My flatmates (Mitbewohner) have a well-developed system for cleaning our apartment. Our four names are listed on a big chalkboard in the hall, with our weekly assignments marked: K for Küche (kitchen), B for Badezimmer (bathroom), and F for Flur (hallway). The mechanics of cleaning one’s apartment are remarkably similar whether you’re in New York, Berlin, or anywhere else in the world (and nobody chooses bathroom-cleaning duty here either). But, of course, the names for the jobs are different.
You sweep (kehren) the kitchen floor, scrub (putzen) the bathroom sink, vacuum (saugen) the rug in the hallway. This week’s Sunday chores conveniently coincided with the beginning of my experience with Rosetta Stone German Level 3, which taught me the above cleaning-related words. I’m glad I learned them in time—it wouldn’t have been very chivalrous of me to escape my share of the household chores through ignorance of the language.
One thing that cleaning day reminded me of is how much I like the bluntness of the German language. Pork is Schweinefleisch, meaning pig meat or pig flesh, and beef is Rindfleisch, for cow meat. A vacuum cleaner is a Staubsauger, dust-sucker. My roommates were quite amused at how fancy the English word vacuum cleaner is for an appliance that does such an un-fancy job.
Learn more about Will Perkins’s adventures in language learning.
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