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In German you may say Auf Wiedersehen or Guten Tag when leaving. Both seem rather formal and may be inappropriate in a non-formal context.

What would be the alternatives? In what context can we use each of them?

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Tschüss, tschau, bis bald, bis gleich, bis nächste mal .. – user128 May 25 '11 at 10:23
@Boob "bis nächstes Mal" (I'm not always this picky, but I make an exception for this site ;-)) – Jürgen A. Erhard May 25 '11 at 13:18

12 Answers 12

up vote 23 down vote accepted

There is a myriad of answers for that. Just try to summarize:

  • Tschüss / Tschüssi° (Saxony?) / Tschö° / Tschüü° / Tschüssle (Swabian)
  • Tschau
  • Servus (Bavaria and Austria, very common)
  • Pfiat di (Bavaria, comes from "Behüt dich Gott")
  • Bis bald / Bis dann / Bis denne°
  • Mach's gut (Saxony/East/...?)
  • Man sieht sich
  • Wiedersehen / Wiederhören (last on phone, both half formal and good to start with)
  • Lass es dir gut gehen °
  • Schönen Tag (noch°)
  • Hau rein°° / reinhauen°° / Hauste °° (Berlin) (this one is quite controversial - some say it's absolutely normal and widely used, others find it pretty slangish and rude... I've never heard it myself, but I think it's more of a guy's thing. Seems to be more used in the North, though.)
  • Tschüssikowski°° (a bit satirical, thanks to Stefan for adding it)
  • (Uf) Widerluege (Swiss, thanks to adolf garlic)

Also, loads of foreign language phrases are used (whatever someone thinks is "cool"), like:

  • Ciao
  • Cu°° / Cya°°
  • Adios°
  • Bye° / Bye bye°°
  • Adieu°/Adé
  • Hasta la vista°° (, Baby...)°°°
  • Hasta luego°°
  • Salut / Salü
  • Arrivederci°
  • Dosvedanja°°
  • Hade (introduced by Turkish minority)° or even °°°

Or anything else, I've even heard friends leaving with:

  • Horrido!°°
  • Wiederschaun, reingehaun!°° (that's from a German TV show)
  • Du mich auch.°°° (actually a typical answer to a german "F*** you", so don't use it - but also don't be offended if someone uses it around you, it's considered a rough joke)
  • Schleich di°° (Means "get lost", southern dialect)

So, you see, there is no exact answer to that. Just listen to what people around you are saying, as it really varies from region to region, age to age and even from clique to clique!

Usually, "tschüss" is accepted everywhere, though, especially if you're not a native speaker. It probably isn't a good idea trying to pronounce "pfiat di" with a foreign accent. ^^

Edit I've added some marks to make the usage clearer.

° = pretty informal, maybe a bit immature

°° = very informal, use it only with good friends, may also be considered immature

°°° = usually way over the top for use by yourself, but don't be offended if you hear it

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I'd have to know the people VERY well before I parted with them uttering a "Du mich auch". Unless I feel I don't want to see them ever again, that is. – teylyn May 25 '11 at 11:38
Yes, of course. The last ones were only for demonstrating the variety. Still good you pointed it out, I will add a note. – ladybug May 25 '11 at 11:42
ladybug, cf mein Kommentar zur Antwort von mbx. Es ist unverantwortlich, einem Lerner semi-vulgäre Brocken vorzuwerfen, ohne zu erklären in welchem Kontext sie angebracht oder unpassend bis über-peinlich sind. Ich sehe auch nicht, dass ein "Du mich auch" als Äquivalent von "F*** you" je eine empfehlenswerte Alternative zu "Auf Wiedersehen" ist. Die Betonung liegt auf "empfehlenswert". Hier sind Lerner der deutschen Sprache interessiert an korrekten Redewendungen. "Du mich auch"??? Das ist Gosse. – teylyn May 25 '11 at 12:05
Hab ich schon verstanden, danke. Und dementsprechend geändert. :-) Genausogut kann es aber einem Deutschlerner passieren, dass er in Deutschland in der U-Bahn eine umgangssprachliche Phrase aufschnappt und falsch verwendet. Oder jemand sich bei ihm so verabschiedet und er dann total beleidigt ist. Du hast natürlich recht, dass man es nicht unkommentiert stehen lassen sollte, aber ganz weglassen halte ich auch nicht für hilfreich! – ladybug May 25 '11 at 12:09
Bei so vielen Varianten von "Tschüss" wundert es mich schon, das "Tschüssikowski" nicht dabei ist. ;-) – Stefan Aug 2 '11 at 22:20

Guten Tag as a closing salutation is by far not as widely used as Auf Wiedersehen, which should be fine for all purposes where you would also use Sie instead of Du.

For a generic salutation that is more informal, you could use "Tschüss!", which I would translate as "See you!" or "Bye!". In southern Germany (especially Baden-Württemberg), there's also "Ade!" (emphasis on the e), and younger people often use "Tschau!".

Tschüss, Ade and Tschau have the same roots, originally even with a religious connotation (french adieu, "be with god" → atschüstschüss), but that is long gone.

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Good answer, but I think 'Tschau' should be added for completeness as it has been adopted widely in the last 20 years, especially by younger people. It's a little bit more informal than 'Tschüss' and has obviously been taken from the Italian 'Ciao'. In that context one should note, that in contrast to Italian, 'Tschau' is never used as an opening salutation in German. – Deve May 25 '11 at 11:10
@Deve good point, although I'm not too sure if that's really that widespread - I've heard it more often in the South. Edited it in anyway. – Jan May 25 '11 at 11:41
Ok, your right maybe. – Deve May 25 '11 at 11:49
That's right, but it is indeed quite rare nowadays, see Tomalak's comment here. It has been much more commonplace a few decades back - in movies from the 50s/60s, you can hear people using it all the time. – Jan May 25 '11 at 12:06
"Guten Tag" as "good bye" for me usually has a "f*** you" connotation, as in "Ich habe keine Lust, das weiter mit Ihnen zu diskutieren. Guten Tag." – balpha May 25 '11 at 12:08

I almost always use Schönen Tag noch, followed by Tschau or Tschüss. I wouldn't use the latter without the former however, that seems impolite to me.

Edit: Look at those answers flying in! I'd like to add that I've never heard Guten Tag used as "Goodbye" except by other foreigners.

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"Guten Tag" an older form of saying goodbye. Literally, you wish the other one a good day - which can be an both opening or closing salutation. It's common as an opening salutation today, but in old movies and TV shows (or books) you can still witness the use as a closing one. – Tomalak May 25 '11 at 10:30

Germans say "Tschüß", most commonly, or one of its variations ("Tschö", "Tschau", "Tschöß", depending on the region).

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"Tschö mit Ö" is yet another variation – mbx May 25 '11 at 10:30
@mbx I whack people who say that with sticks – Sean Patrick Floyd May 25 '11 at 10:34
I say "pfiati" (but it's an obscure dialect) :) – splattne May 25 '11 at 10:39
@splattne: obscure? Bavarian is obscure? ;-) – Jürgen A. Erhard May 25 '11 at 13:22
@jae no, I don't speak Bavarian, although is quite similar. I'm South Tyrolean. See: :) – splattne May 25 '11 at 13:25

To complete the answers already given: On the phone, you don’t say »Auf Wiedersehen«, but »Auf Wiederhören«. Even some German native speakers get this wrong.

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In my eyes/ears, that's quite old school :-) – Jan May 25 '11 at 11:51
@Jan: and formal too – mbx May 25 '11 at 12:15
Precisely. "Auf wiedersehen" is only pedantically wrong... OTOH, it feels wrong too. To me. But then I am old (school) ;-) – Jürgen A. Erhard May 25 '11 at 13:19

Occasionally you may hear "Viel Spaß (noch)".

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Makes sense only if it fits the context I'd say. – Stefano Palazzo May 25 '11 at 11:06
@Stefano: I'd say so too but I heard it a few times in a generic way. – musiKk May 25 '11 at 11:20

The informal form really depends on the region. Tschüss is probably fine everywhere, but in other areas people will prefer Servus, or others.

Tschüss, or the Rhineland variant Tschöö originate from the French "Adieu" (As an aside: Much of Germany was occupied by France off and on over the last few hundred years, so there is a lot of French influence in the regional German of the Rhine area, and some of it has spread to Standard German).

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An informal "see you" can be translated to "Man sieht sich" or "Bis dann"/"Bis denn(e)" (until then, so long). When you're out with your pals you can also hear "Hau rein" or "Mach's gut".

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"Hau rein" ist nun wirklich kein Beispiel für einen allgemeingültigen Abschiedsgruß. Das riecht zu sehr nach Bierzelt! Wenn ein fremdsprachiger Reisender sich von seiner Gastfamilie verabschiedet mit den Worten "Hau rein" -- da möcht ich mal die Gesichter sehen! – teylyn May 25 '11 at 10:37
Je nach Region... In Mecklenburg verwendet man es unter Freunden - auch ohne Sauf-Kontext :-) – Jan May 25 '11 at 11:44
@teylyn: Warum sollte man solche Infos verschweigen? Hat doch eher was von nice-to-know und ist für "Fortgeschrittene" hilfreich. Es geht auch nicht darum, zu interpretieren, ob es sich beim OP um einen blutigen Anfänger handelt. Die Frage wird von > 100 Leuten gelesen und die erwarten meist eine ausführliche/umfassende Antwort, besonders, wenn sie eine ähnliche Frage haben (Vermeidung von duplicated posts). Wenn es darum sehen soll, die Anforderungen für Anworten genauer zu definieren, ist meta der richtige Ort, dies zu diskutieren. – mbx May 25 '11 at 12:09
@ladybug: ich hab gesehen, dass Du aus Sachsen kommst ;-) – Jan May 25 '11 at 12:28
@Jan: ich wusste, ich hätte das nicht verraten sollen. ^^ na gut, back to topic. ;) – ladybug May 25 '11 at 12:30

Baba (with stress on the second syllable) is very common in Austria. (Informal, not among strangers, similar to Servus)

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Guten Tag isn't used as an ordinary way of saying good bye anymore. Actually, the only times I can remember hearing it used as such was when the parting party had to restrain themselves from storming out and slamming the door.

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unfriendly forms:

Da ist die Tür! 
Mach die Tür von draußen zu.

more subtile:

Wolltest Du nicht ins Kino gehen? (deine Mutter besuche/nachsehen, ob es noch regnet/ ...)
Ich glaube Dein Bus geht gleich.

to a third Person:

Herr Dwight wollte gerade aufbrechen.
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In Leipzig (and maybe in the whole Sachsen), you can use as well, i never saw it written, but you hear here a lot, something like "ciao-i", that sonds like "schau-ui"

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