Germans are universally known as a rather serious lot, lacking any sense of humor (disclaimer: NOT TRUE). However, German language bears so many pitfalls, leading to an array of funny situations.
The way German speakers are unintentionally funny is priceless and an invaluable way to break the ice in awkward situations. Just imagine all the business dinners and formal gatherings that were instantly alleviated by a simple mechanical linguistic mistake, which inevitably cracked a smile on every face. It is so human, kind of endearing and brings people together.
Indeed humor can be found everywhere. Did you just hear that reliable businessman (yes, the one in the cutting edge designer suit and its respective ten-thousand-euros watch) saying he was becoming a steak?! He most probably meant he was getting a steak for dinner, but the direct translation from German to English tends to play surrealistic tricks too often.
A very common mistake regarding dinners is the so called invitation issue. Just watch the face of your German business partner when you cheerfully say, “Thank you for inviting me”. In German to invite means “to pay the bill”. The confusion and then the acknowledgment “Oh, you don’t mean I have to invite you, but, of course, …” is simply priceless.
And what would you answer to: “Excuse me, do you have fire?” Bet you would come up with something original, while that girl only asked for your lighter. But wasn’t it poetic?! You are intrigued on so many levels, aren’t you?! Maybe you would even consider “to make a party” with her after all! Oh, the Germans, they “machen” everything! They don’t just “party”, they “machen Party” (make party). They also “dress up” to go jogging. If only they could see the images that come to the average Anglophone mind at this point.
All these translation affairs also work the other way round. When an English speaker intuitively translates “I am warm” to “ich bin warm”, the German person in front of them takes it as a slang confession they were gay. And if occasionally you are “heiß,” than you have just said you are horny.
Back to German speakers: have you already heard that your sister’s roommate’s sister is “getting a baby?” Undoubtedly the Germans are a progressive breed, but believe me, they still “have” their babies just like all of us.
And then people will tell you Germans weren’t funny! How many people do you know who refer to their boss as their “chef”?! Or, when they call you to reschedule your “date”? That is more than certain to bring a smile to your face.