EXPLAINED: The ultimate A-Z guide of coronavirus terms in German

The coronavirus brought many new and existing words into the German vocabulary. Here's a look through the ABCs of the pandemic – from Autokinos to Zoom.

EXPLAINED: The ultimate A-Z guide of coronavirus terms in German
How did you spend lockdown? Swiss acrobat Freddy Nock stands after the "Glacier 3000" Air show, an event marking the reopening of the Alpine facilities on June 23, 2020 above Les Diablerets. Photo: FA

In the last 100 days new terms such as Coviditioten (Covid idiots), Öffnungsdiskussionsorgien (opening discussion orgies) and Superspreaders have emerged in the German language.

“Corona” can furthermore be inserted into almost every word, from corona hairstyle, corona kilos to corona parties. While some may have already guessed in January that 2020 would be a completely different year because of the Corona crisis, it only became clear for many of us on March 16th, when most federal states closed schools and day-care centres.

READ ALSO: 11 German words and phrases we've learned during the coronavirus outbreak

Sports enthusiasts may not have realised until March 17th, when the European Football Championship was postponed to 2021. 

The last noticed on March 23th, when the contact ban came into force across the country.

The pandemic time, the likes of which have previously only been seen in disaster movies, has now been with us for three months. So, now it’s time for an A to Z lexicon for this new way of life – excluding conspiracy theorist Attila Hildmann, Bill Gates, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and leading virologists Christian Drosten and Alexander Kekulé.

for Autokino (drive-in cinema): This symbol of the 1950s considered to be long dead is experiencing a sudden Renaissance thanks to social distancing, and not just for movies but for any presentation that can be watched by car, from the Heino concert to Holy Mass. There are also drive-in at the bakeries and circuses.

A drive-through cinema in Chemnitz, Saxony. Photo: DPA

for Bergamo: The pretty little town near Milan which became a symbol for the horror of the coronavirus crisis in Italy. It became the epitome of an out-of-control epidemic with huge numbers of deaths and shocking pictures of coffins.

for Covidioten (Covid idiots): A word for those protesting against the corona measures. Media scientist Bernhard Pörksen says that ever since the refugee crisis there has been “a communicative climate change, an unhealthy overheating of debates”

for Drogeriemärkte (drug stores): They remained open throughout the pandemic and therefore became staples and places of refuge – and a place to stockpile toilet paper and disinfectants. Some have already spoken of DM and Rossmann as the new in-places – sometimes even with bouncers on the doors like at clubs.

for Erntehelfer (Harvest helpers): Who would collect the asparagus from the fields during the corona crisis? This question ultimately ensured that many Eastern European harvest helpers were allowed to enter the country.

READ ALSO: For the love of Spargel: Why Germany has eased border rules amid the coronavirus pandemic

Around 160 Romanian harvest helpers leave the plane in Hahn, Rhineland-Palatinate on April 3rd. Photo: DPA

for Flatten the Curve: Flattening the curve is a slogan and public health strategy with the aim of at least slowing the spread of the Sars-CoV-2 virus in the Covid-19 pandemic.

G for Geschwurbel (nonsense): Many find conspiracy theory to be too kind a phrase for the sorts of wild theses and conjectures, such as “hygiene demos”, that some have been expressing and organizing during the crisis. One thing for sure, however, is that things are more uncertain, which takes people a while to get used to.

H for HomeofficeHomeschooling: Closed workplaces and schools created stressful situations for millions of people – working at home and childcare pushed many to their limits.

READ ALSO: German government set to introduce permant 'righ to work from home'

I for Ischgl: This place in Tyrol became famous as the location from which the coronavirus may have spread to large parts of Europe. In particular, many are thought to have contracted the virus at après-ski parties in the winter sports resorts.

J for Joggen (Jogging): Some described experiences with joggers who dashed past them whilst wheezing, without any awareness of the problem. The “taz” polemicised about “the SUVs of pedestrians”. So-called combat joggers did not look left and right while running.

K for Kernfamilie (nuclear family): A term that suddenly appeared in the political debate about contact restrictions. For example, in March Chancellor Helge Braun said that meetings “outside the nuclear family” were unfortunately not allowed.

L for Lockdown and Lockerung (loosening): “Lockdown” literally means a ban on leaving buildings or certain areas. Amid the corona crisis, the word has been used as a synonym for the restriction of public life – for a “shutdown”. In contrast, Lockerung (loosening) is used for the reopening. 

A shop in Leipzig displaying a range of face masks. Photo: DPA

M for Maske (mask) and Mund-Nase-Schutz (mouth-nose protection): people used to view Asians wearing masks with amazement. But now the arrogance has washed away, as millions have realised the benefit of mouth-nose protection with regard to a possible droplet infection. It also quickly became a fashion accessory – masks are the new sneakers.

N for Nudeln (pasta): In addition to jokes about toilet paper and panic buyers, pasta jokes were popular for a while, especially at the beginning of the crisis. Reason: What do lots of people cook when they suddenly have to do it themselves at home and want something quick and easy? Pasta, of course! Basta.

O for Online boom: Retail in Germany suffered big losses in sales due to closed shops during the corona crisis. While the food and beverage business picked up during the shutdown, for fashion retailers it was a disaster.  

OE for Öffnungsdiskussionsorgien (Opening discussion orgies): This word was created by Chancellor Angela Mekel on April 20th during a conference call of the CDU Executive Committee regarding further easing of the lockdown in federal states. Angela Merkel was concerned about the risk of relapse.

READ ALSO: 'Orgies' and squabbling: Why Germany is not in control of the pandemic as much as it appears

P for prominente Tote (prominent deaths): The list of famous people who died of Covid-19 is long. Amongst them are magician Roy Horn (of Siegfried und Roy), the “I Love Rock 'n' Roll”-Songwriter Alan Merrill, Jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, the Rapper Ty, playwright Terrence McNally, actress Lee Fierro, actors Allen Garfield, Mark Blum and Tim Brooke-Taylor, musician Adam Schlesinger, saxophonists Lee Konitz and Manu Dibango, trumpeter Wallace Roney, bassist Henry Grimes, camera man Allen Daviau (known for’E.T.’) as well as Jörn Kubicki, life partner of Berlin’s former mayor Klaus Wowereit.

for Queen: Of all of the world leaders, Queen Elizabeth II was probably the most impressive, when she called upon her subjects on April 5th to hold out together. “But better days will come again, we will be united with our friends, we will be united with our families. We'll meet again.”

for Relevanz (relevance) und R-Wert (R-number): System relevance became the catchphrase – doctors, nurses, sales assistants, rubbish collectors are essential for society. In contrast, there were heated discussions in restaurants, theatres and the Bundesliga. What really matters? Another term with R was the R value (number of reproductions), which indicates how many people are infected by the virus on average.

for Social Distancing and Superspreading: English expressions are often used in place of their German counterparts. Instead of saying “körperlichen Abstand wahren“ (keep your physical distance), “social distancing” seems to have become the prevailing slogan. Meanwhile, “super spreaders” are people who infect a particularly large number of people. The fear of super spreading events is still continuing.

for Triage: the decision which some medical professionals have had to take about who to continue treating and who to give up on. A horror scenario of a pandemic that has become a bitter reality in some places.

for Urlaub (holiday): Summer holidays will be different for most people in 2020. Due to uncertainties and travel restrictions, millions are planning, at most, one domestic vacation (keyword “staycation”). The Rhön is also beautiful. Mallorca tested an opening for tourists in June after months of lockdown – initially with 6,000 Germans because of the “very good epidemiological situation” in Germany. The experiment serves to test the measures against corona infections under everyday conditions.

READ ALSO: 'We are very glad to be here': German tourists fly to Mallorca in post-Covid tourist project

for Visiere (visors): also called face shields. They are used in catering and by doctors or hairdressers as additional protection. However, they are not intended to prevent the release of aerosols as well as masks. According to the Robert Koch Institute, visors cannot be seen as an equivalent alternative to covering the mouth and nose.

A bridge lit up with the slogan “Victory for Wuhan” on March 15th in Wuhan. Photo: DPA

W for Wuhan: City of millions in central China and presumably the place of origin of the pandemic; In an unprecedented campaign, the Chinese government sealed off the city, which was particularly hard hit by the coronavirus, for months.

for XXX: Top-level domain for erotic content and sex – in times of the pandemic and the distance requirement, many have had to switch to porn.

for Yogamatte (Yoga Mat): Closed gyms and psychological tension drove many onto the mat at home for small training sessions or relaxation exercises.

for Zoom: Video app that has become popular and that many now know from working at home. What used to be discussed in the office over a coffee in the kitchen or at the conference table is now happening on the screen. This also leads to unwanted insights into the private life of colleagues.

This article originally appeared on The Local Germany on June 22nd, 2020. 


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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad