German Memes: Laugh Your Way to Fluency
WhatsApp is one of the most popular apps in Germany. More than eighty percent of Germans use it – and thank goodness.
If they didn’t, how else could they meme?
German memes are a fantastic bridge from English internet culture to German internet culture. In this article, you’ll see old favourites as well as new German meme formats.
All of them have something to teach you, whether you’re advanced, intermediate, or just starting out.
12 Excellent German Memes
Beginner German Memes
These are the German memes you as a learner want to be just starting out with. You’re familiar with these formats, and you can even send them to people that are just starting out themselves.
We’ll start off with awkward family photos – always a treat. The dog says “Which birds can’t hear? Doves.”
The joke is that die Taube “dove” in German is very close to taub “deaf.” The plural of that adjective would be tauben, so saying “the deaf ones” is the same as saying “the doves.”
Honestly, I’m a sucker for galaxy brain memes. This one’s talking about how to organize school supplies and notebooks, and it’s pretty grammatically simple:
A different color for every subject -> Several binders in the same color -> One folder for all subjects -> Everything bound together -> Everything in the bag -> Everything in the closet -> Throw everything in the trash.
This one is wholesome and still pretty funny. It reads:
She: Excuse me, young man!
He: Sorry, I have a grandma.
Here the kid uses the word schon, which is quite different from schön “beautiful.” Schon means “already,” and it’s used pretty often in German as a sort of sentence particle or filler word.
This meme is a little older, but that means you’ve definitely seen its format before. If someone asks, “Where do you want to go to eat? What do you want?” then your head may start spinning with options too.
The phrase takeaway here is: Lust auf etwas haben: to want something, to have a desire for something (casual).
Intermediate German Memes
Your thoughts as you’re playing on your phone: “Hmm, my battery’s at 55 percent. That should last me the rest of the day.”
But Snapchat doesn’t think so!
This meme uses a great phrase für den restlichen Tag, meaning literally “for the remaining day.” Its opposite is more often seen: für den ganzen Tag or “for the whole day.”
Furthermore, für etwas reichen means “to be enough for”- so the battery is enough for the remainder of the day, as long as you don’t open Snapchat!
The word Almans is something you probably won’t know if you’re living outside of Germany. It’s the Turkish word for “German people,” and in German internet culture it’s used as an affectionately teasing way to make fun of German stereotypes.
This one says: “What Germans use their tablets for:” and the message reads “10:17: Mrs. Maier threw paper in the organic waste bin.”
Germans are known for being very strict about recycling and recycling habits, and so taking detailed notes about their neighbors is exactly what an Alman would do.
This one too isn’t particularly complex, but relies on a bit of cultural knowledge too. Galileo is a very successful TV and online broadcast company known for their science-based, adventurous, and thought-provoking reportage.
And so Pennywise the clown lures Galileo into the sewers with the one thing it can’t resist: somebody saying “Down here you aren’t allowed to film.” Their only weakness!
“As soon as the container is full, I’ll go exercise.” Of course, why exercise when you could just pour water down the drain for the meme? That absurdity definitely carries over into German memes as well.
Der Behälter is an interesting word. It literally means “holder of things,” and it’s often translated as “container.” If you do an image search, though, you’ll see that it more refers to food trays that you might find behind the counter at a cafeteria! As you can see, memes are often very educational.
Advanced German Memes
It turns out a lot of German meme pages love the “When you…” meme, and to be honest that’s one of my favorites too. That’s a great format for the past tense in German too: “When you’ve drunkenly ordered an elephant on Amazon and have to read the instruction manual first.”
The phrase to take away here is bei jemandem etwas bestellen or “order something from somewhere.” You can always add betrunken “drunkenly” too, if you’d like!
Have you ever considered studying in Germany? The language requirements are sometimes high, especially because of the formal academic language used in the classroom. Here, a guest speaker is being introduced:
“I am glad to introduce our next guest lecturer. He will discuss tennis balls and why it is so that one should never act as if he is going to throw them, when in fact he does not actually throw them.
Although tun “to do” is considered sometimes more spoken language than written language, it fits nicely into the set phrase so tun als ob… which means “to pretend to do, to act like you will do.”
One more cultural tip here: The top sign is used on German roads to mark the end of a limit, like a speed limit or no-passing zone. The text reads: “Valid as long as I see the sign in the distance.”
The bottom sign? That’s a speed limit sign, and it’s interpreted to mean “I can still coast (don’t have to hit the brakes) at high speed until I pass the sign.” Good luck with the German police, folks!
And finally, the number one German meme is the classic Winnie-the-Pooh. The formal language usage comes in handy here once again, as “My god, can’t you read?!” gets lovingly translated into “As stated in my previous email…”
This use of etwas zu entnehmen is particularly formal and generally used rarely, only for government reports and so on. No need to be quite so polite in German business writing!
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Alex Thomas wears many hats when it comes to languages, including translating, teaching, voice recording, and writing. He currently lives in the USA.