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GERMAN LANGUAGE

From Moin to Tach: How to say ‘hello’ around Germany

There are many regional differences for the humble Hallo. Whether it's Juten Tach or Gruß Gott, here's how you can greet Germans all over the country.

From Moin to Tach: How to say 'hello' around Germany
The popular Moin gretting spelled out in thesky above Hamburg in March 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

Every German textbook starts with a “Hallo!”. 

And of course they do; greetings are essential. They’re the first point of contact with another person. Learning how to greet someone in their own language is the first step to connecting with people and their culture. 

So it’s with some confusion that I took my A-Level Hochdeutsch on tour through different regions of Germany (pre-pandemic, of course) and was greeted with: “Servus”, “Grias di”, “Tach”…

What were these words? Every time I thought I’d mastered one greeting, another popped up, like a meet-n-greet whack-a-mole. And soon I was despairing with my grasp of the fundamentals of the German language – even though I’d been speaking it for years. 

Now, it’s true that your bog standard “Guten Tag” will get you far in Germany. It’s understood all across the country. But did you know that different regions in Germany have their own unique way of greeting each other?

Instead of learning this the hard way, like me, here’s a list of the most popular greetings around the country, so you can connect with your regional friends. 

If you know them well enough, you might even be able to start guessing where people are from, just from the way they say “Hallo”. 

SEE ALSO: Grüß Gott, Moin, Hallo! The complete guide to regional dialects around Germany

Hallo, Hi, Hey

“Hallo” is the most widely used greeting in Germany. It’s the go-to greeting in the Northern-Central regions like Saxony-Anhalt and Southern Lower Saxony, though it’s commonly used in other regions too. 

Once used only for informal situations, it’s now pretty much universally acceptable (whereas “Guten Tag” is often seen as very formal). 

Younger generations tend to use the anglicization “Hi” and “Hey” with people they know. 

Guten Tag 

This greeting is also used all over Germany, though it’s sometimes hard to tell. Different regions pronounce the words very differently. This is also the best greeting to use over the phone in formal situations such as when arranging appointments.

Juten Tach – This Berliner variation is generally used for informal situations, for example with friends or family. 

(Gunn) Tach – In the Rhineland-Palatinate, “Guten Tag” only has two syllables. This is a more formal greeting, e.g. for passing people in the street. In more familiar settings the greeting “unn, wie?” is sometimes used, which might be short for “wie geht es dir?” (the informal ‘how are you’ or ‘how’s it going’). The Pfälzer are efficient like that. 

Tach – In some linguistic minimalism, the greeting can be further shortened to “Tach”, which is also the most common greeting in Nordrhein Westphalia. Why waste syllables? 

Guude – Is the variation used in Hessen. 

Tagchen, Gudden Tach, Gun Dach – These are all examples of greetings used in Sachsen, usually in familiar settings. 

Grüß Gott 

Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Armin Weigel

This greeting is used in Baden Württemberg and Bavaria in Germany, though it’s also used in Austria. Though it’s not wrong to say “Guten Tag” in these regions, it can come across as prim or elevated, while “Grüß Gott” is considered more sincere, even when used with strangers. 

It comes from the phrase “Gott grüß dich”, which used to mean as much as “God bless you”, though most speakers hardly take note of the religious connection anymore. 

The shortened form translates directly into the command “greet God”, so an old joke about the greeting goes: 

North-German Catholic: Grüß Gott!
South-German Protestant: Wenn ich ihn sehe! (When I see him!) 

In Bavaria, it’s more common to shorten the blessing to “Grias di”. 

Servus 

Another popular greeting in Bavaria is “Servus”, which can also sometimes be heard in other Southern regions including Rhineland-Palatinate and Hessen. 

Weirdly enough, this word actually comes from the Latin word for “slave”. Weirder still, it’s short for a phrase meaning “I am your slave” or “at your service”. Though it’s never used in that way anymore. 

Instead, it serves as both a greeting and a farewell. 

Moin 

This mystifying expression can be heard in Lower-Saxony, especially Hamburg, and in other Northern regions

READ ALSO: 12 words and phrases you need to survive Hamburg

It’s especially confusing because of its similarity with “Morgen” (morning), which is where some people think the expression comes from. However, Northern Germans use “Moin” all throughout the day – and as a goodbye. 

It’s likely the word actually comes from the Low German “moi” meaning “nice”, “beautiful” or “pleasant”, and is therefore a contraction of all greetings like “good morning/afternoon/evening/day/bye”. 

However, this doesn’t explain the variation of the greeting “Moin Moin” – but perhaps it’s just pleasant to say in that way.

Moin is gaining popularity throughout the country too, as it’s being picked up as a greeting by younger generations. 

What’s your favourite way to say hello in German?

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GERMAN LANGUAGE

Freudenfreude: Why we should all embrace this made-up German word

The term 'Freudenfreude' was recently identified by mistake as a German word. Here's why that is not such a bad thing.

Freudenfreude: Why we should all embrace this made-up German word

The German word Schadenfreude – or joy at another person’s misfortune – is widely used in the English-speaking world, where it was adopted over 150 years ago. But its opposite, Freudenfreude, is a new, and somewhat accidental, invention.

On November 25th, a San Francisco-based psychologist penned an article for the New York Times on how we need more Freudenfreude – a supposedly commonly used German word meaning joy at the happiness of another person, even if we don’t share that same happiness ourselves. 

A few international media outlets then heralded the “German“ concept, until the word got out (quite literally) in Germany. Some scorned the author’s mistake, while others praised her for inadvertently enriching die deutsche Sprache

“Since language is something that’s very much alive, you can always be happy when a new word appears somewhere,“ wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung. 

The Munich-based newspaper pointed out how other now-popular German words “took a while until they were finally widely used” – and then were often incorporated into other languages’ vernaculars when they lacked a similar word.

READ ALSO: ‘6 German words I now use in English’

Let’s face it: sometimes to sum up a concept in English (or Spanish or Slovenian or whatever our language) we need a word in German, even if it doesn’t exist yet. 

The now ubiquitous Wanderlust, a desire for travel, or Zeitgeist, spirit of the times, were also once made-up words that could only be neatly described by placing two German nouns together.

The same goes for Freudenfreude. Sure, we have “empathy”, but that also could mean feeling someone‘s pain during a sad moment, not just their joy during good times. Otherwise, we could say we’re happy for someone, but why use three words when it can be so neatly summed up in one?

We still don’t have a single, snappy word that describes when your good friend passes the important test you failed a week ago, and you still feel proud that she’s making progress. Or that feeling that even though life is not going right for you right now, someone else’s success shows that it still can.

A few days after the New York Times article was published, the newspaper ran a correction on the article that Freudenfreude is not a German word.

But by that point, it was already on the path to becoming one.

READ ALSO: 10 German words that English should adopt

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