German Language Blog

Untranslatable German Coffee: Kaffeeklatsch and Kaffeefahrt Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Culture, Language

Today I’m talking about two words centred around one of my favourite things – coffee!

Coffee in German is Kaffee. Just the mere mention of this word brings a smile to my face. I’m sure you’ve heard of the German Kaffee und Kuchen Kultur (‘coffee and cake culture’) – they’re absolutely mad for it. So it’s no surprise that the German language has a few words centred around the beautiful drink that is Kaffee.

The first of the two words is Der Kaffeeklatsch.

At the seance

Kaffeeklatsch. Photo by photocapy on on CC BY-SA 2.0

A Kaffeeklatsch is a meeting between friends to exchange gossip over coffee. It is made up of the words Kaffee (coffee) + Klatsch (gossip/noise). This word allegedly originated around the 1900s when German women would gather in one of their homes to drink coffee and chat. The German Kaffee und Kuchen Kultur (as I mentioned above) most likely originated from this. Compared to here in the UK, I definitely eat more cake and drink more coffee when I go to Germany, and it is all down to the Kaffeeklatsch custom. Practically everybody wants to invite you round, and it is quite an insult to some people if you say no – especially if they have just baked a cake, or bought one fresh from the bakery, ready for this exact occasion! I can’t think of an English word that describes Kaffeeklatsch. It’s a great German word. 🙂

The second word is Die Kaffeefahrt.

Bus Stop

Photo by dskley on under CC BY-ND 2.0

Although it looks somewhat similar to Kaffeeklatsch, this word has a very different meaning. Kaffeefahrt is made up of the words Kaffee (coffee) + Fahrt (trip). This would lead you to assume that a Kaffeefahrt is some sort of nice, pleasant outing where you drink lots of coffee, right? Well… yes and no. It is a trip, and you do get to drink coffee. But a Kaffeefahrt is not as nice as it sounds.

A Kaffeefahrt is an outing – for example, a coach trip – disguised as a pleasant daytrip, but is really a scam to get people to buy cheap, useless things, advertised as being “Schnäppchen” (bargains) and “exklusiv” (exclusive), to hype people into buying them. These scams are usually targeted at the elderly, who receive them in the form of an invitation. It is called a Kaffeefahrt because there is usually the promise of coffee and cake, which is used as ‘bait’ to draw people in. It is also known as a Werbefahrt (‘Advertising trip’).

An extract from the website Pfiffige Senioren (‘Smart Seniors’) explains why people fall for the Kaffeefahrt scam:

“Senioren haben einen großen Bedarf an Kommunikation. Deshalb nehmen sie besonders gerne an Tagesfahrten teil. Busreise, Essen Kaffee, Kuchen und sie kommen mal raus. Man erlebt Gemeinsamkeit, kann Bekanntschaften schließen. Für einen Tag gehört man mit dazu, ist Mitglied einer Gruppe Gleichgesinnter. Das Hauptmotiv für die Teilnahme ist Unterhaltung und Geselligkeit. Nicht jeder hat Geld zum verreisen, der Ausflug ist billig. Warum also nicht? Und vielleicht gibt sogar einen Gewinn? Immerhin nehmen fünf Millionen Deutsche jährlich an Kaffeefahrten teil.”

Translation: Senior citizens have a great need for communication. This is why they enjoy going on daytrips; a coach trip, food, coffee and cake, and they can get out of the house. There is a sense of community and togetherness, and a chance to make new friends. For one day, they are part of a group of like-minded people. Therefore, the main reason for taking part is this chance for communication and community. Not everybody has the money to go abroad, and this sort of trip is affordable. So why not? They may even win something! Each year, five million Germans take part in so-called Kaffeefahrten.

The website advises you to call the police if you suspect a planned trip is actually a Kaffeefahrt. You can read more about Kaffeefahrten on Pfiffige Senioren (in German).

The fact that this scam is named a Kaffeefahrt (coffee trip) just shows how the appeal of something pleasant (Kaffee) can be used to draw you in to something untoward. Coffee is obviously more addictive than I thought! However, I can’t say I know the English equivalent for a Kaffeefahrt , other than the word scam, which is a bit too general for my liking – can anyone help?

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Kaffee-related German word post. It’s made me desperately want another coffee, so I’m off to go and make one. As always, I love your comments, so please do leave one if you have something to say. 🙂

More untranslatable German words:

Untranslatable German Words: Nervensäge
Untranslatable German Words: Waldeinsamkeit
The German Wimp: A Broad Definition (Schattenparker)
The German culture of cleanliness: Putzfimmel and Kehrwoche
Germany doesn’t have bad weather. It has un-weather. (Unwetter)
Untranslatable German Words Teil 2: Schadenfreude and Fremdscham

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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


  1. Allan Mahnke:

    Thanks! This another fascinating blog. Oddly enough, here in the US Kaffeeklatsch is a commonly heard expression. (In fact, my poor typing skills caused an error in spelling the word, and my American spell-check fixed it.) Another word even used by non-German speakers here is Gemütlichkeit.

    These words are so evocative! Is there a lovelier word than Waldeinsamkeit?

  2. Allan Mahnke:

    I’ll add one more thing. In American English pfiffig would be perhaps more closely translated spiffy. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an etymological connection between the two words.

  3. EP:

    This has nothing to do with coffee and cake (or not usually, anyway) but one of my absolute favorite untranslatable German words is Schnapsidee or “liquor idea.” You know, as in a ridiculous idea that one could come up with when drunk.

    • Constanze:

      @EP That’s another good one! Thanks for your comment!

  4. william brown:

    Thanks for posting!

    • Constanze:

      @william brown My pleasure. I hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

  5. John Fannon:

    I first met the word kaffeeklatsch reading a spy book “Berlin Game” by Len Deighton where the hero Bernard is over in East Berlin to rescue his agent and the agent’s wife from the police and get them to safety in the West. The wife is wearing a “kaffeeklatsch hat”, which made me go straight to the Internet to find out what this wonderful word meant.

    By the way, the rescue takes place on Ascension Thursday “Himmelfahrt” with men dressed up as chimney sweeps with top hats and drinking much beer. (I find this custom incomprehensible!)