Are you looking to travel to the beautiful country of Germany or are you curious to learn their language? Or are you a businessman who has some German clients, and knowledge of their local language would act as a key to opening the German doors? Regardless of the reason, if you are planning to learn the national language of Germany, then you need to have a good understanding of their greetings and salutations.
Intro About German Greetings and Why Learn German Greetings?
It is an interesting fact that the German language is one of the most popular languages in the world. It is not only one of the most common languages in Europe but is also spoken in 22 countries worldwide. There are around 155 million tongues that can speak the language and would be very excited and impressed when you spoke their language.
Just like any other culture, Germans are very polite and humble by nature. If you use their language, you will not only have their undivided attention but also their respect. There are several ways to greet someone, some of which are right and some of which are wrong, and this blog will try to give you a better understanding of the new language, German.
What are the most commonly used German greetings?
Hallo is the most typical German greeting; the word is pronounced almost like Hello in English. This greeting can be used in both formal and informal ways and is suitable for any situation.
Germans also use English words like Hi and Hey in their greetings. These words are used to greet someone in a casual or informal way. In addition to Hey, people in South German also use Hoi and while it is not that common, Heda, a rarely used word in German, is also kept in the same category.
In the English language, the first thing we say as soon as we wake up is “good morning.” Similarly, in German culture, the equivalent phrase is Guten Morgen. Nowadays, this has been shortened to “Morgen,” which means calling someone “morning” in English.
The opposite of Guten Morgen is Guten Abend, which means good evening. This is used as a greeting in German and not as saying goodbye.
This phrase is used more in a formal environment and is used for a person who you would call sir or madam. The literal meaning of Guten Tag is “good day.” It is a very common saying in German culture and is used quite often.
Since there is no direct phrase for “good afternoon” in German, the closest phrase is Guten Tag. In German, the word for “afternoon” is Nachmittaq, but this is not used in greetings in German culture, so you can use Guten Tag for the same.
The phrase is used to say good night to someone right before you go to bed in German culture. Since you would most likely be with friends and family before you go to bed, you would often use Gute Nacht in an informal environment but around close friends and family.
Wie geht es dir?
In the English language system, you would use “How are you?” as a standard phrase for anyone you would meet in daily life, it can be a stranger who you have no idea about or even a close acquaintance, and the first thing you say to them is “How are you? ” In German greetings, it is very crucial that you are careful who you are addressing this phrase to. If you are speaking to someone you know quite well or someone who is younger, then you can use “dir,” but when it comes to someone who you do not know at all or don’t know quite well, a stranger, or when talking to someone who is in a position of authority, you would use ‘ihnen’. It is better to use Wie geht es dir with people who are either close to you or you know.
If you want to use Wie geht es dir but in a more casual way, then you can use Wie geht es or Wie geht’s which in the German greeting system mean “what’s happening” or “How’s it going?” If you are in a large group with friends or are travelling with close family members then it is acceptable to use this word, but if you are not in such an environment then you need to be extremely careful when using it in a professional environment.
Was ist lost?
The phrase is slightly tricky to use as the intention behind this phrase is to ask the same as “Wie geht’s” which means “what’s up,” how’s it going. It is ok to use this with younger people, but things get complicated here as Was ist den los? means “What’s wrong,” which in German language and greetings and should not be confused with the original as the word has a completely different meaning when compared to the unique phrase. Once you are comfortable with the German language, you will be easily able to differentiate between the two phrases based on mannerism, tone, and body language, but until then, you need to be careful as they can be accidentally used in the wrong context.
It has been observed that in the English language, we quite frequently use “What’s Up?” or “All good?” to our the people we know already, but talking about German greetings equivalent of the above phrase this is commonly used by the younger generation and Alles Klar is basically saying the same thing but in the German language.
Lange nicht gesehen
Whenever the American English population sees a friendly or familiar face after a long time, they say “long time no see.” If you are in Germany, the local crowd would say “Lange nicht gesehen,” which has the same impact in German salutations. To make the other person feel more special, you can also add their name and a simple greeting to make it sound better: Hallo John, lange nicht gesehen! You can use this in any situation, formal or informal. To be more formal, you can say We haben uns lange nicht mehr gesehen, which means “We haven’t seen each other in a long time.” This would make it sound more cordial.
However, if you are talking to someone over the phone, you can say “Lang nichts gehört!” which means “It’s been a while since we spoke!”
This is probably the shortest phrase in the German language, but it is one of the most commonly used two-letter words. Na is one of the German words that you would hear a lot. It is an informal way of saying “Hey” or “How are you?” It is often used to say “well” and is often used as Na gut which means “very well,” and Na Klar which means “off course.”
You can use “Na” with other greetings and initiate a conversation with fellow Germans. A conversation can start with “Na, wie geht’s?” which means “Hey, how are you?” or Na, wie läuft’s, which is equivalent to “Hey, how’s it going?” and you can easily respond to this by just saying “Na!” which, in this context, would mean I’m good!
Dos and Don’ts In German Greeting
Now that we have gone through some common German greetings, your confidence level in conversing with someone in German should have gone up by now. We not only need to keep in mind what words we are using under what circumstances, but we also need to make sure that our body language and gestures are also in-line with the German greeting etiquettes, as they play a very important role in communicating with someone.
Often it is seen that things that are totally acceptable in one culture might be rude or offensive in another, so while we are in a multicultural environment, we need to make sure we don’t make others uncomfortable.
Handshakes are totally acceptable in German culture, as they are considered a very polite gesture of greeting. A handshake should be given with the right pressure; too soft would mean you are too weak, and bone-crushing pressure would mean aggression.
Hugs and Kisses
Germans do hug and kiss when they meet someone but it is safe to hug and kiss only someone who you are comfortable with or know quite well. Some German men are quite macho and hug and kiss is too feminine for them whereas some people try to stay away from a kiss or peck. Obviously in a conversation, it is important that you don’t get too much into someone’s space that you start intimidating them so it’s safe to keep your distance.
Eye Contact is good in German culture and it’s fine to look into someone’s eyes regardless if it’s a woman or a man but don’t stare for too long as that might look intimidating and don’t stare for too less because that means you are either weak or shy.
Does German etiquette and greetings change as we travel in the country?
Yes, German greetings and words change from north to south. It is even different in other countries that have a significant German speaking population. For ex: Hello is known as Moin in North Germany, Servus in South Germany and when it comes to outside Germany, Grüß Gott in South Germany and Austria, Grüß dich in Austria and Switzerland and Grüezi in parts of Switzerland
How are basic etiquettes like Thank you and please said in German greetings?
In German greetings Thank you is said as Dankeschön and Please means Bitte.
What is the most important thing that needs to be kept in mind when learning German greetings?
Basically, when you start to learn German greetings, several words may have different ways to use it in a sentence but then you need to make sure you know what word to use at what time and what environment. There are several words which can only be used in a professional environment, and some can be used in casual conversation.