Arty Fahrt-y

“Art” is one of those words that you sort of assume is international. And, if you’re learning French, Spanish or Italian, you’re in luck – art, arte and arte, respectively. Not so in German. No, the German word for “art” is “Kunst”, which, let’s face it, is far more fun to say. KUNST!

Now, I can’t claim to be an art expert in any way, shape or form, but I’m always looking for ways to broaden my horizons and, of course, improve my German. So, when I heard about a “Kunst & Deutsch” afternoon being run by a company called Kunstkomplizen (Accomplices in Art), I decided to sign up.

We were to meet outside the old “Der Tagesspiegel” building, in the up-and-coming gallery district of Potsdamer Straße, at the very Linda-friendly time of 3pm. As I’m still out-Germanning the Germans when it comes to punctuality, I was the first to arrive at around 2.50. We would be visiting two galleries that day –Jarmuschek + Partner and the Maerz Galerie.

The old "Tagesspiegel" (Daily Mirror) offices
The old “Tagesspiegel” (Daily Mirror) offices

I’m always a bit nervous when it comes to this kind of stuff. I’m afraid that I will be the worst at German, that I will say or do something ridiculous or, horror or horrors, be the weird, silent one in the corner. But, when Hedda, our guide for the day, showed up before any of the rest of the group, I had no choice but to stop mooching around the car park like a weirdo and, instead, engage in lovely, German small talk. Poor Hedda…

We chatted a bit about our work, what had brought us to Berlin, and my amazing German skills. (I’m kidding about the last one.) By the time the rest of the group showed up (late), I was totally at ease. Hedda asked us if we’d mind if she used the “du” (informal) form of address, none of us had any problems with that and all was rosy in the world of Kunst & Deutsch.

In the end, there were five of us in the group. Me, a French artist, a French student of prehistoric archaeology (female, unfortunately, so no Indiana Jones-style eyelash-batting opportunities), a programmer from England and an American yoga therapist. Apparently, that is a real job. And, of course, our lovely guide, Hedda, art historian and German teacher.

After a round of introductions, it seemed that we were all roughly the same level, apart from the American, who was an absolute beginner. It was time to enter the lion pit gallery.

First up was the Maerz Galerie, featuring a series of installations by Thomas Sommer called “Schluss mit lustig”. Seemingly, Sommer’s “three-dimensional collages are a series of irritating trials and offer everything that doesn’t want to be definite”, but none of us had a clue how to say any of that in German so we walked around together, saying what we liked, didn’t like and why.

A series of... oh, forget it.
A series of… oh, forget it.

The great thing about a tour like this is that everyone can have an opinion – there’s no right or wrong when it comes to interpreting art. Plus, everyone is so conscious of their own German level that there’s no judgement or laughter at anyone else’s expense. Naturally, I caused a couple of outbreaks of laughter, but I know that was because of my witty genius rather than my shoddy German…


Hedda was friendly, relaxed, patient, and fantastic at steering the conversations we were having, making sure that everyone participated a little. She also handed out sheets with useful vocabulary and grammar explanations as we went along.

Hedda: Schluss means “end” so how would you explain the title of the exhibition? 

Me: (little brain working overtime – OK, so “end with fun” would mean the fun’s over, which (maybe?) means roughly the same as… YES! It was time to bust out one of my beloved German sausage expressions!) Um, jetzt geht’s um die Wurst? 

Hedda looked surprised and, I like to think, a little impressed.

Hedda: Why, yes! Does everyone understand what Linda just said?

Blank looks all round. Linda glows.

Hedda: Why don’t you explain it to them, Linda?

Crap. Linda’s glow dims.

Me: Well, it translates as (doing annoying quotation marks with my fingers and hating myself simultaneously) “Now it gets about the sausage”, which means that it’s time to get serious. The fun’s over.

I don’t know if they understood me or not, but I was happy. We moved into the next gallery. At the end of the tour, we each had to pick a piece and describe it, using our newly-learned, arty German. I was the first to volunteer which, trust me, is very unlike me but there was method in my madness. I chose this one…

I'm so clever...
I’m so clever…

The others got stuck with trying to describe this…

Good luck

And this…

Where would you even...?
Where would you even…?

When the tour ended, I practically skipped out of the gallery. I had spoken, and understood, German for close to two and a half hours, and had even managed to slip a porky expression into a very high-brow conversation. The whole afternoon had only cost €20 and I can definitely say that I got more than my money’s worth.

So, I’m sorry to say, Kunstkomplizen, you’ll probably be seeing me again in the near future. Now I’m off to learn some more weird German expressions so that I can blow your minds next time round…

If you want to check out some more porky German expressions, click here:




86 thoughts on “Arty Fahrt-y”

          1. A (German or not- German) theatre-improv funny?
            Maybe when hell freezes over …
            Even when the actors use drugs the maximum is a kind of pseudo- infantile debility. 👿


                1. Philistine 😉
                  “Einkadung zu German with Theater Games – der ganz andere Deutschkurs!
                  Nächstes Mal mit dem Thema: Getränke und Restaurant”


  1. I must say, it annoys me slightly the way German teachers always want to use the ‘Du’ form. When are the poor students supposed to get any practice using ‘Sie’? But I suppose it’s just me that has this problem ^^

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, well, I do find the ‘du’ form easier, but I guess that’s mainly because I use it so much! I think Berlin in general is pretty casual when it comes to this stuff. Even when I try to start off with ‘Sie’, they instantly tell me ‘NEIN!’ Guess I’ll keep on ‘doin’ the du’!


      1. It’s not “casual”, its curry favour with the students. I don’t like this; especially there are greater differences in the structure of age or habitus. 👿
        An acceptable agreement is to “siezen” with forenames. 😀


        1. I don’t think she was trying to curry favour. We were all around the same age, it was a casual setting, plus she didn’t have to mess around learning how to pronounce our ‘weird’ foreign surnames. Made sense to me! And I think Berlin is pretty well known for being less uptight about du/Sie, right or wrong.


        2. Just for interest, does anyone actually do this, siezen with first names, I mean? I’ve never observed any such thing “in the wild”, it seems to exclusively happen in the world of US films/series etc dubbed into German.

          Maybe it happens in northern Germany…? Down south, no chance.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I don’t think it’s to curry favour, I think it’s just that the teachers feel more comfortable that way 🙂 They don’t really think about how much it disadvantages the students when they go out into the real world not having had any practice using ‘Sie’.

          If the problem is that people’s surnames are difficult to pronounce, then I agree that using Sie plus first name is a reasonable compromise 🙂 Even if this form of address is not typical outside of a classroom situation, at least the students are getting a chance to practice the grammar.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Surely there are still some situations where you need to use ‘Sie’, such as when speaking to Beamte. Or are you allowed to say ‘Du’ to them as well in Berlin?

        I can kind of understand it from the teachers’ point of view: If I were working as an English teacher, I would probably feel a bit strange if my students wanted to address me as ‘sir’ or ‘mister’ or by my last name. On the other hand, I think German teachers underestimate the difficulty of this aspect of the language for someone whose native language only has one word for ‘you’. Getting to the point where you can switch fluently between ‘Du’, ‘Ihr’ and ‘Sie’ as the situation requires, using all the correct verb endings and possessive pronouns, takes some serious practice!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That is such a good idea for a tour! Love the worksheets w/specific vocab and everything. It’s so much easier to follow something in German when you know the subject matter beforehand. And points to you on working in a wurst joke!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Not that I’ve come across. Tours in German or English sure, but never one specifically for German learners. There are also Stammtisch meetups for various languages, but my antisocial side has never gotten to one of them.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I initially read the first sentence as “art is one of those words that you sort of assume is intentional” and was waiting for a story about accidental art.

    Trust you to manage to use “Jetzt geht es um die Wurst” in real life. I don’t think I’ve said that phrase EVER!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That was on The Big Bang Theory! Except it was a sheet instead of a canvas. Sorry Latvians, TV beat you to it.

        I don’t know any Swiss people, but I’m sure they understand the expression.

        Liked by 1 person

              1. From what I’ve heard about Switzerland, I think even I’d struggle 😉
                Most of my neighbours are Asian at the moment. And today I heard mainly English and Russian on the streets. Sigh 😉


  4. Your translation is superb. 🙂
    But … €20 for a guided tour in two not so illustrious galleries … 😯
    I hope Hedda offers free canapés and Sekt! For €22 you can delight Tosca by Giacomo Puccini in the Deutsche Oper Berlin (on this seats a lorgnette is highly recommended).
    Some smart- shitting: “Kunst” comes from “können”, Old English ‘cunnan’ (‘know’) ! Pretty similar 😎


        1. Clearly you don’t know me at all – a shopping trip anywhere would be my worst nightmare.
          And I get free opera in my flat every day thanks to my massively inconsiderate, tubby chump of a neighbour so I think I’ll give it a miss 😉

          Liked by 2 people

          1. This seems a strong argument. 😆
            Maybe you should face this Schreihals with the German law:
            Enjoy Berlin. This metropolis nowadays is the centre of fine arts in Europe, maybe the world. London, Paris and Ney York may have more luxurious and hideously expensive galleries, but Berlin has the international creative folks.
            More smart- shitting: In all the other Nordic countries Kunst is kunst (or konst). 🙄

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Haha kindred spirit! I detest shopping, unless it’s in a bookstore. Or a cheese shop 🙂
            Kunst is a great word even if I find it hard to pronounce the consonants NST. Do they use it the way we use art, as in “the art of conversation”?

            Liked by 1 person

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