German Culture Reference Guide

Greeting Norms


  • Hallo - Hello

  • Guten Morgen - Good Morning

  • Guten Tag - Good Day

  • Guten Abend - Good Evening

  • Auf Wiedersehen - Goodbye (formal)

  • Cio - Goodbye (borrowed from Italian, popular with younger Germans)

  • Bis Morgen - See you tomorrow

  • Wie ist ihr - What is your name?




Communication Styles


Straightforward and direct speech is appreciated by the German culture, they are polite and the culture follows a formal communication style. Honesty is of extreme importance. They are diligent about thinking before speaking. 


Small talk is not a part of the German culture, the German approach of being direct reduces the risk that people will not comprehend what was said.




Personal space and touching


Personal boundaries are very important, individuals from non-contact culture stand further apart. Hugs are reserved for family and friends, within the German community arms length distance is sufficient. Unless they are close friends, touching someone on the shoulder or arm to illustrate a point is usually appropriate, but can otherwise be seen as a sexual advancement. People prefer not to touch each other during conversation. It's courteous to apologize if you inadvertently knock into someone and say “Entschuldigung” (excuse me).




Eye contact and gestures


Germans, particularly during face-to-face conversations, respect eye contact, seeing it as a sign of sincerity and participation in the discussion. An individual is considered to be untrustworthy and of poor character who does not look you in the eye. With discretion, smiles are used, normally reserved only for close friends and relatives. As is popular in the United States, Germans do not usually smile to demonstrate politeness.



German Population in the United States

German Interpretation and Translation Services

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LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GERMAN LANGUAGE

German Dialects

Generally speaking the German dialects are split into high German(Hochdeutsch) and low German (Niederdeutsch) vernaculars.


Northern vernaculars, such as the Schleswig, Holsatin, and Ostfriesian dialects, contain Low German.


Centrally located dialects such as Limburgish or Brandenburgische. In areas like Cologne (Ripuarian) and Hessen, Middle German is found.


Berlin is also right at the heart of the Middle German language area, but its dialect is metropolitan - A mixed dialect of a city consisting of vernaculars. 


In the area stretching from Franconia through Austria and Switzerland, Upper German is spoken.

Countries Where German is the Official Language

German is the most widely spoken mother language and an official language in 5 countries in the European Union which include: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg. German is also an official in Switzerland.

  • Germany

  • Austria

  • Belgium

  • Liechtenstein

  • Luxembourg

  • Swizterland

Around 1.06 million people speak German in the United States. In North Dakota, it is the second most spoken (1.39 percent of its population). It is the most widely spoken language in 16 states, other than English and Spanish. 


On the basis of the 2010 census results, German is the 11th most commonly spoken language in the world, with over 132 million speakers, of whom 79 million live in Germany. About 76 million people speak German as their first language worldwide, with an additional 56 million speaking it as a second, third or fourth language. 

Pennsylvania has the largest German-American population and is home to one of the founding settlements of the community - in 1863, Germantown. According to the census, the state has 3.5 million people claiming more German descent than Berlin, Allegheny county, which includes Pittsburgh, has 348,979 German-Americans.