There are many different ways to say Hello in German. German greetings vary, from a simple ‘Hallo’ to an informal ‘Alles klar?’ to a regional greeting like ‘Moin, Servus’ or a rather rarely used ‘Na’, depending on factors like:
Surely this is worldwide is the most common way to say “Hello” in German but also almost in any language. It’s friendly and serves pretty much any situation, either formal or informal.
Guten Tag is the German “Hello” that is used in more formal scenarios or when you don’t know the person. It’s also the most common one used on the telephone (if you call an office or someone you haven’t been in contact with).
Guten is basically an extended version of “good” (it’s the masculine accusative form of gut). You have to add only the right word for the time of day:
Ok easy German so far, right?! Now there are some local distinctions depending on which part of Germany you are in. People from the North have different hello than the people in the South. So it can sometimes easily be detected where someone is from, just by the way they say Hello.
Grüß Gott is mainly and to be frank only used in the south of Germany in Bavaria (and also Austria). If you ever been to the famous Octoberfest in Munich, you might probably have heard people saying Grüß Gott many times. Literally, it means something like “greetings (from) God”. This is because the southern part of Germany is in the majority catholic, so it has its origins laying there. A better, less literal translation is “God bless you”. It’s a very formal way of saying Hello but also used by an older generation and very traditional Bavarians. Younger people would use a slightly more informal ‘Grüß dich!’, which translates to “greetings to you!”.
Servus is originated from the Latin word for “servant”. Again like ‘Grüß Gott’, a Servus is mainly used in Bavaria and Austria. It can also be used to say goodbye. You can use this one all day and night to everyone, but be aware you will immediately be spotted out as coming from the south part of German-speaking territory.
As mentioned earlier, every region has its own local way of Hello and ‘Moin’ has its roots in the Northern part of the country. Everywhere around Hamburg and the parts of Schleswig- Holstein up to Friesland you will hear it. Sometimes you will even hear people doubling it up: ‘Moin Moin!’ (Especially popular amongst people from the harbor, like fisherman or Sailors.
Up to today, the origins of the word “Moin” are unclear. Some believe it comes from a regional pronunciation of Morgen (“morning”), but whatever the occasion or time you can use Moin at all times of the day.
Na is one of those German greetings that are more commonly used in the North, while people from Southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have some trouble with it because it is not really a full greeting. It’s very informal, almost a bit rude to say it, so be careful with this one.
It’s hard to translate na into English. It’s best explained by example: when two (northern) Germans meet, one might say “na”, to which the other replies “na” – and then the conversation begins and ends at the same time. It’s like “hey” all rolled into one versatile syllable that says all and nothing at the same time. Make sure though if you choose to use it, to never greet an older person with ‘Na’, they may categorize you as a rude person without proper behavior. You can use it amongst friends.
This one can be used as a question (alles klar?) a statement, or merely to fill empty space. It’s also used in a work environment when you get a task or when someone gives you directions to an address and wants to know if you understood. ‘Alles klar?’ – ‘Alles klar’. (‘Got it? Copy that.)
If you live or travel around in Germany, you’ll hear people saying alles klar all the time in different situations.
Hey is pretty common amongst younger people in a greeting or when you cross paths with your neighbor on the street for example. It is a common German way of saying “how’s it going? or What’s up?”
When you use ‘dir’, it’s informal for saying you. In a more formal situation, you should change it to saying ‘Wie geht es Ihnen?’ When you are informally addressing a group, you can say ‘Wie geht es euch?’
Often, because as everyone knows Germans like efficiency, it’s often shortened to ‘Wie geht’s?’ The best response would be a simple ‘Gut, danke’ – “good, thanks”, only of course when that’s really the case.
If you want to learn to say goodbye to someone you meet, the German language offers a couple of possibilities here as well.
This is a formal and polite goodbye. ‘Wieder’ means “again” and ‘sehen’ means “to see”. So translated into English literally ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ means “when we see each other again!”
When saying goodbye in a phone call to an office, or a doctor or anyone who you wouldn’t consider your friend or whom you know well you may want to say ‘Auf Wiederhören’ “when we hear each other again”.
‘Bis bald’ means “until soon”. So it’s like saying “see you soon!”. It’s a friendly, informal way of saying goodbye but only say it when you know that you will definitely see this person again.
Tschüss – “bye” is the most used and most common all over Germany. You can use it almost everywhere in a non-formal scenario.
Don’t let the spelling confuse you. The cluster of consonants “tsch” is pronounced just like a “ch” in English (same as Ciao).
Ciao is Italian of course, but it’s commonly in Germany, as it is in many other parts of Europe! It’s cute, it’s informal, and a little tacky.
You have a few minutes extra and want to learn more new words in German? A good way no matter if you’re a beginner or advanced to improve your German skills, is by using the Readle – lean German App. You can read interesting stories and listen to them read by a native speaker. That’ll make you a pro in the German language in no time.