Things not to say in German

Tips for avoiding accidently insulting someone

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Hudson
Hello.

I heard about this but have had adventures with it anyway - I sure get mixed reactions when I ask somebody how he/she is; from semi-friendly to indulgent to stare-in-the-face and say-nothing. I hear there are levels between "Wie geht es Ihnen" and "Wie geht's" , and I have tried to explain that it is quite common for an Englisher to ask how a person is, as a sort of wheel-greasing thing and actually sort of expect a semi-friendly but not-too-intimate answer, but it is really odd to see how the reaction will be..

?
Hudson
Bipa
Yeah... I had that at first, too. Now I differentiate in my greetings. Stangers get just a simple "Hallo" or "Tag" or "Guten Tag" or "Grützi " ... (whatever is the common "howdy" where I'm currently located.) Only to people I've already met a few times do I follow up with a "Wie gehts?"
junebugs84
ha, apparently you are not supposed to say, spindst du oder was? to someone you don't know very well, (i am more than sure I've spelled that first word wrong) its are you crazy or what. apparently it should only be said to someone you know very well and as a joke. weird because in english I can say, "what are you crazy" or "are you crazy or what" with no problems. takes getting used to, so i have to get my satisfaction from saying it to the hubby whenever the situation will allow it. ha.
LittleSprite
In Germany "Wie geht es Ihnen" resp. "Wie geht's" is not so much a harmless, firendly way of greeting people, than it is a serious question. Therefore it only makes sense to ask people how they are if you expect an honest (and possibly quite thorough) reply - which is also why strangers might consider that question a bit obtrusive - and why anybody who replies to that question by telling you about their ingrown toenail will expect you to listen eagerly.

I only say "Wie geht's" to my friends, family and co-workers - and then expect them to tell me about their weekend, health etc.

As for "spinnst du" - the "du" is informal, so addressing strangers that way is bad manners in any case. Come to that "spinnst du" usually isn't really considered a very funny/cool remark even among friends.
garibaldi
In Germany "Wie geht es Ihnen" resp. "Wie geht's" is not so much a harmless, firendly way of greeting people, than it is a serious question.
Wie geht's?
Danke!
Littlespit, do you really deem that serious?
Genie
Shocking. When you ask a German how he is, he will actually expect you to really mean what you asked (otherwise why ask?), and will respect you with a full answer, or if he has never seen you before, reply with a look that says "as if you fucking care?". Appalling.

Obviously, the alternative anglophonic , hypocritical "how are you?" when you don't really care, acknowledged with the obligatory "fine thanks" even if the asked person just lost his job, his favorite dog died and found out his 10 year old daughter is a crack addict, represents far better communication between people.

Now, what was the question again? Oh, right, how Germans are crazy and their customs are weird.
LittleSprite
Littlespit, do you really deem that serious?
For me, everything is dead serious.

Nah, but it really depends on the people involved. Some will just reply with "passt scho", but I wouldn't rely on that. Better to be on the safe side than having to listen to your neighbour for hours while they're talking about their last holiday on Mallorca. It can happen!
LittleSprite
anglophonic , hypocritical "how are you?" when you don't really care
Well,in English speaking countries "How are you" is only an empty phrase - just like "Grüß Gott" in Bavaria, where nobody actually means it as a real religious blessing (as the words suggest). I wouldn't consider the use of "how are you" any more hypocritical than I'd consider the non-religious use of "Grüß Gott" blasphemous.
Genie
Actually, I find Grüß Gott a bit unnerving, as will many Germans from outside of Bavaria. I prefer by far Servus or Hallo or Guten Morgen/Tag whatever. Pfiati is also a bit borderline for me, but still on the OK side of it (the person is wishing for you that god will take care of you, which is alright).

But then again, it's not exactly equivalent, because when talking to a person in English you don't come up to him and say "How are you", you say "Hello/Hi/Good Day/Greetings(not really)" (Grüß Gott /Servus/Hallo/Guten Morgen/Tag), and then you ask "how are you?". I'm just thinking, if you've already greeted the person and are not really interested in how he is, why ask?
LittleSprite
Actually, I find Grüß Gott a bit unnerving, as will many Germans from outside of Bavaria. I prefer by far Servus or Hallo or Guten Morgen/Tag whatever. Pfiati is also a bit borderline for me, but still on the OK side of it (the person is wishing for you that god will take care of you, which is alright).
It's the traditional greeting here and - as I said before - an empty phrase that's lost its religious meaning long ago. I guess people will just have to put up with what's normal here. "Servus" literally means "I'm your slave" - best to be translated as "at your service". Now I'd find that literal meaning a bit unnerving if I was so disposed...
sea-king
" Things not to say "
I would think Cunt would be very high on my list!
UrbanAngel
Hudson - I assume from your post that you're American... if you say 'how are you?' in Britain, it would usually be taken as a serious question too (though there are the empty responses like 'fine thanks, you?'). I understand that 'how are you' in the US means 'hello'. If so, how is one meant to respond to it? I get it on the phone from American callers sometimes and am not sure how to reply.
Pas
I tend to just say Hi. I need to stop doing this as it seems I'm just saying shark to everybody.
Bipa
Hmm... Definitely something NOT to say when you're on the beach!
LittleSprite
I tend to just say Hi. I need to stop doing this as it seems I'm just saying shark to everybody.
It tends to sound a bit fishy.
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