When I first moved to Bavaria, I thought who is this Christie, and why does she keep phoning my boyfriend? I soon learned that when Markus was answering phonecalls he wasn’t saying ‘Hallo Christie!’ but ‘Hallo Grüß dich!’ a common Bavarian greeting which means ‘greet you.’ Bavaria is one of those lovely places you see in adverts where people shop with woven baskets, cows really do eat grass in fields backed by snow-capped mountains, and strangers still say hello to one another in the street. Even teenagers. And when you walk into cafes people will look up from their coffees and welcome you. Having lived in London for ten years – where you’re more likely to be stabbed for your chips than greeted – such friendliness is a strange but welcome revelation. And aren’t Germans famously cold? Obviously not! As well as Grüß dich, Bavarians also say Grüß Gott (greetings from God or God bless you), Servus, which can also be used for goodbye, the German hello, hallo, and less commonly, hi. So how do you choose the greeting that’s right for you and the situation? See my guide below.
Grüß Gott: The favourite of catholic housewives aged 40 and above, of which there are many in Bavaria. Very formal. Use it when greeting people you don’t know, or ones that you are meeting for the first time, such as your new landlord or boss. Laughed at by northern Germans, who don’t seem to like Bavarians very much. That feeling is mutual.
Grüß dich: Slightly less formal. Favoured by older people or used by the younger generation as a joke. My neighbour says it to me a lot.
Servus: Say it to friends – or to someone you don’t know at your own peril. Informal.
Hallo: This is the German way of saying hello. Therefore, it is not strictly Bavarian. Bavarians don’t really do German. If you really want to be one of the locals, then see above. Avoid Guten Tag (good day) in Bavaria for this reason too.
Hi: Possibly the quickest way to offend a Bavarian, unless they’ve said it to you first. Says ‘I’m proud not to be one of you, I’m far too cool and down with the kids’. Or an actual kid. Besides foreigners, the only person I’ve heard saying it here is our 12-year-old neighbour.
To confuse matters further – in good old German fashion – you can also use a combination of these greetings. Popular ones include ‘hallo Servus’ or ‘hallo Grüß dich.’ Good luck!