German expression: Kleinkariert

I had this expression with a student today and thought it might be an interesting one to share with the rest of the community.

Kleinkariert is used to describe someone, who is perfectionistic and checks every single detail, that it becomes somewhat embarrassing.

If you translate it word by word it’s “small-chequered”.
In my opinion, if you compare Germany to other countries, I feel like the German bureaucracy can be very “kleinkariert” as it takes ages and tons of paperwork to finish a process (e.g. at the Einwohnermeldeamt or at the Bank).

Any thoughts on this topic? Any expats in Germany out here who made the same experience that Germany or its bureaucracy is “kleinkariert” (yet, most of the time, efficient :slight_smile: )?


Ich habe in der letzen Zeit ein tolles ähnliches Wort bei einem Chatterbugunterricht gelerent, weil ich eine Anekdote von einer Gesichte bei der Arbeit erzählt habe. Ein Kollege von mir hat mir über die Umweltverschmutzung von meinem Ebike erzählt, wegen des Akku und wie mein Beitrag zum Klimaschutz nichts bedeutet, deshalb sind die Deutsche immer Besserwisser.

Ha, great word and seems to definitely stem from the German culture (the word posted in the post above). This is a word I just learned that I now I love to use to describe the condescendense of German perfection here (and other similar situations) :stuck_out_tongue: Hope you could understand my attempt at humorous German writing.


Oh that’s interesting! Thanks for sharing those super interesting words!

I’ve mostly heard (and used) “kleinkariert” to say that someone is narrow-minded as if the person wouldn’t be able to think outside the box and that box would be particularly small! It’s a very fancy insult and I would be cautious before calling someone “kleinkariert”. Synonyms are “kurzsichtig” or “engstirnig”, I would say. But you are right when you say that German bureaucracy is “kleinkariert”. :sweat_smile:


Yes, I would also use it in the sense that someone is narrow-minded. In Spanish we have the same expression to talk about people who are very set in their ways, “cuadriculado” :nerd_face:


@kgeisl1 Ich bin ja sehr froh, dass ich dir den Kneipenwortschatz etwas abgewöhnen konnte. Aber hier hast du noch ein nettes Wort, das etwas stärker als “kleinkariert” ist:
Aber sei bitte äußerst vorsichtig mit der Benutzung dieses Wortes :wink:


In Spanish it is more “alemán cuadrado” que cuadriculado!


@Brigitte that´s a little besserwisserisch from your side :wink: Kidding!
Spanish is so beautifully different in each country, maybe we should always refer to the exact region we are in. In Mexico :mexico: for eyample it would be “cuadrado” for a narrow minded person, but my favourite is “quisquilloso” for a pretty detailed and difficult work or person.


@maschavoelker thank you so much!
Besides another expression for the same thing I just thought of “Erbsenzähler” for a person that´s so overly exact and narrow minded (lack of generosity maybe, too?) that he´ll count the peas (instead of using a more practical approach to measure them).