1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
A blue and gold clock in Prague.
Image: picture-alliance/chromorange

German expressions using time

Louisa Schaefer
January 12, 2022

Still in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, people have redefined their notion of time. The German language is rich in idioms to reflect on the concept.


When the world is hustling and bustling about, many people would say they don't have enough time to even think. But as the world slowed during the first months of the pandemic two years ago, most of us began reconsidering what time means when cooped up at home. In the beginning, it seemed like we had more time on our hands and it gave us pause for thought to reflect on what is truly important.

But as the pandemic has stretched on and on, juggling working from home while also trying to help our kids with video-schooling as well as providing seemingly endless meals throughout the day has confronted many of us with entirely new challenges of structuring our time.

The monotony of it all recalls the famous 1993 film "Groundhog Day," starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, in which the main figure is caught in a time loop, with February 2 repeating itself day in and day out.

According to the North American tradition, Groundhog Day, which is celebrated on February 2, is the day when a groundhog is observed as it emerges from hibernation. If the animal comes up out of its hole and sees its shadow, it portends six more weeks of winter weather and the groundhog creeps back below ground. If there's no shadow, spring is supposedly just around the corner.

The ongoing pandemic feels like that: We go for a length of time in hibernation, then peek out every now and then with the hope of some relief. Meanwhile, all that time at home is like a never-ending loop.

Clock set at 3 p.m. with leaves flying all around.
The pandemic has given many of us a new sense of timeImage: picture alliance/dpa

Positive approaches

Staying at home and isolated can also confront us with ourselves, and that can have mixed results. As the expression goes in English: "An idle mind is the devil's workshop."

Many people have taken some positive steps to try to fend off sadness, despair and depression or to better tackle stress during the pandemic. They've taken up meditation to calm their minds and hearts or have discovered new hobbies like baking bread, sewing, dancing to YouTube videos or learning a new language. With more time at home, you can also delve into the German language so rich in expressions about time.


Click through the gallery above to learn a range of expressions.

You'll find more from Meet the Germans on You Tube, on Instagram or at dw.com/meetthegermans.

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section Related topics

Related topics

Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Reichsbürger protest in front of the Brandenburg Gate

How dangerous are Germany's far-right Reichsbürger?

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage