SIX GREETINGS THAT ARE ESSENTIAL TO KNOW IF YOU’RE LIVING IN GERMANY
What’s worse than bearing false witness against your neighbor? Not greeting your neighbor. At least in Germany.
It’s part of our unwritten additional seven deadly sins, along with mowing your lawn during quiet hours and jaywalking. So be pious and greet as if your life depended on it – several times a day, if need be.
Read on to learn the six greetings that are essential to know, so you can master any situation – formal or informal – like a true native.
RISE AND SHINE – GUTEN MORGEN
Just like its English equivalent, it can be used in any setting until lunchtime.
Mutter it to anyone you interact with in the AM: family members after you wriggle out of bed, neighbors you bump into, even strangers you regularly pass in the twinkling of an eye while loping to work, and of course, your coworkers when you first get there. Yes, even the ones you don’t like.
EAT, DRINK, AND BE MERRY – MAHLZEIT
This literally means “mealtime”, which makes it your go-to-lunchtime-salute – but with a twist: you even holler it at people you’ve already greeted earlier that day.
This is particularly common in office settings around noon when you run into colleagues who might be headed to lunch. Saying this, you are wishing them a tasty meal, as the expression is also used at the table before people start eating.
If you’ve ever eaten at a cafeteria, you’ll know that this might be more wishful thinking than salutation in some workplaces.
EVENING ENCOUNTERS – GUTEN ABEND
You may start blaring this at folks around six pm and continue throughout the rest of the night – especially when you take out your pooch for his bedtime business. Be loud enough to wake the dead along with all your fido-less neighbors, so they know what they’re missing out on.
It can sound overly formal when you’re hanging out with friends or family, but some people still declare it in that setting. Oftentimes, they’re your typical sidewalk superintendent, falsely assuming they’re bringing redemption to the masses who had anxiously been waiting for them to make the scene.
THE LAND OF NOD – GUTE NACHT
Instead of saying goodbye, purr this when you call it a night after mingling with friends or family, or talking to them on the phone.
It is only used when you leave – never when you arrive – even if that’s as late as 2.30 am.
ALWAYS APPROPRIATE – HALLO/GUTEN TAG/GRÜß GOTT
Drop a casual Hallo at family and friends, people up to your age, and in less formal situations, like at the store.
Guten Tag is universal and can be said at any time of the day, while Grüß Gott (= God bless) is used the same way, although exclusively in southern Germany.
During the day, unlike in the morning, you needn’t greet passersby. Hiking trails, however, are a whole different story. There, it is common courtesy to joyfully warble Grüß Gott, while briskly skipping past – stifling the huffing and puffing and nonchalantly acting like you’re not even fazed by having just footslogged the equivalent of your yearly step count within 39 minutes.
GO IN PEACE – TSCHÜS/AUF WIEDERSEHEN/AUF WIEDERSCHAUEN
They all mean “bye” and can be used at any time of the day.
Tschüs, being the pendant to Hallo, is less formal but getting accepted more and more, while both, Wiedersehen and Widerschauen (the auf may be omitted)can be used in any situation – formal or informal alike.
Fun fact: On the phone, we use Wiederhören (= let’s hear each other again). Dainty, isn’t it?
Sadly, auf Wiederschreiben and auf Wiederlesen don’t exist, whereas they certainly should, don’t you think?
READ THE ROOM
Just like Sie vs Du, sifting out the most orthodox salutation can seem like a heavy cross to bear, so always choose your greetings based on the situation and your counterpart’s age and status.
Hallo and Tschüs are fine at the bakery, but not at your attorney’s office – UNLESS they’re your age or younger, or you know them very well – in which case you’re quite possibly a scoundrel and not always wild about formalities. Thank you for making room for my blog, though, despite having your plate full of slayings and plunderings!
Gute Nacht and Mahlzeit are more intimate: You can use both in the workplace, among friends and family, maybe with neighbors – depending on their age and how close you are – but not at the doctor’s office or real estate agent’s.
Try to get a feel for which salutation to use and if in doubt, just let the other person talk first and copy them. Or merely use Grüß Gott and Auf Wiedersehen until doomsday. It’s always better to have people think you’re a bighead who’s overly formal instead of a boor.