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Everyday Language

Hello and Goodbye

"Guten Morgen" – "Good Morning" is the most common form of greeting one another until around midday. "Guten Tag" – "Good Day" is used until roughly 6 pm. "Guten Abend" – "Good Evening" is said after 6 pm. Many people also just use the simple "Hallo". "Auf Wiedersehen" – "Good Bye" is said when leaving. The short form is "Wiederseh´n". The Italian word "Ciao", as well as "Tschüs", "Tschö" or "Tschüssi" can also be used to say goodbye.


"Hallo", "Tschau", "Tschüs", "Tschö" and "Tschüssi" are informal ways of saying hello and goodbye. In Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and parts of Rhineland Palatinate people greet one another with "Grüss Gott" and "Servus" at any time of the day and with "Pfiat di Gott" or "Ade" when they are saying goodbye. In the coastal regions of northern Germany in East and North Frisia, people also say "Moin", and "Moin, Moin". "Gute Nacht" (Good Night) is said before going to bed. "Mahlzeit" is said to other colleagues at work at meal times. This combines a greeting and the wish that the respective colleagues enjoy their meal.

"Du" and "Sie"

The most common way to address people is with the formal "Sie". This is used in public and at work. Even if neighbours or colleagues have known each other for a long time they often still use the polite form of the word "You" or "Sie". The informal "You" is "Du". This is used among close friends and close colleagues and with children until around the age of 16. Schoolchildren and students also use the informal "Du". The general rule of thumb is that the older person can offer to use the informal "Du" instead of "Sie". At work the higher ranked member of staff may offer to use the "Du" form.

"Bitte" and "Danke", "Please" and "Thank You"

The word "Bitte" or "Please" is usually said when asking for something: "Können Sie mir bitte sagen, wie spät es ist?" (Can you please tell me what time it is?), "Kann ich bitte die Zeitung haben?" (Can I please have the newspaper?). The word is a sign of pleasantness and politeness. When you pass something to another person you also usually say "Bitte sehr" or "Bitte schön". "Danke schön" or "Danke sehr" or "Vielen Dank" – "Many Thanks", "Thanks Very Much" etc. is the usual answer. If you are offered something to drink the word "Danke" means no thanks. You can say "Ja, bitte" or "Ja, gern" to say yes please.


Germans are said to view punctuality as a great virtue. Of course, radio shows and television shows begin at exactly the time they are supposed to. This is also usually the case for most buses and trains. But, just as in other countries, not everything goes exactly to plan all the time in Germany.


"Gehen wir heute Abend ein Bier trinken?" (Shall we go for a beer tonight?) or "Gehen wir einen Kaffee trinken?" (Shall we go and have a coffee?): Appointments are often made in this form. It is polite to be punctual for private appointments.