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Lesson 9-2 - Lektion 9-2

Generally accepted norms of behaviour and common decencies in German countries

Lesson 9: Extension and revision of the second chapter of the course. Activity 2

From this activity you will learn new words, expressions, some information about norms of behaviour in German society.

As long as people exist, certain rules exist too, although these rules differ significantly from each other in different times and with different nations. Our modern life with its technology induced fast rhythm has considerably changed once hard rules of common decency. However, these rules continue to apply in one form or another and we follow them at work, in everyday life, in public places and on vacation. It is especially important to know them when you go abroad and not only to know them but be able to abide by them in order not to violate the customs of a country and its accepted norms of behaviour. Many of the rules below are shared by all European countries, while some are only specific to German countries.

Greeting. Men usually greet women first, similarly young people greet adults, subordinates greet their superiors. The person who enters the room or office greets the others first: men and women greet all those present, superiors greet their subordinates. While women may sit during the greeting, men have to stand up. A greeting is accompanied by a handshake: a woman first gives a hand to a man, seniors to juniors, superiors to subordinates. If someone breaks this order and extend you a hand to shake, shake it. If couples greet each other, women shake hands with each other first, then women extend their hands to men, and then men to men. When hosts greet their guests, first the hostess extends her hand to a female guest, then to a male guest, and then the host greets his guests in the same order.

At the table or in a group of guests a handshake is given in the order that starts with the person sitting (standing) next to you. It is standard practice to greet people when you enter the elevator of a small hotel or a house, but not a department store or a public transport. It is common to greet passengers when entering a compartment or a seat neighbour on a plane. It is not common to greet people in large hotels and when entering a restaurant, but you need to greet people sitting at the table you are going to sit. It is common to greet people when entering a bureau, a waiting room etc., and also in rural areas even if you meet a stranger.

Acquaintance. The main rule of introduction etiquette is: a man is introduced to a woman, the younger person is introduced to the older person, a junior member of staff to a senior member of staff. In a society, it is the host’s responsibility to get his or her guests acquainted with each other. In doing so, the host usually say: Darf ich vorstellen? or Darf ich bekannt machen? Herr und Frau A. – Herr В., Frau В. As a reply people usually say: Freut mich, Sie kennenzulernen! or (Sehr) angenehm! Sometimes, it is enough just to bow a little.

Restaurant. A man enters the restaurant hall first, then enters a woman. Upon leaving the restaurant, the woman goes first, then the man, who is supposed to open the door for her. Before the woman has a seat at the table, the man has to move the chair up to her. The waiter gives the menu to the woman first, then to the man or to them both. The order is made by the man. All prepared meals and beverages are given on the right-hand side. The dishes that you can choose from are given on the left-hand side. It is a man’s responsibility to taste the wine before the waiter poures it into the goblets.

Theatre. Cinema. The man helps the woman to take off her coat and hands it to the wardrobe. While the woman is checking if everything is all right with her attire, the man can buy the programme of the performance. It is not common to freshen yourself up in the auditorium as well as in the restaurant. The man enters the theatre or cinema auditorium first but leaves after the woman. If the seats are in the middle of the row, it is recommended to take them a bit earlier in order not to bother those who are already seating. If you have to pass through a filled row, turn to face the sitting viewers and while going towards your seats repeat: Gestatten Sie? – Danke! When taking seats, the man prepares the seat and after the woman has seated joins her on her left. After the performance, the man put his clothes on first (as in the restaurant), and then helps the woman with her clothes. He also has to accompany the woman home by asking: Darf ich Sie nach Hause bringen?

Public transport. Upon entering a bus (tram, subway etc.) the man lets the woman pass first. But he leaves first and helps the woman to get off. An exception is made for long distance trains where the man enters first in order to take a seat. Upon leaving the compartment, it is common to say goodbye: Auf Wiedersehen! or Gute (weiter) Reise! On a street with heavy traffic, the man follows the edge of the pavement. It is without question that you should give place to women and elderly people in transport.

Gifts. Flowers are given unwrapped, while the rest of the gifts should have beautiful packages. It is common to unwrap the gift in the presence of the giver and to thank him or her by saying Danke schön! or Vielen Dank! On anniversaries, weddings and other big celebrations a special table is usually laid where you can put gifts with a letter or a visit card so that a person whose anniversary is celebrated (or newly-weds) may thank the giver later. It is done in 10-14 days after the anniversary (wedding). When buying a gift, it is advisable to know the taste and propensities of the person who you are going to buy to. At the same time, it is important to remember that it is not the cost of the gift defines its value; it is not without reason there is a proverb in German: Kleine Geschenke erhalten die Freundschaft. “Small gifts keep the friendship”. If you are just visiting a friend or acquaintance, it is enough to bring a bouquet of flowers or a bottle wine and also sweets for the children. It is not recommended to give white flowers (and chrysanthemums) to elderly people and red roses to a married woman. If you give a book as a gift, it is recommended to make an inscription not on the book itself but on a separate card.

1. Answer the questions on the content of the text.

1. Since when do norms of behaviour exist? 2. Is it still necessary to follow the rules of common decency nowadays? 3. Who greets first? 4. Where is it common to greet people, and where is it not? 5. What is the right order to introduce people to each other?


2. Determine if the following statements are true or false (answer yes or no ).

  1. It is common to greet people upon entering the hall of a hotel (restaurant).
  2. Women extend their hands when greeting men.
  3. A waiter gives the menu to a man first, then to a woman.
  4. It is not common to face the sitting viewers when passing through the filled row.
  5. A woman enters the auditorium (restaurant) first.
  6. The order in a restaurant is made by a man.
  7. It is common to greet people sitting at the table you are going to sit.
  8. It is common to say goodbye to the rest of the passengers upon leaving the train compartment.
  9. After the performance, the man helps the woman with her clothes and then put his clothes on..


3. Answer the questions using the given words on the right.

1. You have been introduced to someone. What do you have to say now?

а. rote Rosen

2. Someone has just made you a gift. How would you like to thank him or her?

b. Vielen Dank!

3. You have just arrived at your destinaton point. What would you say upon leaving your compartment?

с. Freut mich, Sie kennenzulernen!

4. You are entering the lift of a residential building. What do you say?

d. Gute Reise!

5. What flowers should you not buy as a gift?

е. Guten Tag!


4. Say when you should use the following phrases.

1. Gestatten Sie? – Danke!
2. Darf ich bekannt machen?
3. Gute Reise!
4. Freut mich, Sie kennenzulernen!
5. Darf ich Sie nach Hause bringen?