The Swabian dialect is full of proverbs and ancient wisdom. These are ten common sayings that many Swabians live by. Of course, all expressions are written in the Swabian dialect – in standard German, they just sound weird.
1. Dr Deifl isch a Eichhörnle
The devil is a squirrel
According to superstition, the squirrel has always had a negative connotation. The red or black color of the squirrel fur represents the color of the devil. Also, squirrels are very fast animals that can run away and hide in the blink of an eye which is another attribute of the devil. It’s very hard for hunters to shoot a squirrel because of its insane agility.
Yet a squirrel also looks very cute and harmless if you see it. But don’t be fooled. Things can change in an instant. You should never feel too safe. The bad often seems harmless from the outside. While it might seem easy to shoot a cute little squirrel, it can run away like no other. This is a trait that only evil people possess.
Don’t ever be too optimistic about a new project and don’t just blindly trust anything that looks promising and harmless from the outside. Else a Swabian might warn you: The devil is a squirrel.
2. Wer ned will, hat ghett
Whoever doesn’t want, has had
I’m sure you’re familiar with the situation when people politely decline a generous offer several times before accepting. Don’t do that in Swabia – expect when it comes to money – or else a Swabian might reply to you: Whoever doesn’t want, has had.
The most common situation to encounter this sentence is when a family sits down to eat. Especially my grandma used this sentence a lot. Kids are expected to eat what their parents serve them. If they say: “I am not hungry” or “I rather want ice cream” there is usually no big discussion. If they don’t want what is on the table, then they don’t need to eat anything. The kids need to learn their lesson and stay hungry so that the next time they appreciate the food.
If someone offers you a ride in Swabia or invites you to a party, it’s always best to accept directly if that is what you want. If you say no out of politeness, Swabians will often not bother to ask a second time. Instead, if they are disappointed because of your rejection, they will reply to you: Whoever doesn’t want, has had.
It is not a polite sentence but it also shows that people don’t try to impose anything on you that you don’t want. If you say no, a Swabian will accept it and not try to change your mind. If you decline an offer, a Swabian is not offended and it doesn’t bother him. On the other hand, it is polite to directly accept an offer.
3. No net hudla
Swabians don’t like stress. Things take their time. There is no need to rush to get anything done.
In Swabia, people acknowledge that to get to a good end result, sufficient time is crucial. If you hurry to prepare and bake a loaf of bread, it is not going to turn out tasty. If an IT company rushes to release an app, it will probably be full of errors.
It’s always best to take your time and work at an acceptable pace to obtain a satisfying end result. Rushing the process results in avoidable errors. As all Swabians know: “Es pressiert ned” – It’s not urgent.
4. Ned gschempft isch gnug globt
The absence of criticism is praise enough
This one I personally don’t agree with and I have already written a blog bost about it. In Swabia, people don’t like to praise others. That is because they think that it will lead to overconfidence. If people receive no praise, they remain humble – at least that’s the Swabian logic behind this principle.
Only negative criticism is deemed productive. People need to be made aware of their mistakes so they can improve upon them. And if they don’t receive any criticism, they are assumed to be smart enough to know they did a good job.
Yet it is also important to receive positive reinforcement. That is what motivates people and also acknowledges their achievements. This is why I don’t live by this principle – it’s nonsense to always just complain and else keep the mouth shut. Praise people if they did something good!
5. Höher scheißa wella, als oim dr Arsch gwachsa isch
Wanting to shit higher than one’s ass has grown
Don’t overestimate yourself and don’t become an imposter. If you have a low income, you shouldn’t pretend to live like a king. If you don’t have the money for a new luxury car, don’t buy one.
If you are clueless about a certain topic then don’t try to impress people by faking confidence and knowledge. If you are not the boss, it’s unacceptable to give commands to your colleagues on the same level. Don’t ever be pretentious, arrogant, or overconfident.
Don’t pretend to be someone greater and more powerful than you really are.
6. Bei de Reiche lernt mr’s Spara, bei de Arme lernt mr’s Kocha
From the rich, you learn how to save money; from the poor, how to cook
Decades ago, there was a time where it was possible to build a small fortune by saving money. Nowadays, this is not true anymore. You cannot get rich in Germany simply by saving money. Yet, rich people are still very good at increasing their profits by saving money. They know how to avoid paying taxes, how to keep the wages for employees low, and how to cut business costs in general.
When it comes to food though, there is little to learn from the rich. Swabian food is the food of the poor country people. Traditional staples like lentil stew and sour tripe are favorites among the Swabian population. In Swabia, people don’t fancy exotic and rare ingredients. The food is unpretentious and nourishing.
That doesn’t mean though that Swabian food is unrefined or inferior to more complicated cuisines. Poor Swabians were masters of transforming simple base ingredients like flour into delicious treats like sourdough bread, spätzle, or finger noodles.
If you’ve ever baked bread, you know how complex a process it is to produce a nourishing loaf. It’s much more sophisticated than preparing foie gras with shaved truffles and caviar. Poor people had to be creative with what they had. Similar to Italian food, Swabians value local and seasonal produce. Less is often more.
7, ‘N alda Baum vrpflanzt mr ned
Don’t relocate an old tree
It’s not good to remove senior citizens from their familiar environment. No one likes to be put into a retirement home. Many people lose their will to live if they end up in a retirement home. Soon after they leave their familiar environment, they die. They live happiest and best in their own home. In the house that they have been living in for 50 years.
As long as it is avoidable, the elderly should stay within their familiar environment. This is where their roots are and where they are happiest. If people get old, there is no need to change them. Many want things to remain like they are. They want to peacefully enjoy the evening of their life.
8. So isch no au wieder
There are two sides to every coin
There are many aspects to consider when making a decision. Swabians need time to think. It’s a complex process to come up with an answer or solution for a problem.
Swabians always try to look at things from different angles. Opinions differ and usually, there are advantages and disadvantages to every decision.
The sentence “So isch no au wieder” is the legacy of the Swabian philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. For Hegel, complex problems cannot be solved by picking the one right solution. Instead, the best way to solve these problems is by incorporating all the different approaches into one wholesome solution.
You can’t solve complex problems by the logic of “either this or that”. Instead, the most wholesome and productive approach is: “this as well as that”. Let all the different viewpoints and ideas be part of your solution.
“You can either have a family or focus on your career.” – This is not how it works in Swabia. Swabians say: “You can have a family as well as a fulfilling career.” Swabians are more optimistic than you might assume given all the prejudices and stereotypes about Germans.
9. Da sagsch am beschta nix, na kommsch en nix nei
Sometimes it’s best to remain silent so you don’t get involved
Sometimes it’s not worth getting involved in other people’s problems. It just drowns your energy, makes you feel miserable, and you might upset some other people that you didn’t want to upset in the first place.
If there’s a conflict between two people, Swabians will typically not cheer for one side. At least not in public. In that regard, Swabians are very diplomatic. They don’t want to risk their good relationship with either side. If it’s a personal problem between two people, most Swabians don’t want to get involved.
Social harmony is very important in Swabia. If everything is going well, why would you be looking for trouble by stating a controversial opinion? Oftentimes, it’s best to remain quiet about some things that bother you to keep everything in harmony and to protect yourself from trouble.
10. Gscheiter mr denkt alles, was mr sagt, als mr sagt alles was mr denkt
It’s better to believe everything you say than to say everything that you think
We have a lot of bad and harmful thoughts that we will later regret saying. Remember, social harmony is important. If you have some controversial opinions, it’s sometimes better to hold back if your opinion only serves to anger the opposite side.
You don’t need to talk a lot in Swabia. It’s better to talk up when you have had some time to think about your ideas. What you say should be well thought out and also have some substance. Swabians don’t trust and like people who talk without thinking about the impact of their words. Words can hurt, words can anger, and they might not serve your intention.
In Swabia, people say that Northern Germans talk faster than they think. Especially politicians are masters at stating things without a second thought. In Swabia, it’s often preferable to hold back than to say something stupid.