Welcome to Germany – greeting and conversation

Germans emphasise politeness and good manners. Therefore it is very important to know some polite expressions and how to greet other people.

The greeting

There are a few forms of greetings. The usage depends on how good you know the other person and how many people there are. If you are in the city and there are a lot of people, you don’t greet them directly. Nevertheless, a nice smile is always good. If you meet a single person on the street you nod and say “Guten Tag” (“Good day”).

If you have an appointment with another person, you always greet. Here, it also depends on how good you know your counterpart. If the meeting is official (e.g. with an agency), you greet the other person with a handshake. If you meet your friends, you often hug him or her. In any case: The more you know a person, the casual the greeting. Remember to say “Guten Tag” (“Good day”) to people you don’t know or “Hallo” (“Hello”) to friends.

If you meet a person without an appointment (e.g. a salesperson at the supermarket or a policeman on the street), you just say “Guten Tag” or “Hallo” without a handshake.

Germans are rather distant and reserved. If you are not sure how to greet your counterpart, you should use the handshake. It is also important to pay attention to the reaction of the other person.

By the way, the leave-taking is very similar to the greeting. Here, you also use a handshake (if you don’t know the person very well) or a hug (if he or she is your friend). In addition you say “Auf Wiedersehen” (official and formal) or “Tschüss” (friends).

Here’s another tip: If you want to be extra polite, you can say “Danke für das Gespräch”(“Thanks for the talk”).

The conversation

Remember: Germans really attach importance to politeness and good manners. Also the personal distance and free space are very important. The distance between two people should reach one arm’s length to your counterpart. There are a lot of expressions to show politeness, like “Danke” (“Thank you”), “Bitte” (“Please”), “Entschuldigung” (“Sorry” or “Excuse me”), “Guten Tag” (“Good day”) or “Auf Wiedersehen” (“Goodbye”).

Danke” (“Thank you”)

This word is used very often. For example, we say it, if we get something from someone else. So if a salesperson at the supermarket gives the articles or change to you, you say “Danke”. We also use it if someone opens a door for us or offers us a seat. Overall we always say “Danke”, if someone is nice and polite to us or gives something to us.

Bitte” (“Please”)

“Bitte” is also a very important expression in Germany. We use it if we want something from someone else. Therefore, if we want someone to give something to us, we say “Bitte”. By the way, the best way to react to a “Bitte” is a “Danke” from your counterpart. A very special use of “Bitte” is, if you give something to someone. In this situation you say „Hier bitte“ („Here we go“). If you help someone and he or she says “Danke”, you can reply with “Bitte” or “Gerne” in order to express that it was a pleasure for you to help (like “You’re welcome”).

Entschuldigung” (“Sorry” or “Excuse me”)

We always say “Entschuldigung”, if we harm someone (and it doesn’t matter how great the harm was or if it happened on purpose). So if you bump into someone, you should say “Entschuldigung”. If you don’t understand what your counterpart is saying, you also use “Entschuldigung” and ask the other person to repeat what he or she said. If you ask an unknown person the way or another question, the first expression is “Entschuldigung” (like “Excuse me”). Sometimes you can use “Entschuldigung”, if someone bumps into you. Even if you are the harmed person, “Entschuldigung” can prevent a conflict.

Guten Tag” (“Good day”) and “Auf Wiedersehen” (Goodbye)

These expressions can magically conjure a smile on the face of a German. So they are as important for everyday life as the other expressions. They are the framework for every conversation.

Remember

For every expression you should remember to use them as much as possible. As you have heard many times, Germans emphasise politeness and good manners. If you use these words correctly, a good atmosphere and comfortable conversation is possible.

Thanks for reading the article and Goodbye. Or as we say in Germay: Danke, dass Sie den Artikel gelesen haben und Auf Wiedersehen.

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