How to say that something is awkward in German

There’s no direct, universal translation for the rich spectrum of applications for the English word “awkward”, but some come close:

– Generally, the concept of “being embarrassed/embarrassing” covers a lot of awkward ground: “Er ist so peinlich.” – “He’s (such an) embarrassing (person).” or “Es war so eine peinliche Situation.” – “It was such an embarrassing situation.” These are used when an awareness of the awkwardness causes shame.

– “unbeholfen” describes socially awkward individuals. Literally, the word suggests that the person does not know how to help him/herself (in social or everyday situations) and is clumsy and inept: “Er redete so unbeholfen mit der Frau.” – “He spoke so awkwardly with the woman.”

– “unangenehm” describes uncomfortable situations. “Es war so unangenehm die einzige Person ohne Anzug zu sein.” – “It was so uncomfortable being the only person without a suit.”

– “umständlich” is when something is more difficult, complicated or physically awkward than necessary: “Er hat die Teller auf sehr umständliche Art gewaschen!” – “He washed the plates in such an awkward way!”

– Lastly, the word “Verlegenheit” (f.) is used to mean “awkward situation” or “embarrassment”. Typically it is used with the verb “kommen” (“to come”):
“Ich will nie wieder in die Verlegenheit kommen, zu spät zu sein.” – “I never again want to be in the awkward situation of being too late.”

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