Knowing how to say hello in German among other German Greetings is crucial for one’s well being and for being socially accepted by surrounding Germans. We all use them in some form or another, often not fully aware of what they mean and where they come from. Whether it’s a polite formality or an enthusiastic meeting with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. In German classes, it’s common to learn phrases like “Guten Tag” or “Guten Abend” right off the bat: but these words can sound formal or old-fashioned, so know when to use them! (Hint: if you would feel comfortable calling the person sir or ma’am, that’s probably a good time to say Guten Abend.)
Here are some other greetings in German that you should be aware of.
How to say Hello in German with non German words
This is used often and is great for any situation. “Hi!” is also used in Germany, but just like using it in English, try to use it among people you’re already familiar with.
You’ll not only hear this in Italy, but in various areas across Europe now too. It’s used as a greeting and as a goodbye, especially in the larger, more metropolitan cities. In German we’d write it “Tschau” and it’s a not only a way of saying “Hello” but can also be used for saying “Goodbye”.
The word “servus” is related to the word “servant” and basically means “at your service”, not really used in this sense anymore nowadays but you’ll definitely hear it in Bavaria and Austria.
In the German speaking part of Switzerland, the most common greeting is “Grüezi/ Griezi” (from “Grüße Sie”) or “Grüessech” (Grüße Euch). Family members and close friends use “Hoi”, which is originally a shout-out by the shepherds to drive their cattle. “Sali” (from the French word “Salut”)
Back to German: Formal and casual Greetings
Wie geht es dir? / Wie geht es Ihnen?
Translating to “How are you?” in English, “Wie geht es dir” is the form used for close friends while “Wie geht es Ihnen” is the form you would use for people in authority (Read more about addressing a German: Sie / du). However, this is not used exactly the same as “how are you” is in English; while in English, “how are you” is said to anyone and everyone, “Wie geht es dir” (and “es Ihnen”) tends to be said around people you already know.
Literally translating to “is everything alright?”, this greeting reminds me of the Japanese greeting “daijoubu desu ka?” – while it can be used to ask after someone, it is usually used like “how’s it going”. The meaning changes whether the speaker’s tone sounds worried or not. However, because of that very versatility, this phrase is essential to know.
Regional Greetings in German
Now we’re getting into regional variations. For most of its history Germany was not a united region: it was a loose federation of states, and because of that history, there are a lot of regional differences – from the north to the south, and from the west to the east. “Moin Moin!” is mainly used in northern areas like Hamburg and East Frisia. For someone who does not come from North Germany this phrase might be confusing since it derives from “Morgen” but can be used at any time of the day. Some people even double it and say “Moin Moin”. Moin on its own is equivalent to “Tag”, “Moin Moin” means “Guten Tag”. Younger people also use “Moinsen” in the north.
This one’s from southern Germany; invoking God, this way of greeting in German can sound old-fashioned to those in the north, but is still heard in the south where it means “hello”.
Tach, Guude, Gemorje, Juten Morjen
The word “Tach” is used in Northern Germany and in North Rhine-Westphalia. “Guude”, which is a shortened version of “Guten”, you can find in Hesse and Northern Rhineland-Palatinate. In the area, the greeting can also be used as a farewell. You might have heard already “Guten” in a different context since it is also used by some people as a short version of “Bon appétit”. So do not get confused if you encounter someone on the street and he says “Guude” to you. By the way, in Hesse instead of “Guten Morgen” you will most likely hear “Gemorje”. And in Berlin and Brandenburg, where the dialect often changes “g” into “j”, people often say “Juten Morgen” or Juten “Morjen”.
How to say Goodbye in German
Like “Hallo” and “Guten Tag” you can always and everywhere use “Auf Wiedersehen” (Goodbye) and “Tschau” or “Tschüs/Tschüss” (Bye) as we write it
However, like for the greetings, there exist several regional phrases for how to say “Goodbye”.
Let’s start in Bavaria and Austria. As mentioned already above, you can use “Servus” as a farewell. Moreover, instead of saying “Auf Wiedersehen”, in Bavaria it is more common to say “Auf Wiederschau’n” (“schauen” is another word for “sehen” which means “to see”). You will also hear, especially in Austria, “Ba-Ba” (it might derive from the English “Bye-bye”). Other farewells in Bavarian are „Pfia God“, „Pfiat di God” or “Pfiat eahna” (formal) and “Pfiat di/ eich“ (familiar). There even exist more expressions but these are the most common ones and will be enough to impress Bavarians.
Bavarian is the German dialect spoken in Bavaria and Austria. Despite this fact, Bavarians and Austrians do not really seem to be best friends.
In Switzerland people say “Uf Wiederseh”, “Uf Wiederluege” (“luege” is preserved from High Middle German “log.en” which is very close to the English word “to look” ), “Tschau” (from the Italian “Ciao”) or like in French “Adieu” or the modified form “Ade”. “Ade(e)” you will also hear in the area of Baden and Swabia, and typical for Swabian you might also hear it with “le” as “Adele”.
If it comes to the word “Tschüs” there exist numerous versions. “Tschüssi”, “Tschöö”, “Tschüssikowski” (which is considered to be a remainder of GDR times) or “Tschüssing” (mostly used in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), “Tschüs mit üs” or “Tschö mit ö”.
More ways to say Goodbye
There are plenty more rather silly goodbyes. Check this page if you want to up your social game. Funny enough, the Bavarians vehemently resist “Tschüs” and try to avoid it like the devil the holy water. In 2002 there was even a school director in Passau who forbade her students to use the word and even to say hello in German!
There are two theories where the word “Tschüs” derives from. The one considered to be proven is the fact that “Tschüs” has developed from the old Low German (spoken mainly in Northern Germany and the northeastern part of the Netherlands) word “Atschüs”, which was still in use until the 1940s. According to the first theory, “Atschüs” comes from the Wallon word “adjus” which means “to God”. The second theory assumes that “Atschüs” goes back to the Spanish word “Adíos” which also means “to God”.
When you are on the phone talking to someone you do not know or do not know very well you say “Auf Wiederhören”.
Of course, you can extend all farewells and add the following phrases:
“Bis morgen/ bald/ später!” – See you tomorrow/ soon/ later!
“Bis dann!” – See you!
“Wir hören uns!” – Talk to you!
“Mach’s gut!” – Take care!
“Schönen Tag/ Abend (noch)!” – Have a good day/ evening!
“Schönes Wochenende!” – Have a nice weekend!
“Viel Spaß!” – Have fun!
“Gute Reise!” – Have a good trip!
“Pass auf dich auf” or nowadays thanks to Covid,
“Bleib gesund” – Stay healthy
Nonverbal Greetings in German
But how about nonverbal communication? Do you need to shake hands or to give a cheek kissing or maybe rub noses? Well, this depends on who you encounter.
If you meet someone for the very first time the most common greeting is a handshake. Whereas if you meet close friends you may hug them or give them a cheek kiss. Unlike in some other countries, there is no rule regarding the number of kisses. However, usually, you give one or two kisses. But do not worry: if you are not the kissing type of person shaking hands is always completely fine!
In times of Covid-19, alternative forms of saying “Hi” and “Bye” have come along. You might see people touching each other with their elbows or even with their feet. Fist bumps are also used among the younger population (anyone below the mental age of 50). Others like to give “air kisses” or pretend to hug each other while hugging themselves. There are also many people who do none of these let us say rituals and simply say “Hallo” and/ or just nod. With regards to the future, we will have to wait and see to what extent Covid-19 will also have an influence on the way we all greet each other.
These were some of the most common ways to say hello in German. Let’s take a look at what to say when it’s time to say “Thank you” or “Good Bye” to a German.
German Greetings in action
Easy German, whose interview videos I can warmly recommend, has a lovely video on the matter of how to say hello in German. Watch it here.
Warning: Please don’t watch any German teaching videos on Youtube as they are not suited for learning German due to the lack of structure but also often due to the lack of didactical training of the Youtuber.
How do I say “Thank you” in German
In all German-speaking countries you can use “danke schön” or just “Danke”.
Those of you who find “Danke” too simple and would like to put more emotions in their vocabulary, can also say “Herzlichen Dank” (the word “herzlichen” comes from the German word “Herz” which means “heart”). Beside this expression, you will also hear “Vielen Dank”, “Danke vielmals”* or “Vielen herzlichen Dank”.
You can easily recognize a person from Switzerland when they thank you because they say “Danke vielmal” which sounds off to German ears.
In addition, in German federal-states which are bordering to France (namely Baden-Wuertemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland) you can say “Merci” as well.
In Bavaria and Austria, you might also hear “Vergelt’s Gott” (dialect “Fa´gööd´s-God”) or “Gejds God” which has a Christian background, and the dialect form of “danke schön” which is “Dang schee”. Whereas in Hessen someone might say to you “En Haufen Dank” instead of “Vielen Dank” meaning as much as “A heap of thanks”.
How to respond to Danke
With regards to responding to “Danke” the most common phrases are “Bitte”, “Bitte schön”, “Kein Problem”, “Keine Ursache” (Don’t mention it,, literally: no reason) , “Gerne” (with pleasure) or “Gern geschehen” (it happened with pleasure). As you can see, there are plenty of options.
A specific phrase which is used in the North of Germany is “Da nich(t) für” and means literally “not for that”. And last but not least, if you would like to point scores with someone in Bavaria you respond to “Vergelt’s Gott” with “Segen’s Got”’ (dialect “Sengs God”, meaning: May God bless it) oder “Zahl’s Gott” (May God pay for it).
Is your head spinning now? Do not worry! As mentioned already above, you can always use “Bitte” or “Bitte schön”.
As you can see, like in any other language there are plenty of options to express yourself. Do not feel under pressure using and knowing all these phrases. Rather take it as an opportunity to get more familiar with your environment, to enrich your vocabulary, and to make people smile maybe by surprising them with one or two of the more unusual phrases above.
In that sense: Tschau, Tschö und bis bald!
Or simply: San Frantschüsko.
Written by Katriel Page (2016), Angelina Mitterle (2021) and updated Feb 6 2022 by Michael Schmitz