Expression ‘Vitamin B’ Posted by Constanze on Jun 16, 2021 in Idioms, Language, Slang, Vocabulary
Guten Tag! Today we’re going to look at a term that isn’t what it seems in German! The term in question is Vitamin B.
What is Vitamin B?
In one context, the phrase Vitamin B is exactly what it looks like: the German translation of vitamin B. In German, the word Vitamin is spelt the same, but it’s pronounced slightly differently to English: Vitt-ah-meen. It’s also capitalised, as all nouns are capitalised in German. You can call it Vitamin B, or you can use the plural B-Vitamine (‘B vitamins’):
Wozu braucht man B-Vitamine?
What do we need B vitamins for?
However, there is another way of using this phrase which has absolutely nothing to do with vitamins and everything to do with connections.
In the world of the German workplace, Vitamin B refers to having connections that help you get a job, or climb the career ladder. Some of the article headlines that come up when you search ‘Vitamin B Karriere’ (‘Vitamin B careers’) include:
Karriere durch Kontakte: Wie dir Vitamin B bei der Jobsuche hilft
Career through contacts: How Vitamin B can help you with your job search
Vitamin B: So wichtig sind Beziehungen im Job
Vitamin B: This is how important connections are at the workplace
Vitamin B am Jobmarkt: Du, ich kenn da wen
Vitamin B at the careers market: Hey, I know someone
So what do B vitamins have to do with landing your dream job? If you take more B vitamins, does that mean you’re more likely to get hired? Nope! The answer here lies in what the B stands for in German!
Vitamin B = Vitamin Beziehungen (‘Vitamin Relationships/Connections’)
Vitamin B = Vitamin Bekanntschaften (‘Vitamin Acquaintances’)
It’s true that ‘knowing someone’ often makes you more likely to land a job – you could say knowing someone gives you der Vorteil (the advantage) in this situation. This, according to studies, is very commonplace in the German job market. No wonder the German language has the term Vitamin B to describe it! To use it, you might say something like,
Er ist über Vitamin B an den Job gekommen
He got the job thanks to Vitamin B
This term can be used in a negative way, to criticise someone who only got the job because of their connections. However, it can also be used in a more positive way, if someone is very talented at networking, for example. Its use is not restricted to the job market, either – if someone has a way of always getting what they want, in any situation, they could be said to have a lot of Vitamin B!
This is an informal, colloquial German expression. If and when you hear ‘Vitamin B’ used in a sentence, you now know that people may well be talking about die Karriere (career) and der Erfolg (success), rather than die Ernährung (nutrition)!
I hope this has been interesting and taught you something new! Let me know in the comment box below if there are any other German words you’d like me to break down!
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