Sagt man «Viel Glück» oder «Viel Erfolg»?
Wishing someone "good luck" in German often goes one of two ways--either "Viel Glück!" or "Viel Erfolg!" Which one you use depends on what you want to say. It's part of the entire cultural aspect of luck, and Germans have specific ways in which they try to find luck.
Today you'll learn how to give these wishes in German and what marzipan has to do with all of it.
How to find good luck in Germany
If you need some luck and you see a Schornsteinfeger (a chimney sweep), then do what I did the one time I met a Schornsteinfeger on the street. He wore traditional work clothes, which for him was black pants and a black jacket, for obvious reasons. I greeted him and asked if I could touch his shoulder. I believe it was his left shoulder, however it was easy to notice, as the shoulder of his jacket was worn from so many people touching it.
In Germany, Schornsteinfeger are considered good luck and as figurines or nutcrackers, they are often pictured with a Glücksklee (4-leaf clover) or with a Marienkäfer (lady bug). Why go with only one Glücksbringer (good luck charm) when you can have two or three?!
When to say Viel Glück
If you'd like to wish some one "good luck," then go with "Viel Glück!" It really is like wishing them luck--because no one knows how it may turn out.
How to say "Good luck" sarcastically
However, just like in English, it's also possible to say, sarcastically, "Good luck with that!" Then you also use "Viel Glück!" and if you want to add emphasis to the fact that you don't think it's going to go well, then...use your sarcastic face. (Be prepared for a reaction because those Germans...they are honest!)
When to say Viel Erfolg
Now let's look at situations when you are fairly certain that things will go well--or you are hopeful that things will go well:
- your special someone is going for a job interview
- your co-worker has a big, important presentation to give and she has been working hard to get prepared
- your child has a test at school
These are all situations in which we all really want things to go well. Then you use "Viel Erfolg," literally "Lots of success!" Isn't that a wonderful way to wish someone well? "I wish you much success!" Viel Erfolg!
Maybe you also want to follow-up with a comment to provide extra encouragement; you could also say "Du schaffst das!" Literally--you will get it done!
Perhaps you have a good relationship with that co-worker, who is giving an important presentation, then you can stop by the bakery or Süßwarenladen on your way to work and pick up a Glücksschweinchen made of marzipan--a lucky marzipan pig--it's the perfect German Glücksbringer.
When to say both Viel Glück und Viel Erfolg
Viel Glück is nice, but viel Erfolg is nicer. And like the Glücksbringer, why only have one when you could have both? You can also wish someone "Viel Glück und viel Erfolg!" When you tell your co-worker that, then she knows you wish her good luck and success. What a great way to build that relationship.
Ich wish you viel Glück und viel Erfolg with your German learning!
You'll need a lot less Glück and you'll have more Erfolg in your German learning with the A1-A2-B1 German Sentence Structure Guide.
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