German Greetings and Good-Byes
3 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of German Words and Phrases for Traveling
When traveling in German-speaking countries, you'll find that the words and phrases you use most frequently will be the common German greetings (Grüße). The words and phrases will quickly become second nature because you use them day in and day out with everyone you come across.
As you'd expect, you should use a polite greeting when you run into someone you know or want to know. But in most German-speaking countries it's considered good manners to greet everyone. So, whether you're speaking to a clerk, a waiter, or just bumping into someone on the street, you should still take the time to say a polite Guten Tag before you proceed.
The most common ways to greet someone in German are
Grüß Gott (Hello [in Southern Germany])
Guten Morgen (Good morning)
Guten Tag (Hello, Good afternoon)
Guten Abend (Good evening)
Although people in Germany usually prefer to greet non-family members with handshakes instead of the cheek kissing that is customary in most of Europe, cheek kissing is still a common type of greeting in many German-speaking countries. However, the rules regarding the number of kisses to give and knowing when and who to kiss change from place to place. The good news is that when you meet someone for the first time, you can usually just shake hands. Then just watch how other people interact. You'll quickly recognize the pattern.
There are also many ways to say goodbye.
Auf Wiedersehen (Goodbye)
Tschüs (Goodbye [Informal])
Auf Wiederhören (Goodbye [on the telephone])
Bis spatter (See you later)
Bis bald (See you soon)
Bis morgen (See you tomorrow)
Bis Freitag (See you on Friday)
Alles Gute (All the best)
Viel Glück (Good luck)
Machs gut (Take care [S])
Asking and responding to "How are you?"
How are you? How's it going? How many times a day do we hear or say these brief greetings at the beginning of our conversations? So many times, in fact, that half the time, we don't even pay attention. These pleasantries (Nettigkeiten) are common in German-speaking countries as well. The most common ways to ask how someone is doing are:
Wie geht's? (How's it going?)
Geht es Ihnen gut? (Are you well?)
Wie geht es dir? (How are you? [Informal])
Wie geht es Ihnen? (How are you? [Formal])
As you'd expect, when someone asks you how you're doing, there are many possible responses.
Gut, danke. (I'm fine, thank you.)
Es geht mir sehr gut. (I'm very well.)
Ziemlich gut. (I'm rather well.)
Nicht schlecht. (Not bad.)
Viel besser. (Much better.)
Nicht gut. (Not well.)
Once you've said that you're fine, or good, or so-so, it is customary to ask how the other person is doing. You can do this easily by saying Und dir? (And you? [Informal]) or Und Ihnen? (And you? [Formal]).