Our company culture is very informal. We all use first names, and everyone is per du with everyone else. But I'm not really comfortable addressing my boss as "Lieber Thomas" in an email or letter - that seems a little too informal. "Sehr geehrter Thomas" just sounds ridiculous, though. I've been starting my emails with "Hallo Thomas" so far, but that doesn't seem ideal, either.

Is there a better way to (semi-)formally address people you're on a first name basis with?

  • 7
    What's wrong with "Hallo Thomas!"?
    – Jan
    Sep 26 '11 at 9:00
  • @Jan It sounded sounded informal and clumsy to me, but since you and at least two other people apparently think it isn't, I might stick with that. You might want to turn this into an answer, and then we can see from the votes if it really is a popular option?
    – Cass
    Sep 26 '11 at 9:28
  • That's the funny consequence of the formalisation of informal behaviour, or pretending to be friend with each other, while in reality you are 'Herr und Knecht', to cite Hegel. Sep 27 '11 at 22:00
  • Be careful not to lose sight of the difference between a letter and an email. Email is a quick-fire medium with much less formality involved (even if many companies tend to polish their mails with corporate logos and such). "Hallo X" is perfectly OK in an email if that's the company policy, but I would feel somewhat less-than-polite if I'd use "Hallo X" in a "real" letter (which I wouldn't write to any of my "Hallo"'d coworkers anyway).
    – DevSolar
    Sep 28 '11 at 15:40

I would stick with "Hallo Thomas!". At least that's what I'm using most of the time, and it seems to fit pretty well :-)

  • "Hallo X" is also used in my company, even when addressing customers. The customers (a few relatively large companies) do exactly the same. Just keep in mind you shouldn't do that to someone totally unknown. If you know the person, or someone else forwarded you to him, it's fine. Sep 26 '11 at 10:19
  • Where I work, it's perfectly normal to address each other with "Hallo <first name>" in e-mails and with "Du" in person, even if we don't know each other personally. HR and upper management is usually excluded though, and to be more general, your mileage may vary.
    – Jan
    Sep 26 '11 at 10:30
  • 4
    Same here. I do even use "Hallo Herr Müller" for people I am not per Du. See also german.stackexchange.com/q/1688/23.
    – Takkat
    Sep 26 '11 at 10:34
  • @Jan: We're so small that everybody knows each other within the company, but I know from larger companies that they also say "Du" to coworkers if they don't know each other. But for customers, i.e. people from other companies, the "Du" is of course not applicable unless explicitly offered, hence it's "Hallo Herr/Frau X". Sep 26 '11 at 11:43

In the last ten years there is a strong shift from "Lieber Thomas!" to "Hallo Thomas,", but I would like to point out that "Lieber Thomas!" is not more informal than "Hallo Thomas", the opposite is true because "Liebe(r)" can absolutely be used with last names, too while this would sound strange to me with "Hallo".

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