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I've heard Germans saying:

Gesundheit

But in a movie, someone sneezes and someone else saying:

Heuschnupfen?

Is it polite? Is it colloquial? What else could I say when talking to someone and he/she sneezes, politely and formally?

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Read this answer english.stackexchange.com/questions/53955/… –  Em1 Jan 27 '12 at 10:22
    
Verhaltensregeln nach Knigge: brigitte.de/gesund/gesundheit/knigge-niesen-564462 –  Em1 Jan 27 '12 at 10:25
    
Related: War "Gesundheit" immer nur ein Wort? –  splattne Jan 27 '12 at 11:29
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5 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Saying "Gesundheit" is the polite way. Asking if the sneezing person has hay fever is rude, but ok if you have a close relation to that person (close friend).

Polite alternatives would be "Geht's wieder?" (Better now?) or "Wirst wohl krank?" (Getting ill?). This way you can show that you care for the person that sneezes.

I personally do not agree with the newly promoted rule to say nothing as this shows ignorance and being ill is nothing to be ashamed off.

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Great answer, no further discussion. –  user508 Jan 27 '12 at 20:34
    
I don't like the new rule either and even caught me paying more attention to always say “Gesundheit”... –  cgnieder Feb 9 '12 at 19:08
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"Gesundheit"

Yes, it is polite.

"Heuschnupfen?" in the movie it could be a question. The person sneezes and the other one asks if it's due to hay fever.

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I see "Heuschnupfen?" is a question, the point is one would ask if the person caught a cold when someone sneezes. I'm asking if it's a better response than "gesundheit". –  user508 Jan 27 '12 at 13:17
    
Thank you for your answer, by the way. –  user508 Jan 27 '12 at 13:17
    
@Gigili I think the "Heuschnupfen?" thing is quite special. I wouldn't ask anyone why s/he's sneezong :-) –  Oli Feb 2 '12 at 7:57
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There isn't a (good) alternative.

The best you can say is simply Gesundheit. Some people add an additional pleasantry, like und ein langes Leben or whatever. But only a few people do so.

Some people, especially women, modify Gesundheit to something terrible like Gesundi, what is not an actual word, but is understood.

Knigge advises to ignore when someone sneezes. Moreover, he consider an excuse as required

Muss man selbst, oder aber eine andere Person in einem Raum niesen, ignoriert man dies als einen unerheblichen Zwischenfall. [...]

Ein kurzes "Entschuldigung" ist durchaus angebracht, [...]

Regarding Heuschnupfen: As Oli said, it'is a question if the man/woman who is sneezing has hay fever. Assuming, the scene of the movie is at a time, when there are a lot of pollen.

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"Gesundi"? Au weia... –  Jan Jan 27 '12 at 11:13
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And I have one more, but attention please. It is more painful than Gesundi :D Hatschi mein Schatzi :D –  Em1 Jan 27 '12 at 11:27
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I do not know who started this, that you should not say "Gesundheit" anymore, but all people I know do it. I have the feeling that some guys declared themselves as politeness experts (for what reason soever) and than started to tell everyone to skip it. Maybe some people are happy if they are told what to do ... –  John Smithers Jan 27 '12 at 13:02
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@JohnSmithers: I completely agree with you (on this issue only). As long as one would never say a "gesundheit" for each sneeze if someone sneezes a million times in a minute, saying nothing is not more polite than saying "gesundheit". –  user508 Jan 27 '12 at 13:12
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@OregonGhost: Knigge is overrated if you ask me. People who think they know better how to behave (especially if the majority looks like to disagree) are suspect at best. And "to comply with other cultures"? WTF? Have we really fallen that deep, that we are not allowed to have our own culture? –  John Smithers Jan 27 '12 at 13:35
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Früher sagte man in der Tat Gesundheit, aber heute ist es am höfltichsten gar nichts zu sagen.

Den meisten Leuten ist es unangenehm krank zu sein, und sie wünschen nicht daran erinnert, oder bemitleidet zu werden.

Entweder die Leute bekommen nur ein Staubkorn in die Nase, dann ist ein einzelnes Niesen kein Symptom mangelnder Gesundheit, und der Wunsch unangemessen. Oder sie sind wahrhaft erkältet, dann sind sie mit dem Herauskramen des Taschentuches genug bestraft, und wünschen nicht alle 10 Minuten einer anderen Person gegenüber in ein

  Gesundheit
  Danke 

Ritual zu verfallen. Höflicher ist es so zu tun, als habe man nichts gemerkt.

Wenn man jedoch den ganzen Tag mit einer anderen Person im Büro sitzt, dann kann man durchaus 1x morgends Gesundheit wünschen, aber bitte nicht zu jedem Nießer, und nicht auf dem Flur, wo sich das schnell zum Spießrutenlauf auswächst, wenn aus 7 Büros ein aufmunterndes "Gesundheit" schallt, für dass sich der Kranke dann jeweil artig bedanken soll.

Die Frage hat einen zweiten Aspekt, der offenbar von den Kommentatoren nicht bedacht wird, die eine Einmalige Verständigung über die Konvention als zu umständlich ablehnen, und sich fürchten als unhöflich zu gelten, wenn sie kein Gesundheit wünschen, und zwar ist dies die Interpretation, wenn andere Euch nicht Gesundheit wünschen. Betrachtet es dann zur Sicherheit als Versuch besonders höflich zu sein, und nicht als mutwilligen Affront.

Die Situation ist übrigens ähnlich zum Phänomen des Mahlzeit-Sagens, schön illustriert durch dieses Poltvideo .

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2  
This is correct. The politest thing is to say nothing at all. As a rule of thumb: "Don't comment any sounds of the body". –  Feroc Jan 27 '12 at 13:21
    
Doesn't the person get the impression that I don't care? –  user508 Jan 27 '12 at 13:25
    
@Gigili: Maybe. For a random contact, you will not care so much about it. For people, you're acting with on a daily basis, you can clarify it once for all times. Ask for an agreement for the new habit which you heard of, and which sounds reasonable to you. –  user unknown Jan 27 '12 at 13:36
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@userunknown: What about just saying "Gesundheit" when they sneeze instead of all of that agreements and clarifications? –  user508 Jan 27 '12 at 13:39
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@userunknown You must be an engineer :-) –  Jan Jan 27 '12 at 14:31
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In Austria (at least) you'll also hear "Zum Wohl" ("to your health").

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