Word of the Week: Pfuschen [ˈpfʊʃn̩]

Verb. 1. Pfuschen refers to do a slipshod, haphazard, unprofessional, or poor-quality job;

2. To work with inferior materials;

3. To do Schwarzarbeit (lit. “black-market labor”), the practice of working off-the-books, without paying taxes, social security, insurance, or other benefits.

Not uncommon in the Austrian construction business, Pfuschen is often used to cut costs, employ unlicensed or undocumented workers for pittances (particularly illegal immigrants or refugees without work permits) and circumvent guild, union, or government regulations.

While Schwarzar be it does not necessarily mean substandard workmanship and/or materials, the first two definitions are generally implied, as anyone unscrupulous enough to bilk the authorities will likely cut corners elsewhere as well.

While Austria’s “shadow economy” is fairly small at an estimated 7.1 percent of gross domestic product, a whopping 39 percent of the construction industry is presumed to engage in the practice at least some of the time.

No matter how well you speak German, the Word Of The Week will help you impress any Viennese! While learning German is not an easy task in general, learning the language in Austria can come to be twice as complicated.

But Austrians may nod approvingly if you put together a coherent sentence, harmonizing the Akkusativpronomen correctly with the subject, they’ll love you if you enrich your vocabulary with just one word of Wienerisch. 

Strongly linked to local cultural individualities, the slangs change and evolve in all cultures around the world, the words and phrases make sense only when one is familiar with their cultural context. The Word of the Week is here to help you understand those singularities and impress the locals with some real Viennese words and expressions.

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