10 traditional types of German jokes


'Kalauer' — Pun

Also known by some Germans as a "Flachwitz" or "Plattwitz," the "Kalauer" is a humorous play on words — a pun. The term Kalauer is believed to come from the German city of Calau, where the satire magazine "Kladderadatsch" was published from 1848 to 1944, offering weekly "news from Kalau." Here's one that's translatable: What is brown, sticky and walks through the desert? A caramel.


'Fritzchen' — Little Fritz jokes

Fritzchen, or "Little Fritz" is a fictional mischievous little boy whose name is often used in German jokes, like Little Johnny in English. Fritzchen asks his teacher, "Can I be punished for something I haven't done?" The teacher answers, "Of course not, Fritzchen, that would be very unfair!" Fritzchen is relieved: "That's good to know, because I haven't done my homework."


'Alle Kinder' — All children jokes

"Alle Kinder" jokes repeat a specific structure, ending with a child's name that rhymes with the last word. The best ones have the darkest humor. Some examples: All the children got the joke, except Tim — he's too dim. All the children are jumping over a fire, except Brigit — she's sitting on it. All the children are playing with a knife, except Ted — he has it in the head.


'Ostfriesen' — East Frisian jokes

Every country has their own "stupid" ethnic target. East Frisians, from northern Germany, became the center of a joke cycle in Germany around the 1960s. Although these jokes usually depict this minority as being slow or dumb, successful East Frisian comedian Otto Waalkes made Ostfriesen jokes his trademark, allowing the region to find a certain sense of "pride" in them.


Manta driver jokes

The Opel Manta was a German sports car model built from 1970 to 1988. Manta jokes are based on the stereotype that the male owner of this car was a lower class, and is a macho and aggressive driver with a blonde girlfriend. A Manta driver goes to the garage: "Could you repair my horn?" "Your brakes aren't working either," notices the mechanic. "I know, that's why I need to honk all the time."


'Bauernregeln' — Farmers' lore jokes

"Bauernregeln" humor parodies farmers' weather lore, with its traditional rhymed style. These jokes can either be about the weather, revealing an absurd or tautological rule, such as in "Thunderstorm in May, April is over." Or they can also be about any other topic, often including sexual references or featuring an actual hint of wisdom.


'DDR' — East Germany jokes

East German jokes would reflect the situation of the citizens of the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1949 to 1990, referring to the political situation or to economic scarcity. A border soldier at the Berlin Wall asks another one: "What do you think about the East German state?" His colleague answers tentatively, "The same as you." "OK, that means I must arrest you now."


Radio Yerevan jokes

Jokes parodying the question-and-answer series on Armenia's public radio, Radio Yerevan, were popular in the former communist Eastern Bloc. The answers in the German version would usually start with, "In principle yes, but..." So here's a question to Radio Yerevan: "Is the press free of censorship in the Soviet Union?" Answer: "In principle yes, but we shall not further discuss this matter."


'Beamte' — State officials jokes

Stereotypical "Beamte" are seen as slow and lazy bureaucrats, leading to jokes like this one. Three boys argue. The first one says, "My father is a race car driver; he's the fastest." "No, my dad is an air force pilot; he's faster," a second one replies. "That's nothing," counters the third one. "My father is a Beamte; he's so fast that when his work day ends at 5 pm, he's already home by 1:00."


'Antiwitz' — The anti-joke

The "Antiwitz" often depicts a short, absurd scene. It might lack a punch-line, as in the case of this weird, but well-known one. "At night it's colder than outside." Hmm. Or take a bite of this one: Two muffins sit next to each other, baking in the oven. Suddenly one of them says, "Is it ever hot in here..." The other one replies: "Oh my god! A talking muffin!"

When you get a country's humor, you're a step further in understanding its culture. Some of these 10 different types of German jokes may get lost in cultural translation — but Germans actually do have a sense of humor.

According to the cliché, Germans have no sense of humor. The belief has often been spread by English-speaking observers, but perhaps the jokes were simply lost somewhere in cultural translation. Once you have to explain a gag, it obviously loses its comedic power. 

The German word for joke is "Witz." The term was derived from Old High German, "wizzi," which means "to know." The term "Witz" is also close to the English word as "wit" —  one's ability to quickly perceive and express clever and amusing ideas.

Something that's funny is "witzig," but we can't guarantee these 10 classic types of German jokes are witty enough for you. Click through the gallery above to find out.

Keep in mind that these were the most translatable ones. Your next step will be to understand "Witze" directly in German.

Humor certainly offers plenty of opportunities for faux pas in any culture. For more faux pas to avoid in Germany click through the gallery below. Find more about German culture, language and lifestyle at dw.com/meetthegermans


Don't say 'Prost' without making eye contact

Given the amount of beer and wine many Germans drink, you'd think toasting would be a simple task. Well, think again. There are some important rules while saying "Cheers!" or "Prost!" When clinking glasses, you must maintain eye contact and toast each person in your group. If you don't, you won't just be considered rude - according to superstition you'll risk seven years of bad sex.


Obey the red traffic man

It's a common cliché that Germans like to follow "ze rules." And while that might not always be true, it definitely is when it comes to the little red "Ampelmann" - that streetlight figure telling you when to cross the street. Jaywalking is frowned upon, especially in front of children, who might copy your recklessness. Disobeying the red traffic light could make some angry Germans yell "Halt!"


Don't light your cigarette with a candle

It may seem like an easy solution. You want to light your cigarette, you don't have a lighter, but there's a candle on the table. However, this reckless move will anger any German in the room and possibly endanger a sailor! Why? It's believed that in the olden days, sailors sold matches during the winter to earn a living. So by not using a match, you'll ruin them - or worse.


Never be loud on a Sunday

You might think that Sunday is the perfect day of the week to check some things off your to-do list: mow the lawn, vacuum or get some laundry done. But beware - in Germany, Sunday is "Ruhetag," or "quiet day." Most shops are closed and neighbors will complain if your noise disturbs their day of rest.


Don't mess up your trash

Recycling is serious business in Germany. And proper recycling means sorting your waste correctly. So don't even think about putting plastic in the paper bin. Your neighbors will scorn you and you might even come home to an angry note from your landlord. So remember: The yellow bin is for plastic, the green (or blue) for paper, the brown for organic waste and the gray one is for everything else.


Get naked!

FKK, the "free body culture," is often associated with Germany. Indeed, many Germans love to strip off their clothes on an FKK beach and stroll around the way Adam and Eve did. It doesn't matter how old you are, what you look like or who you're with - at designated FKK spots and in the sauna (mixed or not), you better get naked or you'll be considered prudish.


Roses are red, white flowers are taboo

There is some complicated flower etiquette in Germany and it can be embarrassing if you don't comply with it. Red flowers - and especially red roses - should only be given to people you are romantically interested in. White flowers are considered to be graveyard accessories and are usually reserved for when someone dies. To avoid insulting someone, you'd better ask the florist for help.


Don't be late

Germans are known for being punctual and arriving late is considered very rude and unreliable. Even five minutes can cause outrage, so if you're running late, always call and apologize ahead of time. If you're invited to a party at 6 p.m., don't think that it's polite to give the host more time and arrive at 7. Six o'clock means six o'clock sharp.


Know when to say happy birthday

In Germany, you always celebrate your birthday on the actual day you were born and not a minute earlier. You celebrate "into" a person’s birthday at midnight (known as "reinfeier") - even mid-week. Saying "happy birthday" to a German before the actual date can lead to angry stares and insults. For most Germans, a premature birthday wish means bad luck.


Don't ask for tap water

Germany has really great tap water, but asking for it in a restaurant will not go over well. Your waiter will get mad and refuse to bring you "water for free." And if you're at someone's house and you ask for tap water, your host will make sure to let you know they also have "real water," meaning sparkling water. After all, sparkling water is considered the real deal in Germany.


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