Sunday, December 9, 2012

Perpetual Handshaking and Timely Greetings

If you are going to work in Germany, get ready to shake the hand of every colleague you have every day. In America, we generally shake hands when first meeting someone, or if we haven’t seen each other in a very long time. Germans on the other hand want to shake hands one time per day.

Sometimes you will forget with which colleagues you have already shaken hands, and you may try to reshake and your colleague will begin to extend his or her hand until the moment of realization that that would be two shakes in one day, and one or both of you must jerk your hand away and exclaim "wir hatten schon!," because shaking hands twice in one day is just as unacceptable as eating two warm meals in one day. 

Oh, if the Germans I work with only knew. Man, I probably have some sort of disease from how many hands I've shaken!

On occasion the German you greet may be unable to offer you his hand because he has them both full, has dirty hands, or is sick (you can tell because they will wear a scarf around their neck, without exception), at which point you will be offered a wrist or an elbow, which you are obliged to awkwardly shake.

If one arrives a little late and it would cause an interruption to make way through the room shaking with each individual, it will suffice to knock on a table. It is understood that you have in this way greeted everyone in the room. You will get bonus points as a German insider if you yell out, "Es gilt", so that everyone knows they have been greeted.

On the subject of greetings, you must always check your watch before offering a greeting, because the standard greeting changes throughout out the day. Of course in the morning you say guten Morgen, but at about 11 a.m. Germans switch it over to mahlzeit or literally translated "meal time". This can extend well into the afternoon until it becomes a more natural guten Tag.

Telling people it is meal time for like 3 hours at midday weird. It should be stopped.

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