May Idiom: "Blaumachen"
Our May idiom "blaumachen" speaks volumes about Germans.
Contrary to popular belief and prejudice, Germans really are no longer the hardworking people they are said to be. In fact, in international comparison very few people get to work fewer hours and have more holidays or vacation days than Germans.
Compared with Americans, Germans are incredibly well off when it comes to free time. There are more holidays in Germany than most Americans have vacation days. Month-long paid vacations are the norm.
Yet still, Germans take more sick days than most other nations. Taking such a day is referred to as "blaumachen".
The literal translation is "to make blue" which would translate loosely as "to skip school or work", "to take a sickie", to ditch, to cut. You may get the idea.
In fact, Blaumachen is so common in Germany that schools and places of employment have noticeably fewer people on Mondays particularly. It is a common problem.
Heute war das Wetter so schön, ich habe blau gemacht und bin an den See gefahren.
"Today the weather was so nice, I took a sick day and drove to the lake"
Heute gab es ein Mathe-Examen an unserer Schule, also haben viele Schüler blau gemacht.
"Today there was a math exam at our school, so many students ditched their classes."
While the expression is colloquial in nature, it is wildly used, not only among family and friends but among strangers as well. The act of ditching is so common that the expression does not really have much strength behind it. Most people do the same thing and understand if others lack the motivation and drive to show up for work or school either.
It is believed that the most likely origin of this phrase comes from the so-called "Blue Monday" which originates from the work as a dyer in the 19th century. Apparently, the color blue was particularly difficult to achieve. Cloth was dyed on Sunday and then laid out for a day to wait for the necessary chemical reaction. On the "Blue Monday" there were therefore fewer things to do but wait for that cloth to dry. Hence the expression "Blaumachen".