My friend and I were out in the rain, and I was asked why I left my stuffed animal keychain clipped to my backpack if it will get wet. I wanted to reply with an offhand joke about how being out in the rain builds character. Is there a German expression that means more or less the same thing?

Edit: No, this not a duplicate, though I acknowledge that there's a decent amount of overlap. However, the expression "to build character" in English can be used in a variety of contexts, some of them borderline flippant. I am US-American, and the context in which I see it most often is when parents make their children do something annoying or inconvenient for them (but is ultimately not a true "struggle"). My friend and I were joking around, referring to my stuffed animal as if "he" were a child rather than a keychain. I wanted to say something like "it builds (my stuffed animal's) character for him to be out in the rain." The expression here lacks the context to answer my question sufficiently and requires me to make inferences/assumptions I'm not necessarily in a position to make.

Thank you!

  • 9
    Nietzsche said "Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker."
    – tofro
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 7:27
  • related: german.stackexchange.com/q/7887/20967
    – Pollitzer
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 8:48
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of "Made strong through the struggles"
    – bummi
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 20:56
  • 7
    Why duplicate??? - the linked question clearly asks for something else (building character vs. strong through struggles). We may get some similar answers here and there but most answers we have here will not fit to the linked question. This alone indicates that it is not a dupe! Don't be overzealous in closing.
    – Takkat
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 8:05
  • 2
    @tofro Or in street lingo, "Was nicht tot macht macht hart." (I think the street shuns commata.) Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 9:33

9 Answers 9


In the context of exposure to cold and rain I probably would have said:

Das härtet ab!

With this meaning of abhärten in mind: to toughen s.o, to build up s.o.'s resistance, to make s.b. stronger

  • 1
    Especially, in a flippant context: "Alles was nicht tötet härtet ab!" Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 12:34
  • @GuntramBlohm: The original to that is a Nietzsche quote, "Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker." Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 18:48
  • Update: I have since used this expression in a joke with friends (also in a similar, flippant context) and it got some laughs, so I consider it a success. ;) Thank you so much!
    – eurieka
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 11:05

You can say:

Im Regen zu sein stärkt den Charakter.
Being in the rain strengthens the character.

(also »festigt« instead of »stärkt«)

But German native speakers won't say something like this in such a situation. If you walk through the rain, and someone asks you why you don't use an umbrella or a raincoat, or why you don't stay indoors, you say:

Ich bin doch nicht aus Zucker.
I'm not made from sugar.

With this sentence you say, that you're not touchy and you won't melt in the rain. (The word doch is a modal particle, this is a part of speech that doesn't exist in English. It just adds an emotion to the sentence. For details look at this question about »doch«)

So, when talking about your stuffed animal keychain you could say:

Das ist doch nicht aus Zucker.
It's not made from sugar.

  • 1
    I like your answer, but the context doesn't quite fit. In English, more or less the same expression exists. If I understood correctly, it's more of a "defensive" description - it won't melt, meaning it can withstand some rain. I mean something more along the lines of positive growth from the experience. But thank you! Your answer is very helpful.
    – eurieka
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 16:31
  • 1
    +1 for Ich bin doch nicht aus Zucker. Especially women say this.
    – Janka
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 21:04
  • @Janka: Then I must be a woman. Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 7:47
  • 3
    I've never noticed a gender skew there. Sounds a bit absurd to me. Though I usually hear 'Du bist doch nicht aus Zucker!', as a reply to someone complaining/whining when they have to go through the rain.
    – smcs
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 13:17

In addition to @IQV's literal answer, there is a very similar but more established term.

den Charakter formen



It follows the gist of forming ones character out of wet clay. (Which is rather fitting in your rainy, muddy scenario)


"Nur die Harten kommen in den Garten"

  • 1
    You should expand this answer to support it by explaining why it's appropriate for the context or how/whether it's traditionally used.
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 6:04

In fact, the almost literal equivalent Charakterbildung (or Charaktererziehung — funny "erer", I know) does exist in German and perhaps is applicable in your case.

It's not so much about hardening oneself than about becoming self-reliant, trusting and trustworthy, a decent person, too. Becoming an adult. In other words, "building" a character which enables a person to successfully navigate their life.

  • "Charaktererziehung" does not fit at all. Reason: Erziehung (n) / erziehen (v) are things that you can't do to yourself, but which require another person to do to you. The most common use is in "Kinder erziehen" or "Kindererziehung", which translates roughly to a mixture between "raising children" and "educating children".
    – GermanNerd
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 9:42
  • @GermanNerd I thought the OP is leaving their doll in the rain in order to "build the dolls character", whatever exactly they mean. That would fit very nicely with "Erziehung", even though my first choice is "...bildung", partly because the equivalence with "building". Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 9:50
  • A Schneider That interpretation of the OP's post did not cross my mind, but it might be true. In that case "Charaktererziehung" could work, although it is a little bit of an artificial word and not common in everyday language.
    – GermanNerd
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 9:53

The german equivalent for the expression "building character" is

den Charakter stärken

So the example could be translated as "im Regen stehen stärkt den Charakter" or similar.


"Es trägt zur Persönlichkeitsbildung bei."

  • 2
    You should expand this answer to support it by explaining why it's appropriate for the context or how/whether it's traditionally used.
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 6:04

The German saying for that is "Was nicht tötet, härtet ab.", sometimes preceded by "Alles". Basically "What doesn't kill you, makes you tougher."

"Abhärten" sounds like coming from metalworking, but there you actually use "härten" for hardening metal surfaces. The combination with "ab-" is really used pretty much exclusively with humans, specifically in relation to cold but more generally to tough conditions.


Peter A. Schneider's reply deserves an upvote, he's bang on the money with Charakterbildung.

  • "character building" (noun) -> "die Charakterbildung"
  • "character-forming" (adj, aka "character-building") -> "charakterbildend"

So to answer your questions directly, what you probably wanted to say was something along the lines of

  • "Yeah, but rain builds character." -> "Aber regen bildet doch Charakter."


  1. https://de.motorsport.com/f1/news/bottas-verspricht-volle-attacke-baku-drama-war-charakterbildend-1034660/3076596/

  2. https://www.tikonline.de/star-news/vip-news/97210/prinz-charles-australien-ist-charakterbildend.html

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