Let’s be real: the truly useful things we remember forever are rarely the things we learn in the classroom.
And what better way to immerse yourself in a culture than by learning the lingo that natives will use in their day-to-day lives?
Whether you’ve been learning German for a while or you’re just getting started: forget Guten Tag and Auf Wiedersehen.
Instead, impress your peers with these 12 fun German greetings – the most common ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ expressions that’ll get you guaranteed brownie points with natives on your next German speaking adventure.
Saying hello in German
1. The popular one: Hallo
Instead of Guten Tag, which literally translates to “Good day”, try a friendly Hallo. Despite being slightly more informal, Hallo works at any time of the day, in any situation.
Careful, though: you can’t use it in all German-speaking countries. In Switzerland, Hallo is reserved for informal situations only.
2. The casual one: Hi
Use Hi with friends, or in informal situations – you’re always safe to repeat it when someone says it to you, but it may be best to avoid greeting your new employer that way… Unless they’re the kind of person you’d hang out with at the skatepark after work!
So better to be safe than sorry and use Guten Morgen or Guten Abend with your boss and in other formal situations.
Here’s a top tip:
Some people also say Hey instead of Hi – it works the same way and adds a little variety!
3. The one that’s the perfect all-rounder: Na?
This one is used very casually. It’s almost a little cheeky.
Na actually doesn’t mean anything – besides being a sort of ‘greeting’, it’s also a filler we use similarly to “well” in English.
To use Na? as a greeting, you can make it sound one of two ways.
We often say it by upping our intonation at the end of the word, as if we were asking a question, with a long, stretched out ‘aaaa’ sound at the end: Naaaa?
Add a smile to your elongated ‘naaah’ sound, and you might get some quality gossip in return!
Interested in learning German? Start by brushing up on your German greetings with Busuu’s German course.
You can also pronounce it with a shorter ‘aaaa’ sound, similar to how you’d say “yes?” when answering the phone: Na?
With this one, though, don’t expect to get a lengthy response; since this isn’t an actual word, people might acknowledge you with a greeting in return.
4. The chilled one: Alles klar?
This greeting might be the opener of a casual chat: Alles klar? literally translates to “Everything clear?”
It’s actually the cool, laid-back little brother of Wie geht es dir? (“How are you?”).
We use it similarly to “You alright?”, or “How’s it going?”.
5. The lively one: Huhu!
If Huhu were a scenario, it’d be your annoying neighbour spotting you and, bursting with excitement, making a beeline straight for you so they can fill you in on the latest gossip.
I bet you can almost hear the pitchy Huuuhuuu! now…
That’s the greeting in a nutshell. But don’t worry – it isn’t always used in scenarios that make you want to hide behind your front door. It’s also a really nice and cheerful way to greet a group of friends.
6. The one for the cool kids: Was geht ab?
If you luck out and end up hanging with the ‘cool kids’, you’ll definitely hear Was geht ab? or sometimes just Was geht?.
These greetings mean, “What’s up?” – and are often accompanied by a more or less complicated crew handshake.
Fair warning: don’t go to town on this one, especially when you’re speaking to young people you don’t know.
Starting a conversation with Was geht ab? might look as though you’re trying too hard…
7. The ones they use up North: Tachchen and Moin Moin
Millennials just to love everything vintage and individual, which is why you’ll hear them occasionally use some traditional regional greetings from northern Germany in some of both the North and South parts of the country – ironically, of course.
Tach (and Tachchen) is based on the word Tag (“day”) and is largely used in northern Germany. It’s a friendly, perky and colloquial way to say “hi”, and can be used throughout the day.
Moin, Moinsen or Moin Moin are variations of another cheerful greeting originating in northern Germany, used particularly in and around Hamburg and Bremen.
This German greeting sounds like it derives from Morgen (“morning”), so even native speakers might find it weird to hear this greeting used around the clock – even at night!
But here’s some insider info for you: Moin actually comes from an ancient East Frisian word meaning “nice” or “good”. So you’re basically just wishing someone well with this. How lovely, eh?
It’s slowly making its way down further South, and is especially popular as a morning greeting amongst young people.
A tip to wow the locals:
You’ll often hear a combination of short greetings and questions.
Try them out next time and watch people’s jaws drop!
– Hey na, was geht ab? (“Hey, what’s up?”)
– Na, alles klar? (“Hi, you alright?”)
– Tachchen, wie geht’s? (“Heya, how’s it going?”)
8. The ones representing the South: Servus and Grüß Gott
Bavarian’s infamous Servus and Grüß Gott (literally meaning “greet God”) are the most common greetings in southern Germany and Austria.
Using it in other parts of Germany will definitely draw attention to you. If that’s what you’re after, or if you just want to be funny, try using them the next time you meet your German friends!
Here’s how the Germans do it:
To avoid the religious undertones of Grüß Gott (lit. “Greet God”) people often say Grüß dich or Grüß Sie / Grüezi (lit. “Greet you”).
9. The one that’s an oldie, but a goldie: Tschüss
Why don’t you replace the fairly stiff Auf Wiedersehen (“goodbye”) or Gute Nacht (“good night”) with a short and sweet Tschüss?
It’s much more common, and you can use it at any time of day.
You might hear different varieties, like Tschüssi, Tschüsschen or Tschüssikowski, for example. How cute, right?
Add these to your vocabulary and you’ll feel like a local in no time.
10. The one with a Mediterranian twist: Ciao / Tschaui
Here’s a word for bye-bye you can use to show off: ciao (also spelled tschau) and its variations, tschaui and tschau-tschau, are casual and joyful ways to say goodbye.
They’re borrowed from the Italian word, ciao. As if the German language didn’t already have enough words!
11. The one you use to say “Later, skater”: Bis dann / bis denne / bis dennchen
The variations of bis dann (“see you later”) are especially popular with German kids today: bis denne or bis dennchen are the cool, slangy versions you can fall back on in casual conversations with friends.
12. The one that keeps it cool: Hau rein / hauste
Hau rein, short hauste, literally translates to “hit (into) it”. It’s a weird one for saying goodbye, isn’t it? But the younger crowds like to keep things fresh.
Check this out:
There’s even a verb that goes with it: reinhauen is a slang term for “leaving”.
Can you see how it uses the same words as hau rein, but in a different order?
Hau rein, Alter! (“See ya, homie!”)
Better not to use any of these goodbye greetings in formal contexts, though.
Our final words of farewell
We all know uttering your first few words in German can be scary. But having the tools to start a conversation is the first step to getting over it.
So say goodbye to your awkward handshakes, bashful smiles and gimmicky mimes that have got you by to date. Now, you’re prepared to say hello and goodbye to everyone in every context. That’s all you’ll need to get a German conversation flowing.
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