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A Quick Guide to German Greetings

Greetings are the gateway to lasting friendship. Before your trip to Germany, check out this list and you’ll be making friends in no time.

I. How to greet someone at anytime of the day in German

We never really have to think about it, but saying hello to those around you can, at times, be more complicated than expected. For those times when a simple “hi” won’t suffice, we’ve got you covered.

“Good morning” in German

Guten Morgen

Nothing brightens up a day more than a cheerful “Guten Morgen”. Be sure to use this phrase to greet the locals as you make your way down the German streets.

Here's a sample conversation:

"Guten Morgen!"

"Guten Morgen, wie geht's?"
"Good morning!"

"Good morning, how’s it going?"

“Good afternoon” in German

Guten Nachmittag

Keep that energy going with a hearty “Guten Nachmittag”. The afternoons can be so dull sometime. Use this greeting to lift the spirits of those around you and you just might make some friends before dinner.

Check out an example conversation below. 

"Guten Nachmittag!"

"Guten Tag. Es ist ein schöner Tag."
"Good afternoon!"

"Good day. It’s a beautiful day."

“Good evening” in German

Guten abend

It’s getting late and everyone is looking tired. But, you are on vacation. Spread some of that travel induced energy with a friendly “Guten Abend”. The night is young after all.

Here's an example way to say it.

"Guten Abend!"

"Ich wünsche ihnen noch einen schönen abend."
"Good evening!"

"Have a great night."

2. How to greet someone in German during special occasions

If you are lucky enough to spend some time in Germany during a special occasion, come prepared with whatever greeting the holiday requires.

“Happy Birthday!” in German

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag

Do you know any German-speaking person who will be celebrating his or her birthday soon? Simply say, " Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!"

“Merry Christmas!” in German

Fröhliche Weihnachten

Christmas is the most magical time of the year. Don’t act like a Grinch and keep to yourself. Get out there and spread some of that holiday cheer. Why not a sing a carol while you're at it?

Here's an example conversation. 

"Ich habe dir Geschenk gekauft."

"Danke, Fröhliche Weihnachten!"
"I bought you a present."

"Thank you, Merry Christmas!"

“Happy New Year!” in German

Frohes neues Jahr

If you’re in Germany for the New Year and you’ve been making sure to greet the locals with some of the prior phrases, there’s no doubt you will find yourself at a New Year’s party. Make sure to ring in the year on the right foot and wish everyone a “Frohes neues Jahr”.

"Drei, zwei, eins...

Frohes neues Jahr!"
"Three, two, one...

Happy New Year!"

“Happy Independence Day!” in German

Frohlichen Unabhangigkeitstag 

No, Germany doesn’t celebrate the American holiday. However, if you are in Germany on the 4th of July and looking to spread some American culture, this is the phrase to do it.

Germany does have it’s own Unity Day on October 3rd. If you find yourself in Germany at that time, and are looking for a special way to cheer the locals, tell them  “Auf die Deutsche Einheit”.

Frohlichen Unabhangigkeitstag!Happy Independence Day!
Auf die Deutsche EinheitHappy German Unity Day!

“Happy Easter!” in German

Frohe Ostern

Make the most of your next Easter vacation with this greeting. You may just score some of that delicious German chocolate.

"Hier kommt der Osterhase!

Frohe Ostern!"
Here comes the Easter bunny!

Happy Easter!

“Happy Valentines!” in German

Alles Gute zum Valentinstag

Be sure to greet that special someone with this phrase on your next Valentine’s day. Oh and don’t forget the flowers and chocolates!

"Das Abendessen war perfekt. Alles Gute zum Valentinstag!""The dinner was perfect. Happy Valentines!"

“Happy Father’s Day!” in German

Alles Gute zum Vatertag

If you happen to know a father in Germany that deserves some praise, or you just want to confuse your own father, give this phrase a try.

"Papa, Willst du ein Bier?"

"Na sicher!"

"Bitte, Alles Gute zum Vatertag!"
"Would you like a beer dad?"

"Of course!"

"Here you are, Happy Father’s Day!"

“Happy Mother’s Day!” in German

Alles Gute zum Muttertag

Mothers need some love, too. Make sure you show your appreciation to any mothers in your life.

Or if you just see a mother during your travels, why not show her some support.

"Ich habe dir Blumen gekauft."

"Ach ja?"

"Alles Gute zum Muttertag!"
"I bought you flowers."

"Really?"

"Happy Mother’s Day!"

“Happy Anniversary!” in German

Frohes Jubilaum

Anniversaries are a wonderful thing. Don’t be the person that always forgets these important dates. It may cost you a relationship.

"Frohes Jubilaum! Ich Liebe Dich""Happy anniversary! I love you.

“Happy Halloween!” in German

Fröhliches Halloween

Don’t miss out on all the Halloween activities this year. Grab a costume, dish out some candy, and try not to scare the children with your pronunciation of “Fröhliches Halloween”.

"Fröhliches Halloween! Ich mag deine Kostüm.""Happy Halloween! I like your costume."

“Happy Thanksgiving!” in German

Frohes Thanksgiving

If you’ll be in Germany for Thanksgiving, and looking to spread some of your culture around alongside a plate of turkey and gravy, all you have to say is “Frohes Thanksgiving”. Good luck finding a football game though.

"Frohes Thanksgiving!"

"Was ist Thanksgiving?"
"Happy Thanksgiving!"

"What is Thanksgiving?"

“Happy Holidays!” in German

Schone Ferien

The perfect phrase for all seasons. Use this greeting when you are unsure what everyone seems to be celebrating, or when you are afraid of offending someone.

"Schöne Ferien!"

"Danke, Habe Schöne Ferien."
"Happy Holidays!"

"Thank you, have a happy holiday."

“Happy Labor Day!” in German

Frohen Arbeitstag

Who doesn’t like a day off from work? The Germans celebrate Labor Day on May 1st. If you happen to be in Germany on this day, be sure to greet the people with this phrase, as Labor Day would be a good opportunity to make some friends. Because, everyone will be on vacation!

"Welcher Tag ist heute?"

"Es ist der erste Mai."

"Frohen Arbeitstag!"
What day is it today?

"It is the 1st of May."

"Happy Labor Day!"

3. Formal and Informal Ways to Greet in German

Now that we have discussed the different ways to greet during different times of the day and during special occasions, let’s talk about the formal and informal ways to greet in German.

A key thing to remember is to err on the side of formality. The casual way to greet in German should only be used with family and friends. For the rest, always remember to use the formal way.

How to Say “Hello” in German

HalloHello
Grüß dichCasual hello
Guten TagGood morning or good day, but could also be used as “hello”

How to say “how are you?” in German

Wie geht es Ihnen?”how are you?” (formal)
Wie geht es dir?“how are you?” (Informal)

How to respond to “how are you?” in German

Es geht mir gut.I’m fine.
Es geht.So-so.
Es geht mir besser.I'm doing better.
Es geht mir schlecht.I'm not doing well.

How to say “excuse me” in German

Entschuldigen Sie bitteExcuse me (formal)
EntschuldigungExcuse me (informal)

How to say “goodbye” in German

Auf Wiedersehen!The standard “bye” in German
Tschüss!The informal “bye” in German
Bis baldSee you soon!
Bis späterSee you later!
Auf Wiederhören“Bye” on the telephone

4. Other Terms of Politeness and Niceties in German

Now let’s take a look at some more terms you could use to be polite in German.

BittePlease
Wie bitte?Pardon me?
DankeThank you
(Es) Tut mit leidI'm sorry
Wirklich?Really?
Echt?Really?
Sehr erfreut.Pleased to meet you.
Freut mich.I’m glad to meet you.
Mach's gut.Take care.
Pass auf dich auf.Take care of yourself.

Conclusion

Now you know how to greet like a true German. Now that you can talk the talk, it’s time to start talking. So get out there and greet the world.

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About the Author Charity Johnson

Charity Johnson is a third sector worker and former secondary teacher based in the Scottish Isles. Her blog, Archipelagal, is the (re)telling of her geographical and ideological whereabouts.

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