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Darf ich mich vorstellen?

It is written in many textbooks as a first phrase to learn. However, since I came to Germany a while ago. I have never heard anyone uses such a phrase on a daily basis.

Questions:

  1. When do you really need this phrase? (ex. situation)
  2. Is there a more natural/common way to introduce yourself to someone?
  3. How about the politeness? Is there a culture where you should not introduce yourself but wait for others to do so?
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Well, in textbooks you often learn sentences that aren't very likely to be said. Textbooks often needs some easy phrases to get you used to the language. I'm quite sure the respective phrase in your native language isn't in use either, is it?

Anyway, I can think of two groups of people who use this phrase. The first group consists of comedians, presenters or any other people who are about to give a monologue and who think that they possibly aren't known to the audience/listeners.
The other group are agents and the like who unexpectedly confront you with something and they want to get you into a conversation about something. They might use that phrase just to get your attention.

There are many ways to introduce yourself. Too many, to list them all. I'm giving a few examples below. Note that that sentence you've given might occasionally be used, though.

When joining a group or meeting a person:

  • Hi, ich heiße Em1.
  • Hallo zusammen, ich bin der Em1.

During a conversation when you haven't introduced yourself yet:

  • Entschuldigung, ich habe mich noch gar nicht vorgestellt. Ich bin Em1.
  • Ach, ich heiße übrigens Em1.

Or you ask them what their name is and then, of course, they'll ask the same question.

Me: Wie heißt du eigentlich?
You: Ich bin Wasu, und du?
Me: Ich bin Em1.

Your third question is partly off-topic as there aren't much cultural differences between German native speakers (living in Germany and surrounding countries) and we won't address cultures other than German ones.
In Germany, it is polite to introduce yourself. Depending on the situation you should do it right away (like an agent or a presenter).
In other situations you do it a bit later, e.g. when you happened to run into a conversation with someone at the gym. You don't start off such a conversation by introducing yourself, but if the conversation keeps going, you should briefly tell your name at some time.

  • 1
    I wouldn't say "ich bin der Em1" or "ich bin die iris". That sounds like a introduction at the anonymous alcoholics or another support group. "ich bin iris" is usually better. Except you do it on purpose and use it as a joke. – Iris Dec 28 '15 at 13:37
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  • Man kann sich schon mit 'der Em1' vorstellen, etwa wenn man erwartet, dass man der Person aus Erzählungen bekannt ist, einer entfernten Großtante etwa, die kommt, und die drei Brüder Em1, Em2 und Em3 anzutreffen erwartet. Mit 'Ich bin der Em1' sagt man damit, dass es keinen anderen Em1 gibt. In einer größeren Gruppe, wo man nicht alle kennt, und vielleicht ein zweiter Em1 existiert, würde man den anderen Em1 brüskieren. – user unknown Dec 28 '15 at 21:54
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    @userunknown Gilt nur für Gegenden, wo der bestimmte Artikel nicht Usus ist. Ich würde mich gegenüber Leuten, von denen ich ein du erwarte, immer mit »Ich bin der Jan« vorstellen. Auch wenn der nächste Satz »Ich bin neu hier, ihr kennts mich noch ned« ist. – Jan Dec 29 '15 at 12:35
  • Darauf würde ich immer mit "welcher Jan?" reagieren. – user unknown Dec 30 '15 at 1:42
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Em1 already discussed many specifics, but I think one fundamental point that should be added is that "Darf ich mich vorstellen" is a perfectly legitimate sentence, but it represents somewhat old fashioned manners in most situations. There's the added complication that while introducing others is perfectly respectable behavior, introducing oneself can often be considered a bit gauche.

Social situations where "Darf ich mich vorstellen" is a good phrase:

  • You're in a traditional dancing class and have just met a new partner.
  • Your significant other has invited you to your first family gathering, and you're sitting next to an elderly relative.

So if you're in "polite" and somewhat formal company, and have a good reason for the other person to get to know you, go ahead and use the phrase.

I believe the situation is quite similar to "Allow me to introduce myself", when used outside of Rolling Stones songs.

  • Sorry, but those dancing classes ceased to exist in the last century. (And yes, I have worked in a dancing school for some time. If the instructor tells you otherwise, it's ironic.) – Stephie Dec 29 '15 at 6:02
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    Don't knock the last century, that's when I took my dancing classes… Are you quite sure that the phrase would be out of place when, e.g. dancing with a debutante at the Opera Ball? – microtherion Dec 29 '15 at 13:39

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