I am searching for an appartement in Germany and I came across "1. Etage" which is normally the first floor.

However some countries have first floor for ground floor so I am confused now and I don't want to stay on ground floor.

  • 7
    This is actually not a German-language question, the ground floor is 0th in most if not all of Europe - including Anglophone countries. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storey#European_scheme Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 18:36
  • 7
    It also depends on the region. See e.g. de.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – knut
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 20:38
  • Possible duplicate: german.stackexchange.com/questions/5749/…
    – Takkat
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 8:52
  • The word "Etage" (rather than Stock or Geschoss) sounds like it came from the USSR where floors are indeed counted from 1 rather than 0 (so e.g. a 3-story house with a cellar would have floors -1, 1, 2 and 3). Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 12:50
  • @A.M.Bittlingmayer Note that your link mentions Spain where the "first floor" may be three levels above ground - I am always surprised how many stairs I have to climb until I finally reach the first floor when I'm there Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 19:17

6 Answers 6


In Germany, 1. Etage, 1. Stock, and 1. Obergeschoss all denote the first level above the ground floor (Erdgeschoss).

  • 5
    Where I grew up (East Berlin), "1. Etage" was the ground floor. Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:39
  • 2
    "1. Stock" for me (Rostock) is the ground floor, "Etage" is synonymous. "Obergeschoss" differs (that one is the first upper floor). As far as I know, this is true for East Germany in general.
    – Chieron
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 9:57
  • what's the lettering for "internal courtyard" on the shipment address?
    – sekmo
    Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 14:52
  • @sekmo: Probably "Innenhof", but this should be a separate question. Commented Dec 2, 2018 at 16:34
  • No. Not in all Germany. It's regional.
    – RichieHH
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 4:50

"Etage" is an elevated floor. Therefore, the 1 Etage is the first floor in the sense used in Britain or most parts of Europe that is the first elevated floor, not the ground floor.

The German for ground floor is "Erdgeschoss," where "Erde" means earth or ground.

  • 8
    That's why the elevator buttons are usually labelled E - 1 - 2 - etc.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 10:38

As said in knut's comment there are regions in Germany - especially in southern Germany - where people understand the term "1. Etage" differently than in the rest of Germany.

... especially people who do not deal with buildings professionally (such as architects or estate agents).

So if the description has been written by a private person and the house is located in southern Germany you have to ask the building's owner if "1. Etage" means "ground floor" or "first floor above ground floor". Use the wording "Erdgeschoss" and "Obergeschoss" to make sure you are talking about the same.

If the description has been written by a professional or the house is located in northern Germany the other answers are right.


After reading the comments:

It is not "southern Germany" in general, but only in some regions of southern Germany where "1. Etage" means "ground floor".

However in parts of eastern Germany this is also the case.

One comment says that the button for the ground floor in the elevator in a building in Dresden is named "1" which is not the case in any part of southern Germany.

Due to this fact it may be possible that in eastern Germany (or some regions there) even official documents (from architects or state agents) name the ground floor "1. Etage".

  • 4
    I currently live in a building where we have the floor numbers: -1, 1, 2, 3 and so on (these are also the numbers you can press inside our elevator). -1 is the basement, the etage above it is floor number 1 - but there is no 0.
    – Munchkin
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 7:55
  • @Munchkin Where in Germany is this building if you're willing to share?
    – musiKk
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 8:15
  • @musiKk WGS Dresden
    – Munchkin
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 8:30
  • 5
    I am a Brit living in Southern Baden-Würtemberg, and I've never encountered "1. Etage" meaning "Erdgeschoss" (Although around us, it's probably more usual for the ground to be level with one floor at the front and another at the back than not.) Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 10:05
  • 6
    The link from Knut's comment mentions "gelegentlich im badischen Teil von BW" and "in der DDR sehr gebräuchlich". This sounds more like eastern Germany than "especially in southern Germany".
    – Gerhardh
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 16:33

There's even a difference(1) between American and British English and some regions in Germany use the terms as in US, others use the GB terms.

This is in wide parts of East Germany:

  1. ground floor (Am.+Br.)(2) = first floor (Am.) = Erdgeschoss/Parterre = 1. Etage
  2. first floor (Br.) = second floor (Am.) = 1. Stock = 2. Etage
  3. second floor (Br.) = third floor (Am.) = 2. Stock = 3. Etage
  4. ...

It even may depend on the owner of the building how they name the buttons on the elevator, so it may be mixed up even in the same regions.

  • 1
    +1 for the "owner" point. In the building I'm currently in, ground floor has the number 2. South Germany. They start counting from 1 with the basement. Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 6:41

I too noticed that '1. Etage/Stock' is sometimes used for ground floor as well as the floor above, depending on who you're asking.

The official line is that '1. Etage/Stock' refers to the floor above ground floor GF.

Source: I moved into a flat in Berlin recently. When I was asked at the Citizens Registration Office about the floor my flat is located, I told the official that I'm not sure about the nomenclature and he explained it to me. Now my registration form says '1. Stock' and I live one level above GF.

  • Erster Stock means "einmal aufgestockt auf das Erdgeschoss" in that region (see my answer...)
    – äüö
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 12:10

If somebody is naming a floor "1. Etage" you can assume that it is the first floor above ground.

As you can see from the other answers it is not that easy if you take every edge case into account but these are rare cases and the writer will know that he can only use this term within a certain group of people.

Some buildings have different signs and elevator buttons but in every case I know this has spezial reasons mostly because of different ground levels around the building:

  • The building is at a rather steep hillside (The "Erdgeschoss" is on one side on ground level and on the other side above ground)

  • The main entrance is above ground level (Hillside again or flood protection or just a fancy architecture)

  • Some Buildings are constructed with half stories. So you enter on "Erdgeschoss" than you take the stairs to the "1. Etage" but it is only half way up on the other side of the building. The next stairs will take you to the "2. Etage" which is right above the "Erdgeschoss" the next stairs ends on the "3. Etage" which is right above the "1. Etage" and so on.

  • Sometimes existing buildings next to each other are connected and the owner wants to have similar floor names in both.

And a very special case can happen if a plan is made but is it not decided yet which floor is above ground level. But hopefully this is not the case for the apartment you are looking for ;-)

  • 1
    Well, your first sentence just adds to the confusion...
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 19:02

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