German Jokes & the German Sense of Humor
Any kind of studying becomes monotonous and boring after a while. Why should learning a new language be any different?
After you have immersed yourself in your studies long enough to get bored, here’s a fun, and funny, way to help keep it interesting.
German Jokes? Do They Even Exist?
I know what you’re thinking, Germans have no sense of humor, how can German jokes possibly be funny? Contrary to popular belief, Germans DO have a sense of humor; it’s just a bit drier and darker than most.
Germans are known to be self-deprecating. That’s part of their makeup, the way they find laughs and hide their self-perceived flaws.
Humor is actually a very important part of German culture and heritage. My family hails from Germany, and I can honestly say that their particular brand of humor is hereditary AND somewhat ingrained in us.
Not many people understood, or liked, my sense of humor during my childhood and teen years. The problem became worse in adulthood. I’m always shocked at how thin-skinned people are sometimes, then I remember how very German my sense of humor is.
What exactly makes Germans laugh? There are several types of jokes that are popular in Germany. Some are much better at illustrating and teaching you about German culture than others.
Let’s take a look at two of the most popular types of German jokes and find out what elicits chuckles from some of the most stoic Germans.
One of the most common and traditional types of joke in Germany is Bauernregeln-Witze. Literally translated, this means farmer’s lore jokes.
There are two variants of this type of joke, which are told in the traditional rhyme scheme of weather lore. The first variant is truly about the weather. The second, however, can be about anything. Usually there are sexual connotations and there might be a kernel of wisdom twisted up in some sort of word play.
Yeah, I know, I was always told Germans were very literal and straightforward, too. The Bauernregeln-Witze prove that wrong, though.
Variant 1: Weather-related
Fliegen Bauern um den Turm, dann ist meistens starker Sturm.
English: If farmers fly around the tower, then there is usually a strong storm.
Die einzige Bauernregel, die immer stimmt, lautet: Regen im Mai, April vorbei.
English: The only peasant rule that is always right is: rain in May, April gone.
(If it rains in May…yep, April’s finished for sure)
Wenn der Hahn kräht auf dem Mist, dann ändert sich das Wetter, oder es bleibt wie es ist.
English: When the rooster crows on the dung pile, the weather will either change or stay as it is. (It’s referring to the unreliability of weather forecasts. See, that’s not just a problem with your local weather forecaster; it’s apparently a worldwide epidemic)
Variant 2: Other
Fehlt der Knecht am Morgen ständig, war die Magd nachts sehr lebendig.
English: If the servant is missing in the morning, the maid was very alive at night.
(There’s the sexual connotation we spoke of earlier)
Kühe tragen Glocken, weil ihre Hörner nicht funktionieren.
English: Cows carry bells because their horns don’t work.
(I grew up in a farming community and everyone I know has heard this joke)
Klebt der Bauer an der Mauer, war der Stier wohl richtig sauer.
English: If the farmer sticks to the wall, the bull was probably really angry.
(Was that dry and dark, or what? This almost qualifies as another type of joke, but I chose to put it here because its roots are in farming)
Before we look at the antiwitze, I want to show you a cool way you can learn more German jokes. Maybe you found a YouTube video all in German, like a German stand-up comedian. All you need to do is download the LingQ browser extension (Chrome / Firefox / Safari) then click “import” when you find a video you like. The extension will take the YouTube generated subtitles and you have yourself a hopefully hilarious German lesson! Give it a try.
Just between you and me, I believe the antiwitz form of joke is probably what got Germans labeled as not having a sense of humor. The Anti-joke (Antiwitz) is not logical, is absurd, and usually lacks a punch-line completely.
It doesn’t seem to matter if the person telling the joke looks dead serious, or if he laughs hysterically, the results are the same. There is no mistaking the German’s love of dark and dry humor when reading through these types of German jokes.
Was passiert mit einem roten Stein der ins Schwarze Meer fällt? Er wird nass.
English: What happens to a red stone falling into the Black Sea? He gets wet.(Extremely logical and many wouldn’t find it humorous. It’s that dark German humor at work and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t snort laughter at it)
Was ist weiss und rollt den Berg hoch? Eine Lawine mit Heimweh.
English: What is white and rolls up the mountain? An avalanche with homesickness.
(That’s their sense of the absurd at work.)
Zwei Pilze im Wald. Fragt der eine, “Wie geht’s?”
Sagt der andere, “Klappe, Pilze können nicht reden!”
English: Two mushrooms in the forest. One asks, “How are you?”
The other says, “Shut up, mushrooms can’t talk!”
“Küsse mich, und ich werde für immer Dein sein.”
“Danke für die Warnung.”
English: “Kiss me, and I’ll be yours forever.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
And one final Antiwitz. This, in my opinion, is one of the best of the popular Anti-jokes on the internet.
Geisterfahrer sind die letzten Individualisten.
English: Ghost drivers are the last individualists.
(Go ahead and admit it, you laughed too)
If you find yourself in a position to need some fun, search “German jokes” on the internet. It’s a great way to pick up the nuances of the language and the culture. Besides all that, though, they are fun and funny. Remember to shake it up, mix it up, keep it interesting, and keep learning!
Learn German Faster Using LingQ
Immersing yourself in German doesn’t require you to travel abroad or sign up for an expensive language program.
However, it can be a bit tiresome to find interesting content, go back and forth between sites, use different dictionaries to look up words, and so on.
That’s why there’s LingQ. A language app that helps you discover and learn from content you love.
You can import videos, podcasts, and much more and turn them into interactive lessons.
Keep all your favourite German content stored in one place, easily look up new words, save vocabulary, and review. Check out our guide to importing content into LingQ for more information.
LingQ is available for desktop as well as Android and iOS. Gain access to thousands of hours of audio and transcripts and begin your journey to fluency today.
Sharon M. White is a professionally published author, and in recent years has fallen in love with her German heritage. Now, she translates between her native English and German for clients all over the world, and she is fully believes every person should learn at least one language other than their native tongue. It just makes the world a better place.