Background: My friend, ZK, comes from a German family and is bilingual in English and German. I asked her if she knew any German proverbs, and this was her response:
ZK: “I grew up with a lot of proverbs. My great-grandma’s favorite saying was das letzte Hemd hat keine Taschen, and it translates to ‘your last shirt has no pockets,’ which means you can’t take anything with you when you die. She said it every night before she went to sleep, and I feel like it says something about German culture.”
Analysis: My friend frequently talks about her family’s struggles growing up in Post-War East Germany, and I think this proverb in particular is strengthened by that context. This proverb is particularly anti-materialistic, and I think her great-grandmother saying it as a nightly sort of ritual is indicative of an ideal or desired mentality as reflective of a larger societal belief or priority. Its brevity makes it memorable, and I can imagine that the daily ritual of it indicates that choosing the anti-materialistic route was not instinctual, or always desired.