Last week I wrote about German business letters which lead to the question: Is there anything I need to watch out when writing a German email?
Just like with the letters, you still use the formal salutation –
Sehr geehrter Herr … (Dear Mr …)
Sehr geehrte Frau … (Dear Mrs …)
Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, (Dear Sir/ Madam,)
You then continue as with the letter and finish with ‘Mit freundlichen Grüßen’.
After a while, once you’ve been emailing the same person again and again, things can get a bit more easy going.
Lieber Herr …. (Still means dear Mr… but it’s less formal) or Liebe Frau … (Dear Mrs …)
BUT don’t address your German client by his first name unless he has addressed you by your first name. Although this is commonly done in the UK it is not in Germany. Most people remain on formal terms for a long time. People, who have had lots of dealings with English clients, on the other hand, may be more informal. As you won’t know this in advance it’s always best to stay formal unless told otherwise. It is always better to go from formal to informal than putting your foot in it and addressing a German client by his (or her) first name when they don’t appreciate it.
It’s a bit of a minefield, all these different salutations. I have had emails addressed to me as
- Sehr geehrte Frau Davey
- Hallo Frau Davey
- Liebe Frau Davey
Hence my advice, take your cue from the Germans – it could be the best move to make or break that deal!
If you are looking for some useful phrases to use in your business letter or email, check out Geschäftskorrespondenz Email, they even have a lovely PDF to print out.
MfG (That’s the equivalent of KR, the lazy person’s kind regards, sometimes seen in emails)