How to Fit-in in Austria: Five Ways to Use English The Way the Cool Kids Do

*Author’s Note: This is meant to be a humorous post with much love for my Austrian friends and family. As a language lover, these things fascinate me, and I hope you find them as interesting as I do!*

How to Be Cool in Austria: Five Ways to Use English The Way the Cool Kids Do

You’re brand new in Austria. Your German-language skills are polished and spot-on. You’re feeling ready to tackle the country and culture. But the question remains – are you cool enough to be there?

If you want to up your coolness factor, it’s time to remember your native language. English is totally in in Austria right now, and all the cool kids are sprinkling their German sentences with the raddest English words. So if you want to fit in, here’s what you need to do:

1. Get hip with the English lingo.

Speaking solely in German is for the dorks, dude. Knowing the most popular English words to spice up your sentences will gain you major cool points. Here are five to get you started:

  1.  Happy (pronounced “heppy”): Instead of saying, “Ich bin so glücklich”, all the popular kids say, “Ich bin so heppy” (I’m so happy). But be careful – don’t let your American accent shine through and accidentally pronounce it correctly. Total nerd alert.
  2. Challenge: Instead of the geeky German word “Herausforderung”, the English word “challenge” is where it’s at. You’ll often hear “Das ist sicher eine Challenge!” (That’s certainly a challenge!) in German conversation. To be honest, it’s a bit of a “Challenge” for me to use the English word in my otherwise German sentence, but I’m hoping I’ll be cool enough someday.
  3. Kids: Everyone wants their kids to be the best. So instead of using the German word “Kinder” to talk about them, make sure to use the English word “kids.” The increase in their popularity will be immediate.
  4. Strange: “Sie ist ein bisschen strange” (She’s a bit strange). I used the German word “komisch” the other day instead, and am pretty sure the Austrians all thought I myself was “ein bisschen strange” because of it. “Komisch” is so old-fashioned, didn’t you hear?
  5. Spooky: “Er war voll spooky” (He was totally spooky). This is a new addition to the “cool English” vocabulary, having just debuted in 2019, to the best of my research knowledge. However, as it is the newest “it” word, the Austrians are still working on fully understanding just what “spooky” means. At this point in time – July 2019 – , they currently believe it means “creepy”. Use as such until they discover otherwise. No ghosts or haunted houses here.

2. Don’t be over-confident.

Now that you are happily (excuse me, heppily) throwing English words into your German sentences, you are nearing the height of grooviness. But don’t get cocky now. The Austrians are privy to the insider network of discovering just what English words are hip and which aren’t, so don’t think you can just throw any random old English words into your sentence. Stop trying to make “fetch” happen.

 

3. Pull out your German accent. 

Once you do know what English words to use, make sure to pronounce them all with a German accent. Otherwise, no one will understand you, and your cool points won’t count.

This happened to me just last week: My Austrian mother-in-law goes to a trampoline exercise class called “Jumpin” on Thursdays. I started talking about the class with her a few days ago, asking if we could go to “Jumpin” with her sometime. “Where?” she replied, looking at me oddly. “Um, jumpin?” I said, getting a bit nervous, as I tend to when people don’t understand me. “You know, the trampoline thing?” “Ooooooh, chumpin!” she answered, comprehension dawning on her face. Well. Right. The German language doesn’t have a “j” sound, which means Germans automatically substitute it with a “ch”. Ladies, leave your man at home…cuz it’s eleven thirty and the club is chumpin chumpin.”

4. Curse like a sailor.

Sorry, mom, if you’re reading this. But Austrians use the word “f*ck” all. the. time. To them, it doesn’t have the shock value it does to us. They hear it in the movies, so they think that all Americans walk around saying it in all situations. I once heard my Austrian husband yell “F*ck!” in his office, and my heart jumped up in my chest. “What?!?!” I say, running in to see him. “What’s wrong?” “Oh, nothing,” he replies, “just dropped something on the floor.” Gee whiz.

My absolute favorite example of this lack of respect for the word “f*ck” is as follows:

Year: 2012.

Location: Wels, Austria, High School

What: I was teaching English as an English teaching assistant, assisting a native Austrian English teacher. I was having her class perform a dialogue in English about returning a sweater at the store. The dialog went like this (students names are made up for privacy):

Stefan: I’d like to return this sweater.

Sophie: I’m sorry, you can’t return it.

Stefan: Hey! I really want to return this f*cking sweater!

End dialogue. Class claps. I stand there, with a look of shock on my face that a sixteen year old would say “f*cking” in a classroom, and in front of their actual teacher, no less.

Me: Okaaay, well, that was very good English, but we wouldn’t really say (too scared to say it in front of the real teacher) ‘the f-word’ in this situation.

And, then, and this is what I love most about the story, their teacher looks at me with a look of surprise, and goes: “Really?! Well, what would you say then, “bloody?”

5. Use English words incorrectly.

Many English words have gotten a bit, well, lost as they’ve made their way across the ocean. It is a big ocean, after all. So, if you want to sit with the cool kids, you need to start believing that the following words are actual English. Don’t let your American upbringing get in your way.

  1. Mobbing. “Katie, were you mobbed in high school?” an Austrian student once asked me. With images of Gaston and the village mob attacking the Beast’s castle in Beauty and the Beast, I replied, “Um, no….no I wasn’t”. Only later did I find out that they think “mobbing” means “bullying.”
  2. Beamer. BMW? Nope. Star Trek related-object? Guess again. Any other ideas? I’ll tell you. A “beamer” is a projector in German-English. You have no idea how many Austrian English teachers I have tried to convince that this is not real English. After all, it has a beam, doesn’t it?
  3. Oldtimer. “Katie, have you ever rented an old-timer?” another student once asked me excitedly. “Um, what?” I answered, envisioning a kind old lady being paid to make me a quilt or listen to my stories. Turns out that’s not what my student meant. In German-English, an oldtimer is the word for a vintage car. Either way, I have never rented either version of the word.
  4. Street worker. This is my favorite “English” word. “What does Sabine do for a living?” I once asked an Austrian friend. “She’s a street worker,” my friend replied casually. “Oh?” I replied, quite shocked at my friend’s openness. “A street worker? Wow.” I didn’t really know what to say.  “These Austrians are sure a lot less conservative than we Americans,” I thought, “but wow. Sabine. A street worker.” I was a bit relieved when I found out that Austrians think the English phrase “street worker” means “social worker.” I think someone needs to correct them on this sometime. Poor Sabine.

So there you have it! With these tips in mind, you are on your way to eating lunch at the Austrian cool kids table. Just make sure not to forget your fun German phrases along the way.

For more tips on being cool in Austria, check out 10 Survival Tips for Americans in Austria – cultural differences at their best!

Have you been to Austria or Germany? Anything you noticed about the English words in use? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

207 Comments

  1. What a brilliant article. I had a great laugh reading through it!!! Still giggling here! Hope you are having a super time in Austria xx

  2. Oh my gosh, this is so funny and so true! On a bike trip through Switzerland, we stayed in a hostel (because…who can afford real hotels in Switzerland…but I digress) where everyone ate together. There was an older German guy who was obviously quite taken with an older British woman who was doing some sort of long-distance pilgrimage walk; he kept asking her if she wanted to “take a ride in my old-timer.” And we were all…like..”Should we intervene? Is ‘go for a ride in my old-timer’ some sort of obscene offer that he’s making at the dinner table??” But yes, lo and behold the offer was to go drive up the nearby mountain pass in his antique convertible car, which the woman on the pilgrimage seemed to quite enjoy.

    Another one that my husband’s Swiss relatives always confound me with is “handy” for “cell phone.” “Call me on your handy.” I mean, cell phones are in fact handy, but that one got me the first time.

    1. Hahaha I love that story about the oldtimer! That’s amazing.

      And yes, handy is a good one too. So many Denglisch words…

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