Greetings in German
written by Katriel Paige
Greetings. We all use them in some form or another – 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.
Borrowed German Greetings
• Hallo! 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.
• Ciao! 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.
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.
• Alles klar? 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
• Moin Moin! 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 considered an all-day greeting in northern areas like Hamburg and East Frisia.
• Grüß Gott!
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”.
• Servus! Another one from the south, this one is my particular favorite greeting. It comes from the Latin.