SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

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?

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

GERMAN LANGUAGE

Denglisch: The English words that will make you sound German

Denglisch - a hybrid of Deutsch and English - can refer to the half-and-half way Germans and foreigners speak to each other. But Germans use plenty of English words amongst themselves - although they don’t always mean the same thing.

Denglisch: The English words that will make you sound German

English speakers are no stranger to using certain German words when speaking English—schadenfreude and kindergarten being perhaps the most obvious. The process is possibly even more advanced in reverse.

Many Germans are proud of being able to speak English well, and the Berlin Wall’s fall in 1989 only accelerated the process, as a redefined international community – with English as the main global language – beckoned.

Now English words are found in all parts of German life. Many Germans don’t even necessarily understand why. English-language cultural influence is certainly a part of German life, but the dubbing of television shows, to use just one example, remains far more widespread in Germany than in many smaller European countries, which use original audio with subtitles.

Here’s a selection of anglicisms that Germans use with each other. 

READ ALSO: Could Denglisch one day kill of English?

‘Coffee-To-Go’ or ‘Takeaway’

‘Ein Kaffee zum mitnehmen’ is correct and your coffee shop owner will definitely understand what you want if you ask for it. But plenty of Germans will ask for a ‘Coffee-To-Go,’ even when speaking German to a German barista. This seems to only apply to coffee ordered on the move, however. If you’re sitting down at a table, expect to order the German Kaffee.

Getting a coffee-to-go in Berlin.

Getting a Coffee-To-Go in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

Human Resources, ‘Soft Skills’ and ‘Manager’

‘Personalabteilung’ is still used to describe a human resources department. But plenty of German companies—whether international or mostly German will use Human Resources even in German-language communication. Although ‘Leiter’ and ‘Leiterin,’ meaning ‘leader’ are used, even German job titles will use “Manager.” The word ‘Manager’ has even been adapted to accommodate German noun genders. A female manager, may be referred to as a ‘Managerin’.

READ ALSO: How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The world of work in Germany is also notable for importing another contemporary English term. ‘Soft Skills’ is used in German when recruiters are looking to see if a candidate might fit culturally into a particular workplace. The words actually describing these skills, like ‘Führungskompetenz’ or ‘leadership ability,’ often sound unmistakably German though. But there are exceptions. ‘Multitasking’ is used in German as well.

‘Clicken,’ ‘Uploaden,’ ‘Downloaden’ and ‘Home Office’

As technology that came of age relatively recently, German has imported many English terms related to technology and the Internet. While web browsers might use ‘Herunterladen’ instead of ‘download’ or ‘hochladen’ instead of ‘upload,’ Germans are just as likely to use the slightly Germanized version of the English word, hence ‘downloaden’.

READ ALSO: Seven English words Germans get delightfully wrong

Even before ‘Home Office’ appeared on German tax returns, to calculate what credit workers could get from remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic, ‘Home Office’ was still widely used in German to describe, well, working from home. It can be confusing for English speakers, though, especially those from the UK, because the Home Office is a department in the British government. 

English words that have slightly different meanings in German – ‘Shitstorm’ and ‘Public Viewing’

There are English words Germans use that don’t always mean quite the same thing to a native English speaker. An English speaker from the UK or Ireland, for example, might associate a ‘public viewing’ with an open casket funeral. Germans, however, tends to use “public viewing” almost exclusively to mean a large screening, usually of an event, that many people can gather to watch for free. Placing a large television at the Brandenburg Gate for German Football Team matches is perhaps the most immediately recognisable example of a ‘public viewing’.

Then there’s what, at least to native English speakers, might sound outright bizarre. But former Chancellor Angela Merkel herself used “Shitstorm” more than once while in office. In German though, it can refer specifically to a social media backlash involving heated online comments.

Another typical English-sounding word used in German differently is ‘Handy’ – meaning cellphone (well, it does fit in your hand). It can sound a bit strange to English speakers, though. 

Other words, however, more or less mean what you think they do – such as when one German newspaper referred to Brexit as a ‘Clusterfuck’.

READ ALSO: Shitstorm ‘best English gift to German language’

SHOW COMMENTS