auf dem Dachboden – “in the attic”
im ersten Stock – “on the first floor”
I’d never have thought about this difference if I hadn’t been asked whether you say “on” or “in” the attic. In English it would appear that “the attic” is thought of as something other than a floor of the house. For example, in English one says, “I’ll leave the box in the kitchen” and “I’ll leave the box on the second floor” with the preposition perhaps signaling that “the attic” is seen as more like a room in the house than a separate floor. In German, although there is a distinction between the expression involving der Dachboden and the expression involving der erste Stock in terms of the prepositions used, there is also the option of a parallel construction with aufˆ using the word die Etage. It’s enough to leave you bats with in your belfry (einen Vogel oder Dachschaden haben)!