Sunday, December 17, 2006

Greeting people

We went out for a walk this afternoon onto the moor. No ankle mishaps this time, but lots of people and dogs out as it was lovely weather. A slight bit chilly, but other than when the breeze caught you or you noticed the lack of leaves on the trees, you would never know it's only a week until Christmas and nearly the shortest day of the year. I'm glad we got to get out and enjoy the sunshine.

I wish there was an easy greeting to give people here like there is in Bavaria. In Bavaria when we'd be out walking, you simply say "Grüß Gott" [groosz got] to everyone who crosses your path. It is a shortened version of the longer (and never used) greeting "Grüße dich Gott", which directly translated means "Greetings to God". This is a bit of a mistranslation, as the grüßen (greeting) verb here has the older meaning of blessing, rather than greeting. So it actually means "God bless you". Even non-Bavarians will make a joke of the direct translation though, answering "Yes, when I see him" or "Hopefully not too soon". But normally when you are out and about on a walk, if you say "Grüß Gott" to any group of people you come across, they will automatically answer back with a "Grüß Gott", especially anyone slightly older. Younger people might give more of a "Servus" or "Hallo" to each other. You can say it when you go into a small shop to greet everyone there or when you walk into the waiting room at the doctor's office as well. I loved getting this automatic interaction with people, it's seriously drummed in as the polite thing to say. It doesn't mean you are going to start having conversation with everyone there, it is simply cheery and nice; you aren't ignoring the fact that there are other people out there with you.

The British are friendly, they will smile or nod when you cross paths with them, but there isn't such a formal easy-to-use greeting. I say "Afternoon" when appropriate, but it just doesn't quite have the same feeling to it. "Hello" isn't quite right either, it sounds like you are about to engage them in conversation. Of course, the people sometimes aren't quite ready to be greeted either, so they don't have a quick reply ready, leaving them to just say "hello" back or give you a nod. "Good day", although appropriate at all times, sounds awfully formal, something you only here in 18/19th century period dramas with a "Good day sir!" to dismiss someone. I guess in time I'll probably get used to not greeting people, but I'd rather have something to say.

Oh, and for anyone who thinks that "Grüß Gott" is way to religious to say, remember that "goodbye" comes from the expression "God be with ye". It's just words for most nowadays.

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