In yesterday’s post I used the term ‘duzen,’ and thought that today I would go into that term a little more.
For ‘you’ singular there are two options: du (informal) and Sie (formal)
Duzen – is to address someone in the informal you, the ‘du’ form.
Siezen – is to address someone in the formal you, the ‘Sie’ form.
You should always use the ‘Sie’ form with people, unless they are children. The ‘Sie form is formal and used when addressing elders, officials, bosses and is used even between neighbors and work colleagues. It is a sign of respect.
There will be times when people with whom you have used the ‘Sie’ form will say something like “Du kannst mich duzen,” They are saying you can now use the informal ‘du’ form and no longer need to use the formal ‘Sie’ form when addressing them. This is something you will just have to feel out for yourself. As a native English speaker, we do no distinguish between formal and informal, everyone is addressed with 'you', and this concept is sometimes hard to grasp.
Germans have become more relaxed about duzen and siezen., though that said, it is still very important to use. It still carries weight and is an important and simple sign of respect. You will find that more people are dropping the formality once you have gotten to know one another better.
If the elder, teacher, official is using the ‘du’ form with you, it is not a sign that you are now allowed to duzen them back. They will specifically invite you to use the ‘du’ form, so until that happens siezen them all the way.
You can not initiate using the ‘du’ form when addressing the (for lack of a better term) higher ranking person. However if you do, they will not be (or I hope they won't be) so rude as to tell you out right that you must use the ‘Sie’ form when addressing them, but will instead, address you back with the ‘Sie’ form indicating you two are on formal term and you should use the ‘Sie’ form.
And as a foreigner, I find it best to siezen until told otherwise. It is respectful and people appreciate it and most people (who are not grandparent like) will quickly ask me to duzen.
- Do you have trouble with duzen and siezen?