German Language Blog

The US Election in Germany Posted by on Nov 12, 2020 in Culture, Language

As expected, the US election was a drawn-out process this time with television networks being careful with their projections. The winner was projected only last Friday. As always with the election of a new president in the United States, the whole world was watching – Germany as well. How was the election covered, and what did Merkel have to say about it?

Die US-Wahl

Image by Phillip Goldsberry at

In Germany, the US elections are known as the US-Wahl. The only ones that are really followed and tracked like this are the presidential elections every four years. And while Germany does not have a network that covers the election non-stop like Fox News, MSNBC or CNN, Nachrichtensender (news channels) like Tagesschau ran a live blog similar to the American outlets with continuous updates of Wahlergebnisse (election results) and a Karte (Map) with updates. But not just Tagesschau. Also ZDF has live updates, for example. Not that this doesn’t happen for the German elections – it does.

And yet, there is something about the US-Wahl that gets more excitement, whether that’s the fact that it’s a race for one of the most important offices in the world that is only between two people, or the first-past-the-post system that decides an entire state for whoever gets most votes. Germany has a weird, complicated system that we’ll talk about one day, but it lacks the simplicity that makes the American election so easy to follow and discuss.

You can also find opinions of Germans via #USWahl, #USAWahl and #USWahl2020. Here’s some German election vocabulary:

der Wahlmann, die Wahlleute – “election man”, “election people”, the words for elector(s) of the Electoral College

die Wahlmännerversammlung – Electoral College (however, the term “Electoral College” is used more in German news)

die Stimme – vote

Zweihundertsiebzig Stimmen – two-hundred seventy votes

die Mehrheit – Majority

die Auszählung – (vote) count

die Entscheidung – decision

die Hochburg – stronghold (used for stronghold states for each party)

der Schlachtfeldstaat – battleground state (the German term is not used much; “Swing State” is a more likely term in German news)

die republikanische Partei – Republican Party

die Demokraten – the Democrats

die Umfrage – poll


Merkel’s Speech

Last Monday, November 9, Merkel gave a speech. November 9 is a significant day in German history. As our Bundeskanzlerin (Federal Chancellor) Angela Merkel said, “wir Deusche denken, wie an jedem 9. November, an das Schlimmste und das Beste unserer Geschichte” (We Germans think, just like every November 9th, about the worst and the best in our history).

The worst that she’s referring to is the Reichspogromnacht, or better known as Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) that took place on November 9, 1938. It was the beginning of the unbelievable violence that the Nazis would inflict on the Jewish people. That night, hundreds of Jews were murdered and shops with Jewish owners were burned and destroyed. The name refers to all the shattered glass of shop windows.

The best happened exactly 51 years later, on November 9, 1989. A day that many thought would never come – the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Mauerfall marked the end of socialist East Germany and the beginning of a unified Germany, the Wiedervereinigung (Reunification), a process also referred to as Die Wende (The Turning Point).

She then went on to stress the importance of the United States for freedom and democracy in the world and its partnership with Germany. She congratulated Joe Biden for his win, remembering meeting and working with him as Vice-President under Obama. She also emphasised the similarities and common goals between the countries, as well as the United States and Europe.

“Viele Menschen hier wie dort leben diese deutsch-amerikanische Freundschaft. Das ist ein gemeinsamer Schatz.” (“Many people here as there embody this German-American friendship. That is a common treasure.”)

Have you followed the US election in German? Did anything stand out to you in the coverage or word usage? Let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. Kelly Smith’s:

    The winner has not yet been determined, only projected. There are states that are still counting votes, outstanding lawsuits, and strong suspicion of voting fraud in Pennsylvania. The agencies that reported Mr. Biden as the winner have “jumped the gun”, as we say. Mr. Biden himself appears to have established an “Office of the President Elect”, which doesn’t actually exist anyhow. And “President Elect” should be hyphenated.

    • Sten:

      @Kelly Smith's You’re right, he’s the projected winner. I’ll correct that.
      All the sources I’ve consulted pointed towards a very slim chance that the result will be affected by the points you mention, and that’s also the stance of the German news and German Chancellor, hence the wording.

      • Kelly Smith-Moore:

        @Sten Remains to be seen, though I don’t disagree with you, my friend. If the Georgia manual recount is much closer than the original machine count, then other states that have claimed machine issues may recount. The fraud issue is a little distressing. I have always felt that, regardless of whether the candidate I favored won or not, that it was a fair win. But this year, especially with the irregularities of the mail-in votes (as opposed to the more regulated absentee ballots), I will have doubts as to the validity of the process. My friends in Ireland follow the election very closely, but I’m not sure about my friends in the Black Forest; we tend to stick to happier conversations about our horses and travel! As I am blessed to have both German and Irish roots, it is nice to know that folks the beautiful lands of my origins have an interest in their sons and daughters that went to America.

        • Sten:

          @Kelly Smith-Moore Hi Kelly!

          As I understand, Georgia recounted because the difference was slim. That would not necessarily happen in other states, since each state has discretion over this. Now, the difference in votes in other states is simply not that slim (especially compared to the 2000 election. That was only a few hundred votes.

          Regarding mail-in voting, there is nothing irregular about it. It has been in use since the Civil War, and is a form of absentee voting. Wikipedia has great info on this, actually. And as far as voting this election, nothing major happened in the process. Something that was different this year was that the number of mail-in votes was significantly higher, but that’s all that happened. Anything irregular that I’ve read are minor instances that happen every election cycle.

          In any case, it would be an even bigger deal than the 2000 election if at this point the Georgia vote recount turned around the result and inspired other states to issue a recount and also flip. That is simply a highly unlikely scenario. For all intents and purposes, the election is done. But technically, yes, Biden is the projected president-elect.

    • Adam:

      @Kelly Smith's Sorry, Sten, the Trump trolls, who have an alternate reality, even make their way to sites like this. No voter fraud. It’s done.

    • Sten:

      @Kelly Smith's Also, regarding the Office of the President Elect – yes, the HYPHEN! As a language nerd, that kind of thing ticks me off.
      As I understand it, using that title and making it a thing started with Obama; Trump used it after him, and now Biden does it too. So he has not established it, but continued the “tradition”.