Welcome Service Tirol

The Welcome Service Tirol is the first point of contact for Tyrolean companies and universities and their international, highly qualified employees.

© Standortagentur Tirol

Sie or du

First of all, there are no official rules in the Tyrol for using the personal “du” or the polite “Sie” forms of address. The question of which is “correct” or usual is complicated and depends on a number of factors.

But the following will serve as a general guide:

  • At the workplace: In the Tyrol, too, there is a tendency today to flatten the hierarchies in the Tyrol (verbally, at least), and the “du” form is now being used increasingly when addressing superiors. This applies to both small family businesses and large companies with complex hierarchies. But it is always best to leave the decision to your superior! It is not a good idea to use the “du” form with your superiors at the very first meeting (whatever their position in the hierarchy) without being invited to do so. Conversely, it is not advisable to use the polite “Sie” form with superiors who have suggested you say “du” to them. It is a similar situation with regard to colleagues at the workplace: It is better to start off with “Sie” and wait to see what is standard practice in the organisation. In most cases the answer will become clear the first time you are introduced to your colleagues or when they introduce themselves to you: Are first names or surnames being used? You should also bear in mind that there are organisation or workplaces where the form of address is not always the same, i.e. employees say “du” to those colleagues they are on friendly terms with and “Sie” to the rest. 
  • In everyday situations, public offices, shops, restaurants, etc.: In an urban setting, the polite “Sie” form of address is still prevalent when speaking to strangers (customers, guests, members of the public). So people will tend to say “Sie” to you in public offices, shops, restaurants, etc. (except in places with a young clientele, such as fashion stores, bars, clubs, etc), and the correct, polite response for you is to say “Sie” in return. Outside the cities, the situation is different. In rural areas, it is quite normal to be addressed as “du” and to use the “du” form in return. In very touristy areas (and there are quite a few in the Tyrol), a distinction is often made in the form of address between guests and locals.
  • Between people of different ages: Probably the simplest “rule” here is that the older person is entitled to determine the form of address. When dealing with people who are older than yourself (except in very private contexts or in rural areas as mentioned above), it is common to stick to the “Sie” until the older person invites you to say “du”. If the difference in age is not so clear, you are probably less likely to go wrong with an overly formal “Sie” than with a premature “du”.
  • On the mountains: In many blog posts you are told that walkers should greet one another at altitudes above 1,300 metres. The precision of such a “rule” makes it unpractical and hard to check. In more general terms, however, we can say: On a busy path, greeting all oncoming walkers is not a must. But the more exposed and remote the terrain, the more customary it is to greet the people you meet. And it is one of the few generally accepted “rules” that you may use the “du” form on the mountain. 

And last but not least: Don't worry too much, the subject is not that important! Above all, we wish you that you meet many nice people in Tyrol!