Lessons I Learned from My Oma… Now I’m Sharing them with You


What other Oma lessons did you learn??

lessons I learned from my oma
Oma and her dog, Ben

We are coming up on my Oma’s birthday, and although she’s no longer with us, I will never forget all the life lessons she taught me. Now, don’t go thinking she sat me down in front of a chalk board and hammered this stuff into my brain. Oma was way more subtle than that! (In fact, she was downright sneaky) And some of these bits of wisdom didn’t really “click” until I got a little more experience under my belt (Ok, I mean, I got old enough to figure it out).

Now, my Oma never went to college, or even high school. She trained in what we would call Home Economics on a Farm. So, maybe she wasn’t highly educated, but she was smart, practical, and a heck of a role model.

Since I’m pretty sure Oma Wisdom is universal… I thought I’d share my list of Lessons I Learned From my Oma… let’s see if you agree.

Lessons I Learned from my Oma

A simple meal of Potato Pancakes can be more delicious than eating at a fancy restaurant. Especially if she makes them with bacon…

Never Be Late! Granted, this is a universal German rule. But Oma taught me that if you are late… you might miss some extra juicy gossip, or worse, you might become the SUBJECT of gossip.

Open up your Rolladen (Window Blinds) early. This way the neighbors won’t think you are lazy and sleeping in every day. (Of course, the neighbors have no way of knowing if you take a nap after lunch)

Einen Kürzen (quick shot of Schnapps) at lunch not only helps digestion, it’s also a good way to ease into that nap.

The best time to Vacuum is at 5:30 AM. Apparently, this is when the dust bunnies are least active, and easier to catch. It’s also a good way to passive aggressively get your California grandchild out of bed.

Frische Luft (fresh air) cures all! Jet lag? open those windows and let in fresh air! Cooking? open those windows to let out cooking smells! Feeling tired or sick? Go outside and get some fresh air!

Drafts are deadly/ Es ZIEHT!. This might contradict the whole Frische Luft thing… but think about all the exercise you get opening and closing windows. Not to mention, it’s a great and constant topic of conversation.

You can’t spend more cash than you have in your wallet. If you don’t have the money, you don’t need the thing.

Keep your garden free of weeds. Not only does it look nicer, it’s a great way to keep the kids occupied. (They will only say “I’m bored” ONE TIME)

Laugh lines are much more beautiful than frown lines.

You don’t need Facebook to remember birthdays, just a little calendar book with nice sayings.

Keep your lower back warm, and the rest of you will stay warm. My poor kids almost passed out from heat stroke, because I kept them bundled up and wearing undershirts for year. Granted, Germany is a bit cooler than California…

One great way to keep leaves from falling all over your lawn is to climb up in the tree and rake them before they fall (this is a true story).

Talk back to the radio, it can’t argue with you.

Monday is Laundry day, it just is. I have rebelled by doing laundry on different days, but I always seem to forget to finish, or miss a load when I do this. Clearly, the universe (and Oma) insist on Mondays for washing.

Tuesday is Ironing Day. (See Above….) You do not want to leave a basket of ironing around the house… EVER! (Unlike Oma, I don’t iron dish towels… but I wish there was a Heißmangel for tablecloths in town!)

Always lick the bottom of the yogurt foil, always use the butter wrapper to grease your pans, and always use up the last of the stale bread as breadcrumbs. After being hungry, waste is unthinkable.

You don’t need a gym membership, you just need Keller (cellar) stairs. (And if you have a dog dann kannst du mit dem Hund Gassi gehen…. you can take the dog for a walk)

A piece of cake never hurt anyone, and a second piece keeps the first one company.

Dwelling on negative things doesn’t help. When something bad happens, talk about it, learn, and then move on.

Work hard, love your family, make lifelong friends, and squeeze every minute out of life!


I hope now that I can pass on these lessons to my kids, and eventually, my grand kids….


What other Oma lessons did you learn??

UPDATE- I’ve Gotten a few fore “Lessons” from Readers that I want to share-

Wer feiern kann, kann auch arbeiten- If you are able to celebrate, you are able to work-
Nothing like coming in at 4 am from a party, and having Oma wake you at 6 am with chores….

Was du heute kannst besorgen, verschiebe nicht auf Morgen- What you can do today, don’t put off until tomorrow- (I really have to get my son on board with this one)

“You can`t stand on one leg”– This is a follow up to the cake thing… One piece of cake, candy, yummy thing is never enough, there must be balance.




15 thoughts on “Lessons I Learned from My Oma… Now I’m Sharing them with You

  1. I never met my two Omas as I was a late arrival, and sadly they died before I was old enough to meet them. However your articles resonate with me in every way!my mother beeing German used the exact words and phrases when I was growing up! I can still hear her now! I do enjoy your posts, as they bring back wonderful memories! Thank you, Elli

  2. Clean the dirt from your own floor mat before talking about other peoples dirt

  3. Thanks for sharing. Sometimes people just suck and don’t actually think how their words may sound.

  4. I enjoyed the “Sessions I Learned from my Oma” section. Now that “I am Oma” too I can surely relate! Three grandchildren call me Oma (& one one the way in May 2018)! I wouldn’t trade this time in my life for anything – being Oma is AWESOME!

  5. I had a Grandmother and an Oma growing up. I loved to sit on my Omas lap and she told me: “Zotta powa am Kanowa” means “Old men with long hair” while she puled my hair gently. My Oma grew up in Poland, but she was German. My Grandmother kept all kind of things, like old pages of a calendar and she smelled like lavender. She wrote poems. This talent I did inherited from her. But I can’t remember any lessons, sorry. Only from my parents of course.

  6. Was du nicht willst, daß dir man tut, das tu auch keinem anderen zu. (What you don’t want done to you, don’t do to others).

  7. Here a few more:
    Von Nichts kommt Nichts – From Nothing comes Nothing
    Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof – Life is not a Ponyfarm
    Nimm dir Zeit und nicht das Leben – Take your time and not your life
    Wer den Pfennig nicht ehrt ist des Talers nicht wert – The one who doesn’t honor the penny ist not worth the dollar

  8. My Paternal Oma died before I was born. My maternal Oma, I did not meet until I was 20 years old. But I got plenty of this wisdom poured into me until I was verbally battered and bruised by my mother. I think that if I heard, “Aufstehen! (As she rolled up the window shades) Morgen Sound’ hat gold im Mund, ” one more time, I would have been able to conjugate it into the subjunctive ! Mama also kept me busy with embroidery projects during summer vacation every year, and that gave her the opportunity to remind me: “Langes Fädchen, faules Mädchen.” Since I was left-handed, which is permissible in the US, she would just wait until I let some right-handed object slip through my fingers–again, and the next thing I would hear was: “Der Krug get so lange zum Brunnen bis er zerbricht!. This latter phrase would also apply to my teenaged girlfriends who were rushed into marriage because motherhood was blossoming.

    1. I’m sorry. So many from that Generation had it hard, and took it out on their children. It certainly wasn’t right.

  9. My Oma said something like: “Wenn die sind etwas klein, dann nimmt mann zwei für ein.” Kuchen was always cut in small pieces and you would be able to get 2. Same for cookies. Also “Hånde weg!” when you were reaching for something you shouldn’t! (can’t figure out how to umlaut the letter a). Also,we would pray: “Müde bin ich, geht zu ruh…”

    1. All of these are perfect! I remember too.
      For the Umlaut u… on a computer keyboard press the Alt key while typing in 0252 ü

  10. When my sisters and I were young both Omas used to come every few years to America it was such fun I wished they had stayed. God/Jesus Blessed us kids with the understanding of German/English. My Oma taught me to knit only saying Yah and Nine. Teachers told my parents not to speak German at all so we could learn English and instructed to have us sit in front of the TV to learn English. In Kindergarten I spoke only German. We did not follow this. Thank God. Also, we took German in school and college. I had the chance to go by myself at 13 to Germany. I chickened out. Worst mistake I made. We still talk, read, write and understand German. Eat German Food. Not just Sauerkraut. Love it. But Yikes when someone here in America tries to impress me by “Oh I eat Wienersnitzel Hot Dogs and Sauerkraut.”
    My son and I moved back to my parents home after I got divorced. At the time I didn’t realize what a blessing that was. My son was raised by his German born Opa and Oma they are strict however, we all spoiled my kid Yes Enough said. My Dad just became a Great Opa and me a Oma. My Mom missed it as we just lost her 2 yrs ago. 9 mos to the day of my Mom’s passing our next generation happened. Oh and My Grandbaby says “Thank You.” I said to my kid you need to learn from your kid to say “Thank You. ” Ha! Ha! I never learned to cook German dishes as I always helped my Dad outside. Dad is now teaching me to cook German. Anxiety to cook? Yes! and Write German Better too and tell me about his German life and my Grandparents, family, friends and places etc. Thanks Karen for the Umlaut hint and have a few German cookbooks in German and English. My Mom bookmarked our favorite recipes. 🙂 However, I plan on getting your book Karen on Amazon and possibly taking those German courses need to save my pennies and find the time. Well enough now. Diana 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s interesting to find out how many of us there are like this.

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