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GermanyinUSA is the home of the monthly newsletter “Germany for Americans”, produced by the German Embassy in Washington, DC. For the embassy’s official website, visit Germany.info.

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Word of the Week: Duzfreund

There are still some formalities implemented in European and German linguistic culture. One of the most known formalities, which sometimes surprises many Americans, is the very important distinction between a more distant and more private way to address people. It is known as honorific which expresses esteem and respect by using the third person of personal pronoun in addressing people. Especially in a professional and demographically more diverse context, it is adequate to approach people in a more formal way which is known in German as “Siezen.” It is considered to be very friendly, more distant and respectful form of addressing people up from the age of 18. Once a relationship becomes more personal it is most of the time the older part’s privilege to offer a switch in addressing each other by replacing the formal ‘Sie’ with a more personal pronoun as ‘du.’ Once it is agreed on interacting verbally in a more personal way (‘duzen’), the counterpart becomes a ‘Duzfreund’ which demonstrates especially in a more professional surrounding a special level of proximity and trust. In a private setting the formal way of verbal interaction is actually not applied anymore although it was quite common up to the 1950’s that children addressed their present in the ‘Sie’ form, which appears totally out-fashioned from a present perspective. The English language covers honorifics as well but more by using prefixes instead of playing with the personal pronoun. The form of Mr./Mrs./Ms. actually serve the very same purpose. Asian languages are even more sophisticated in distinction of honorifics due to the fact that most of these cultures are more status-oriented in a high contextual environment.

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