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Untranslatable German Words: der Kulturbeutel Posted by on Jul 31, 2015 in Culture, Language

Guten Tag! Welcome to another edition of German untranslatable words, dedicated to teaching you quirky German words, their meanings, and how to use them!

Today the word is der Kulturbeutel.

What does Kulturbeutel literally translate to?
This German compound noun is made up of the words die Kultur (culture) + der Beutel (bag/pouch). Its literal translation, therefore, is ‘Culture bag’.

What does Kulturbeutel mean?
A Kulturbeutel or ‘culture bag’ is actually referring to our common old toiletry bag! You might also see it called:

Die Waschtasche – the wash bag
Die Kulturtasche – the culture bag
Die Badetasche – the bath bag
Der Waschbeutel – the wash bag (Beutel and Tasche are both acceptable translations of bag)

 

Singapore Airlines First Class Toiletry Kit

der Kulturbeutel. Photo: dnevill on flickr.com under CC BY-ND 2.0

How would you use Kulturbeutel in a sentence?
Ich brauche jetzt endlich mal einen gescheiten Kulturbeutel!
I really need to get myself a proper ‘culture bag’!

What is the nearest English equivalent to Kulturbeutel?
This one isn’t too difficult. The nearest equivalent would be toiletry bag or wash bag.

Although it’s not quite as exciting a word as Alkoholleiche, Gemütlichkeit or Nervensäge, some of the other untranslatable words I’ve previously covered, Kulturbeutel is interesting due to its literal translation. What, after all, does Kultur or culture have to do with toiletries?

Broadly speaking, when you refer to someone as ‘cultured’ (gebildet or kultiviert in German) you are saying they are well-educated, and enjoy things like art, theatre, music, museums and travel. There is also a certain assumption that cultured people take pride in their appearance. Etymologically speaking, the word Kultur comes from the Latin cultura, which means to care for/groom (pflegen in German), so the idea of being cultured and caring for your appearance are more connected than you think!

Another, similar German word is die Körperkultur (literally ‘body culture’), which refers to personal hygiene and/or care. With this in mind, the word Kulturbeutel makes perfect sense!

 

Kate-Bosworth-Chanel-Clutch-Evening-Bag

You’d be forgiven for thinking a ‘culture bag’ (Kulturbeutel) was something like this! Photo: classicchanelhandbags on flickr.com under CC BY 2.0

So, what do you put in your Kulturbeutel? Here are some suggestions!

Toothbrush – die Zahnbürste

Toothpaste – die Zahnpasta

Deodorant – das Deodorant

Body spray – das Körperspray

Shampoo – das Shampoo

Shower gel – das Duschgel

Nail file – die Nagelfeile

Makeup – die Schminke

Tissues – die Taschentücher

Hairbrush – die Haarbürste

Hairband – das Haarband

Shaving cream – die Rasiercreme

Razor – der Rasierer

Tampon – der Tampon

 

Was hast du in deinem Kulturbeutel?

Liebe Grüße,

Constanze xx

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About the Author:Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze. I'm half English and half German. I write here because I'm passionate about my languages and my roots. I also work as a translator & group fitness instructor.


Comments:

  1. Keith Duncan:

    Anyone that has served in the American Army calls it, the shaving kit…and I have heard it referred to toilet bag/toilet kit…and some ladies may carry all of that in a make-up bag…

  2. Ania:

    Haha love this explanation of “Kulturbeutel”. I might ask my students how they would translate it after giving them an explanation in German 🙂 Danke!

    • Constanze:

      @Ania That’s so sweet, Ania!! Glad I have inspired you, and I hope your students like this word, too! 🙂

  3. Aby:

    Wow!! never new that word before!
    Thx for such a great explanation..(:

  4. Thorsten:

    Loving it!

    BTW:
    “Ich brauche jetzt endlich mal einen gescheiden Kulturbeutel!”

    gescheiden -> gescheiten

  5. Suzanne:

    My family used to call it a dop kit