Schnack like a Hamburger

Speaking like a local in Hamburg is not all about the perfect German accent, yet using common northern German phrases can bring advantages in day-to-day life that will help you to sound like you grew up around the block. Whether you you’ve decided to move to Hamburg soon or you’ve already arrived in this beautiful city now it is time to work on your vocabulary to meet the locals at eye level.

Northern-German Words and Phrases to memorize

As an international city in Hamburg you are not likely to get any troubles speaking „Hochdeutsch“ or even English but traditionally Hamburgers speak a northern German accent called Hamburger Platt or Schnack. We have picked out some of the most peculiar words and phrases we came across…

If some words sound somewhat like English to you, you are quite right! Northern German accents get closer and closer to the Anglo-Saxon language area, so you might find it a little easier to understand. 

In the following we have put together a list of common phrases that will help you to fit in like a local:

1. The Greeting

Whenever you enter a shop, a café or your chef’s office, the correct greeting will always be “Moin”, which is in fact an abbreviation of the German words “Guten Morgen” (Good morning) – but it lost its original meaning and can be used any time of the day. You might also hear the double “Moin moin!” a lot, but usually a single “Moin” suits the taciturn locals much better.

2. Not an invitation for something to eat: “schnacken”

Also, it might seem confusingly similar, “schnacken” has nothing to do with having a snack. Instead, “schnacken” means chit-chatting and “der Schnack” is not only used to describe Hamburg’s very own German accent but is also used as a term for small talk.

3. To be “tüddelig”

This expression is used regularly on different occasions. “Tüddelig” is an adjective which also exists as a verb: “tüddeln”. It means to move [objects] restlessly back and forth or, more generally, to waste time instead of doing something meaningful. If a person refers to themselves as being particularly “tüddelig” today, it means they are nervous or scatterbrained. 

The next one sounds very similar but behold!

There’s a huge difference between the two.

‍4. To be “angetütert”

Now what could that mean? I’ll give you a hint: After a few mulled wines on a Christmas market, you’ll definitely be a bit “angetütert” 😉

‍5. “Dafür nich!”

As a response for a “thank you”, many Germans might say “gern geschehen” (you’re welcome). In Hamburg, they say “dafür nich/ da nich für”: not for that.

Moin Moin

6. Some extra vocabulary

Schietwetter

It means literally what it sounds like. Of course, the locals have a word for the typical weather situation in Hamburg to cope with it! Although it’s actually not as rainy in Hamburg as you’d think. In fact compared to other German cities Hamburg has had less precipitation in the past year.

Kuddelmuddel

A cute term for: a mess!

Alsterwasser

If someone orders an “Alsterwasser”, they surely don’t want to get a gulp of the Alster lake water. It is the northern version of what Bavarians call a “Radler”, a mix of beer and lemonade.

Kiez

While in Berlin “Kiez” refers to the neighborhood one lives in, in Hamburg, there is only one “Kiez” you can go to: the nightclub district Reeperbahn and St. Pauli. If you want some action, grab some friends and tell them: “Lasst uns auf’n Kiez gehn!”

Nee, wat'n Schietwetter

This list is merely a short glimpse on the Hamburger Platt– it could go on and on! For now, you got the chance to memorize the new vocabulary. Don’t be shy: You’ll warm a local’s heart immediately by saying some familiar words to them in your daily interactions like greeting your favorite Barista with a “Moin” in the morning.

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