Learning Deutsch | Life in Germany | PH to DE: A Transit Diary

Das kölsche Grundgesetz that you can (also) live by (even if you’re not a Kölner)

December 7, 2018
Das kölsche Grundgesetz

As a language learner, I enjoy getting a glimpse of the language as it is lived in the city where I am in.

In school, I learn Hochdeutsch, literally high German, which is a standard form of German language that is used in formal contexts, written communication, and taught to foreigners (like me!).

But did you know that the German language has over 200 dialects? That could mean that each locality may have their own system of pronunciation, greetings, and a different vocabulary! Thank goodness for Hochdeutsch, Germans (who come from different regions) and Non-Germans alike have a language that they can all understand.

Of course, speaking from the heart is a different matter. The same way that my inner Hay naku comes out when totally exasperated.

Here in Cologne, where I’m based, the dialect is called Kölnisch. In this dialect, Hochdeutsch pronunciations are different, that you can barely recognize the words.

A treasure trove of life lessons was revealed to me when we discussed ground rules exclusive to Cologne (Das kölsche Grundgesetz) that are applicable not only during Karneval but in all the year’s seasons. A life of philosophy based on tolerance and what I believe are typische deutsche Eigenschaften: hardiness, quiet strength, and stoicism. The latter being a quality that Merkel embodies so well. 

Of the 11 “rules of living” – air quotes intended because these are mostly used in jest and in the spirit of the Karneval – I picked a handful of favorites that resonated to me. 

Das kölsche Grundgesetz 1
§1: Et es wie et es!
Es ist, wie es ist.

Be brave to face the reality as it is. You cannot change the facts, so you’re better off facing it and taking it as it is.

Das kölsche Grundgesetz 2
§2: Et kütt wie et kütt!
Es kommt, wie es kommt

In all honesty, I am conflicted whether to put this in the typisches Deutsch box, given that Germans like their insurances.

Then again, if you are insured, you have no reason to fear the future. So, I guess that works too.

What this means is simply, to not fear the future. For someone like me who at random moments lose sleep worrying about what the future holds, this is something to hold on to.

Why fear the future when you can bravely embrace it? It doesn’t bode well when you are too preoccupied with the future that you forget to live in the present.

Das kölsche Grundgesetz 3
§3: Et hät noch immer jot jejange!
Es hat noch immer gut gegangen.

Are you by now noticing a theme here? This does not in any way suggestive of throwing caution in the wind. I think that this only tries to remind us to calmly take things into perspective.

It tells us that it hasn’t been that bad. 


Das kölsche Grundgesetz 4
§4: Wat fott es, es fott!
Was weg ist, ist weg.

The English equivalent for this is, don’t cry over spilled milk. What is gone, is gone and you may or may not have it back. Painful? Yes. But trudge on, move forward.

Das kölsche Grundgesetz 5
§5: Et bliev nix, wie et wor!
Nichts bleibt, wie es war.

I am a firm believer that there is nothing constant in this world except change. It nudges you to be open to changes.

I know this is tough. Alles hat sich verändert, nachdem ich eine Mutter geworden bin. Some days, I struggle with the changes: especially the ones about losing time alone with my husband or quiet time that I can do my own things and have both my hands belong to myself while walking outside instead of pushing a buggy.

But things change and so will this beautiful, sleep-deprived phase.

In those tough days, I look at my daughter, and it all makes sense again. Anyway, that was a lengthy digression, yes?

Main point is, nothing remains constant, so roll with the punches!

Das kölsche Grundgesetz 8
§8: Maach et jot, ävver nit ze of!
Mach’s gut aber nicht zu oft

This has got to be my favorite, but also one that I am often guilty of violating. This one is all about practicing moderation in everything.

GP version: enjoy your life but don’t overdo it.

R18: do well, but don’t do it often. (wink)

Das kölsche Grundgesetz 9
§9: Wat sull dä Quatsch?
Was soll der Quatsch?

Before you get yourself too involved in anything that other people worry about, ask yourself, what’s it for anyway?

Germans are a hardy bunch, and we can learn a thing or two (or three) from them. Which of these “rules of living” did you identify with? 

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