Germany is pretty much the antithesis of L.A.
The weather can and will do anything at any time of year.
Rain in summer? Sun in winter? Cold or hot in spring and autumn? Check, check, check.
You pretty much never know what to expect.
But that’s all right!
Read on to learn all the weather vocabulary you’ll need to survive Germany, and even the worst Sturm (storm) won’t be able to touch you.
Don’t have any intention of visiting Germany in the near future? No problem. Since the weather in Germany is so varied and diverse, this post will teach you how to speak in German about the weather just about anywhere!
What Should You Expect from German Weather?
Lots of light, lots of darkness
Many of my American friends visited me in Berlin last summer. They were floored by the fact that we could walk around in sunlight at nearly 11 p.m.
They weren’t here in December, when dark fell at 3 p.m. every day and when the sun only appeared as a faint silver ball on the distant southern horizon when it did come out.
Yes, because of its northern latitude, Germany gets plenty of Licht (light) and enjoys long days in summer, while the opposite is sadly true in winter. Perhaps this explains all of Germany’s elaborate Christmas traditions—we need something to drive back the Dunkelheit, or “darkness.”
Variations in different parts of the country
Americans sometimes make the mistake of assuming that each European country is a homogenous entity in and of itself, but there’s actually a fair amount of weather variety throughout Germany. Northwestern Germany, around Köln, has a reputation for milder climes, while the Berge (mountains) in the South will see snow later in the season and Berlin, located on the vast plains leading into Poland and Russia—well, you can imagine.
Four distinct seasons
As someone who hails from the northeastern part of the United States, this one came as no surprise to me. Germany experiences distinct Frühling (spring), Sommer (summer), Herbst (fall) and Winter (winter), although summer can sometimes bring cold rain unexpectedly, and winters have been mild as of late.
How Do Germans Deal with the Weather?
Preparation, preparation, preparation
Germans have earned a reputation for preparing for everything, and the weather is no exception. Walk around Berlin and you’ll see Germans in their Jack Wolfskin (the wet-weather brand of choice) jackets, carrying their Regenschirme (umbrellas) on days with the slightest chance of rain.
Embracing each Jahreszeit (season)
Sure, winter can be hard for people who aren’t used to it. But Germans get through it by planning activities to get them outdoors. If it snows in Berlin, the next day you’ll see families towing kids on wooden Schlitten (sleds) all over the city. Eisstadien (ice skating rinks) open up so people can Eislaufen (ice skate), and some make plans to Skilaufen (ski). Germans tend to love freie Natur (the great outdoors), and they don’t let winter stop them.
The Höhensonne (sun lamp)
The darkness in winter is tough. There’s no getting around it. That’s why plenty of Germans keep sun lamps on hand for those darkest Dezember (December) days. These lamps emulate Juli (July) sunlight, and can do wonders to combat low energy, malaise and Winterdepression (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which is a problem in Germany just as it is in other countries with low light in winter.
Urlauben im Süden (vacationing in the South)
When it’s Februar (February) and no one can stand it anymore, Germans do what plenty of other Europeans do—take advantage of those cheap intra-European flights and plan trips southward. Majorca is a particularly popular destination, as is Thailand for those who can afford it.
Sun! Snow! Thunder! 25+ German Vocab Words for Weather Drama All Year Long
Let’s pretend you move to Germany for a year. Maybe you got a job, maybe you decided to learn German in summer school and stick around after that or maybe you came on the freelancer visa. No matter what, you want to have an adventure.
So, after your year is over, what are you going to tell your friends and family about the weather?
Keep in mind that even if you have no intention of ever moving to Germany, the stories below will help you learn vocabulary in context—which, after all, is the best way to learn vocabulary!
Ah, spring! You’re so excited to get outside and start enjoying your new country. On one of the many long weekend holidays in spring in Germany, you decide to plan an outing to the Badeschiff in Berlin with your friends.
On the day you’re planning to go swimming, you roll out of bed, pull back your curtain—and what stares back at you? Regen (rain). Cold drizzly rain, streaking your windowpanes. It’s Mai (May)! Why is it 10 degrees Celsius and raining?
A quick Google search shows that after a beautiful April (April), Central and Eastern Europeans often experience a dispiriting cold May.
All right, so you cancel your plans to go swimming. The rain lets up around noon, so you unchain your bike, wipe off the seat and set off through the park. But there’s so much Nebel (fog) that it’s hard to see! You almost run into an elderly German woman with a shopping bag, a man with a baby pram, a frolicking dog—no, this just won’t do.
The fog lifts around 3 p.m., and the temperature rises to 13 degrees. You plan a picnic in Treptow Park with your friends. You never thought that a bewölkt (cloudy) day like this would qualify for a picnic, but hey, you’ll take what you can get.
Finally, summer arrives! Sonnenschein (sunshine) until 11 p.m.! Parks full of sunbathing Germans, some of them in FKK (Freikörperkultur, which translates to “free body culture,” also known as nude sunbathing), which shocks you a little, but hey, you’re in Europe and need to adapt to the norms. Bikes and flea markets, boating on the lakes outside Berlin, barbecues…this is heaven.
You decide to plan your own barbecue at Tempelhofer Feld. You buy a disposable barbecue pan, grab your blanket, your Frisbee, some beers and burgers and friends. It’s Kaiserwetter (glorious weather) and you just cannot wait to etwas Sonne tanken (catch some rays). Maybe you’ll even take your shirt off. You’re in Berlin now!
The beginning of the barbecue is great. But by 5 p.m., heavy clouds gather on the horizon. Big, angry-looking clouds. And what’s that? Gewitter (thunder)? It sounds spooky, bomb-like sounds reverberating across the field that was once Hitler’s airport—although you promised yourself you wouldn’t think about World War II so much while here in Germany, since there are so many other interesting historical aspects to learn about.
But no matter what, that Gewitter sounds like it’s going to ruin your picnic. Sure enough, Blitz (lightning) flashes on the horizon, and before you know it you’re running for cover. As you sit inside watching Hagel (hail) patter on the pavement, you wonder, “Can I ever count on the weather in this country?”
Autumn! Kühl (cool) days, yellow Herbstlaub (autumn leaves) on the poplars. You take bike rides in the countryside, crunch through the parks, put on the Icelandic sweater you bought at Humana Kaufhaus. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Then, one Oktober (October) day, you wake up for work and head outside to climb on your bike. But something very terrible has happened.
The Regen is back. Everything is nass (wet) and so very cold. You forgot what it was like, the cold. You get on your bike and der Wind (the wind) threatens to knock you off.
So. This is what autumn becomes in Germany.
You try to remember what those long Sommer days were like. Did you imagine them? Crusty Schnee (snow) covers the ground. The sun sets at 3 p.m. You’re ever so Kalt (cold) whenever you go outside. It’s windig (windy) and you can barely remember what the Sonne (sun) looks like.
You’ve just about had enough of this, and you resolve to never leave your apartment. But then your friend invites you to a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) and you begrudgingly agree to go.
At the market you discover a series of stalls, decorated with gnomes, lights and Santas, selling all kinds of German Christmas staples: gingerbread cookies, Christmas gifts, Glühwein (mulled wine) and bratwurst. It’s truly Hundewetter (bad weather) but everyone’s talking and laughing. Kids are running around, adults are warming their hands on barrel fires and the joy of the season is in the atmosphere.
After an hour at the market you realize you’re having a great time, too. Maybe, you reflect, winter is the only season you can count on in Germany: The weather is going to be terrible no matter what, but Germans have a series of tried-and-true methods to get through it and enjoy themselves anyway.
If you visit Germany, you just might discover these weather conditions—or you might not.
As you’ve seen above, the weather in Deutschland is pretty unpredictable.
But if you learn all of the above German weather vocabulary, and come prepared, you’ll find a way to have a good time anyway—the Germans always do!
And even if you don’t visit Germany, you’ll still now be able to talk about weather in German just about anywhere in the world.
After all, with weather as unpredictable as Germany’s, you need to be able to talk about just about any kind of weather!
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