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Assume the following situation. You're in an office in Vienna. It's time around lunch and normally one greets each other with "Mahlzeit". You go to a toilet and suddenly meet your boss there. How should one properly greet in such situation (as you can't just silently ignore him/her)?

Most of usual greetings sound a bit strange in this situation:

  • "Hallo" is too informal,
  • "Mahlzeit" can be treated like one's going to have a meal in the toilet,
  • "Servus" can be treated as you're offering some service at the toilet,
  • "Grüß Gott" may be harmful for a believer.

What is a proper one?

Update: Actually there's no such problem in our office as foreigners are quite common here and cultural differences are highly respected. But what I'd like to know is what is supposed to be used in such situations (in formal German). So, it's more theoretical, although it has a good practical application.

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5  
I agree that Mahlzeit in the toilet is weird. (Actually, I find it weird as a greeting anywhere, but I got used to it in the office.) Anyway, I love this question. :) –  Daniel Jan 30 at 15:51
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This may well be the best question ever asked here... One little note, however: the "Servus"/"Service" confusion is non-existent. Nobody will even associate the two. Anyway: I don't think there's anything wrong with any of your four options. If you work in an environment where you usually address your boss very formally, it's highly unlikely that you'll be using the same toilet. He'll have his own. –  Mac Jan 30 at 16:26
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Say nothing and give him a hug. –  Eric Muyser Jan 30 at 20:02
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A good nod would suffice. what do you think? –  user5337 Jan 30 at 20:13
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""Grüß Gott" may be harmful for a believer". It can also be infuriating for someone from a different (non-christian) religion or Atheist. "Guten Tag" or simply "Tag" is a valid alternative. Actually, when I worked in a callcenter we were told to completely drop "Gruesz Gott" and only use "Guten Tag/Morgen/Abend' because of that. Also I use "Guten Tag" as my default greeting, even when in the toilet, it's neutral. –  Bobby Feb 8 at 15:48

6 Answers 6

up vote 11 down vote accepted

This heavily depends on the workplace. There are a lot of offices where not a single word is uttered in the toilet, then there are others where lengthy conversations from stall to stall are common.

Also, the relationship to your boss plays a role, obviously.

So:
When in doubt, keep silent. Repeat their greeting if there is any.

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12  
While keeping silent, nod your head and smile (but not too much). :) –  Daniel Jan 30 at 15:48
    
Exactly. Non your head, perhaps a quick "Grüß Gott" and go about your business. –  Ingmar Jan 30 at 16:18
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Most people would nod silently (or mumbling something) anyway. For more or less obvious reasons especially shaking hands is not recommended. –  Hagen von Eitzen Jan 30 at 19:40
    
Almost 2 months have passed and, despite I can't say I'm fully satisfied, it seems to be a kind of "ist so". So this and @Ingmar 's answers seem to be the best, but npst was a bit faster, got more votes and being combined with comment from Daniel seems to be the best. –  Alexey Mar 25 at 16:38

Use the same greeting you would use otherwise, or none at all. (Perhaps not "Mahlzeit", I agree. Certainly not "Servus" unless you are "duzing" your boss.)

Notwhing wrong with Grüß Gott, even in front of the stalls.

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How about the good old:

Guten Tag!

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Too un-Austrian. ;) –  Daniel Jan 30 at 15:46
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Not in Austria. That said, "Grüß Gott" is perfectly fine for all faiths and denominations. –  Ingmar Jan 30 at 16:17
    
As an austrian who exclusively uses "Guten Tag", I can't find something wrong with it, and despite that most people greet me with "Gruesz Gott" they seem not to be irritated by it. –  Bobby Feb 8 at 15:51

While I don't know if it would be different in Vienna, I'm currently in another part of Austria, and here everyone uses Mahlzeit or Servus, sometimes Hallo. And that does not depend on where you are. I typically say Moin, since that's what we say where I am from. None of these has ever offended someone here (business setting), neither on the hall nor on the toilet, and no matter if it's an important person or not.

Even if the setting you're talking about is more formal, I think you can say the same thing to your boss on the toilet that you would say anywhere else to him as well. Just don't shake hands there ;)

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Mahlzeit or Moin are colloquial or informal. Depending on the work settings and etiquette employed at the company, they might be inappropriate to address one's superior. –  SentryRaven Jan 30 at 15:05
    
@SentryRaven: Yes, but I address that point in the last paragraph: Use the same things in the toilet you'd use everywhere else. –  OregonGhost Jan 30 at 15:11
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Yup, I agree. The only situation I can think of where even that would be inappropriate, is in a very informal setting where you usually greet your boss with "Na Kurzer?"... –  SentryRaven Jan 30 at 15:13
    
Interestingly enough "Mahlzeit" can usually be used for most situations (in a workplace environment, that is), be it your boss, your coworkers or a customer. It's very egalitarian in that regard :-) –  Ingmar Jan 31 at 10:42

It was rule in the army when I served in the 80s that there was no need to greet nor to talk. I always kept it like this later in life.

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The unwritten rule is to not speak on the toilet as far as I know. In Germany at least. Maybe a look, but even that is avoided.

If you want to talk, leave the toilet first. Would be my recommendation.

My current workplace in Ireland is less awkward. A simple "Hallo" or "hello" suffices. Or just "tach".

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