In English it's quite normal to simply say "thanks" in daily conversations with strangers. However, in Germany I've mostly heard "danke schön" being said and have seldom heard just "danke", though I tended to say it, thinking it's similar to "thanks". Recently I've been thinking whether it is actually a bit rude/weird to leave out the "schön" part. This question similarly applies to "bitte"/"bitte schön".

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    "Danke"/"Bitte" is perfectly fine. It's neither rude or weird, just less enthusiastic and a bit less formal than the longer forms. – Arminius Apr 25 '17 at 4:45
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    @Arminius: Why post this as a comment rather than an answer? It's brief, yet to the point. ;) – ParaDice Apr 25 '17 at 8:31
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    A nice variant is to say, "Danke, (name of person)." – aparente001 May 1 '17 at 5:54

“Danke” is perfectly fine and just as good as “danke schön”. If you hear predominantly the latter then that may be a regional preference.

If you want to strengthen it a bit, you can say “vielen Dank”, and if you actually want to thank someone you can use a full sentence like “ich danke Ihnen/dir”. You may even append “vielmals”, but at some point it may start sounding insincere, of course always depending on the situation.

But again, to just say “thanks”, it is perfectly fine to use “Danke”. Or “danke schön” or ”danke sehr”, whichever you feel most comfortable saying based on the flow of your speech.

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    +1 on the part of sounding insincere. The longer your utterance gets, the more it sounds like you are weaseling out of something. Searching/keeping eye contact is more important than reciting another formula. – Janka Apr 25 '17 at 9:06

I am writing as an American who moves in German-American circles, where "danke" and "bitte" are perfectly fine.

It should be noted, however, that Americans, even German-Americans are less formal than Germans, who may prefer the longer forms, danke schön and bitte schön.

And even among Germans, the shorter forms are probably better accepted among younger, than older people.


Once, I was in a conversation with a native speaker (she is also kind of my german teacher). She asked me something and I said egal and she told me that the long version of my answer (es ist mir egal) is better and after I asked the reason, she told me that it is always more polite to prefer long sentences (where possible). Of course, that does not mean the shorter sentences are more impolite.

To answer your question, saying danke is neither rude nor weird but if you are looking for a better alternative, you can of course use the longer version.

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    Note that while it does carry a hunch of "I can't be bothered to utter the entire sentence to you.", answering just "Egal." is actually quite idiomatic German. – O. R. Mapper Apr 25 '17 at 18:19

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