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15 Unique Illnesses You Can Only Come Down With in German

Every language develops its own diagnoses of maladies, or on the milder side, descriptions of feelings. In German, they have some syndromes that could be called by another name in another language, but they sound much more debilitating in German. There’s also a few that are unheard of in other parts of the world.


Kreislaufzusammenbruch, or “circulatory collapse,” sounds deathly serious, but it’s used quite commonly in Germany to mean something like “feeling woozy” or “I don’t think I can come into work today.”


Putzen means “to clean” and Fimmel is a mania or obsession. Putzfimmel is an obsession with cleaning. It is not unheard of outside of Germany, but elsewhere it is less culturally embedded and less fun to say.


Ostalgie is nostalgia for the old way of life in East Germany (“ost” means East). If you miss your old Trabant and those weekly visits from the secret police, you may have Ostalgie.

Can you imagine coming down with several at once? “I had to call in sick with Kreislaufzusammenbruch, because I have to clean the house so it will be the way it was in the East before the wall came down.” There are plenty more uniquely German illnesses in a list at mental_floss. No, German measles is not on this list.

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