1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

How Germans (don't) talk about money

Sabine Oelze db
March 6, 2019

According to a German saying, you shouldn't talk about money — but the language definitely offers many inventive slang words for it, from "ashes" and "coal" to "mice."

man with raining money
Image: Colourbox

"Über Geld spricht man nicht, man hat es — You don't talk about money, you have it;

"Geld regiert die Welt" — Money rules the world;

"Die erste Million ist immer die Schwerste" — The first million is always the hardest... 

German proverbs related to money, along with the language's slang words used to describe it, offer insight into the country's relationship with cash.

For instance, Germans don't like to talk about how much they earn, presumably to avoid provoking envy. Some people simply have more than others; that fact shouldn't be questioned too loudly — at least in their view.

If you look into the idiomatic "Geld verdienen" — to earn money — it does reveal a certain culture of meritocracy: The verb "verdienen" also translates as "to deserve" or "merit."

Especially if you compare that with how Americans "make" money, and how the French, Italians, Spaniards and Bulgarians "win" their income ("gagner de l'argent"). The term used in Polish is "zarabiac" also refers to dough, since it translates as "earn" as well as "knead." Hungarians simply "look" or "hunt" for their salary: "penzt keres." 

The gallery above reveals why Germans started comparing money to mice, ashes and rags, while the video below shows how people in the country deal with their cash.

You'll find more from Meet the Germans on YouTube or at dw.com/MeettheGermans.

How to deal with money like a German

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Sarah Ashton-Cirillo pictured during an interview with DW
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage