Fingerspitzengefühl ("finger-tip feeling"): A fine sense of how to act in delicate situations

Literally: “finger tip feeling” / meaning: A fine sense for how to behave towards someone

There are quite a few situations when dealing with Germans that require you to choose your words wisely and carefully. For example, when you have to explain to your employee that socks and sandals do not comply with the dress code for customer meetings. Or when you’re explaining to someone that white asparagus isn’t really that delicious after all. 

In these moments, the proverbial Fingerspitzengefühl is key in order not to snub your conversation partner or even completely ruin your relationship. Thus, the word describes a mixture of empathy, psychological sensitivity, politeness, and eloquence that is needed unless you want to create an awkward atmosphere. Since there is no English term that summarizes all these components in an accurate way, you can also read the word in English texts from time to time. 

In fact, there is even an English Wikipedia article for the search term Fingerspitzengefühl, but no German one. There, it is also explained that the term was used in military language as “having a feel for combat.” Well, I prefer to make use of this quality in discussions about sandals and phallic-shaped vegetables.


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