If you were asked to translate the English word office into German, you will most likely think of the word Büro before other terms, such as Kanzlei or even something old-fashioned like Kontor, come to mind. But there’s one commonly-used German word for office that I often hear German speakers translate incorrectly into English: Haus – im Sinne von „außer Haus sein” oder „jemanden ins Haus bestellen” z.B. Im Deutschen ist das schön und gut, but in almost all cases, your office or place of work simply wouldn’t be referred to as a “house” in English. Of course that doesn’t apply to the term in-house (betriebsintern/betriebseigen/firmenintern, usw.), e.g., “This technology was developed in-house by our team of specialists.” Restaurants are another exception, where promoting menu items as “housemade” as opposed to the more generic “homemade” has become increasingly common. Housemade fries just sound more artisanal.


Mein Ratschlag: der Vorteil von „unverfügbar” gegenüber „außer Haus sein”

So in English, “Ms Smith is out of the office and not out of the house. But here is some food for thought: telling a caller that Ms Smith isn’t at work may lead them to wonder, „Hey, where in the world Ms Smith is at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, anyway?“ Especially if she’s typically around. Why reveal more than you need to? A simple “Ms Smith is currently unavailable” leaves things open while informing the caller that she isn’t able to take the call. Then offer to take a message and let the caller know Ms Smith will be in touch as soon as possible (after she finishes her round of golf).

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