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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

Kätzchen and Büchlein: How to make German words smaller

German grammar is notoriously difficult. But the diminutive form – used to express a smaller version of the noun - is surprisingly straightforward.

Kätzchen and Büchlein: How to make German words smaller

Diminutives are forms of words that are used to express a smaller, younger or even cuter version of a noun. They are used a lot in German, so it’s definitely worth getting to know how they work.

In English, words often become diminutive by adding the suffix -let (e.g. drop becomes droplet, book becomes booklet). In German, the diminutive form (also called die Verkleinerungsform) is made by adding either -chen or -lein to the end of the word:

das Tier → das Tierchen

the animal → the little animal

der Stern → das Sternchen

the star → the little star

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to pick the right German language school for you

Nouns with a, o, and u change their vowel to ä, ö, and ü. The e at the end of the word is usually dropped.

die Katze → das Kätzchen

the cat → the kitten

die Torte → das Törtchen

the cake → the little cake

die Blume → das Blümchen

the flower → the little flower

A selection of little Törtchen on a table.

A selection of little Törtchen on a table. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Catherine Waibel

The diminutive with -lein is used for words ending in -ch:

der Tisch → das Tischlein

the table →  the little table

das Buch → das Büchlein

the book → the little book

As you might have noticed, regardless of which gender the main noun is, the diminutive form is always neuter. See – told you it was simple!

Can you make any word a diminutive?

Pretty much. You can add the ending to any noun in German that is not itself a diminutive, e.g. Häschen (bunny) and Eichhörnchen (squirrel).

Common diminutives

There are many common German words that are diminutive, some of which you have probably been using without even realising it.

das Brötchen for example is the diminutive version of das Brot and means little bread.

das Mädchen, meaning girl, is actually a diminutive of the antiquated word die Magd meaning maid.

And lastly: Hallöchen! is a cute way to say hello there!

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