Southern Germans are a pretty rigid bunch, with elderly people in particular expecting lots of set behaviour and stock phrases. It's easy to make a mistake, but the following should help you avoid red-faced moments.
- Greetings Until noon say ‘Guten Morgen'; from noon until early evening this becomes ‘Grüss Gott’. ‘Guten Abend’ is used from around 6pm onwards until it's time to say ‘Gute Nacht’. Use the formal 'Sie' with strangers, and the informal ‘du’ and first names if invited to. If in doubt, use ‘Sie’.
- At the table Tucking in before the ‘Guten Appetit’ starting gun is fired is regarded as bad manners. When drinking wine, the toast is ‘Zum Wohl’, with beer it's ‘Prost’.
- When meeting up Punctuality is appreciated – never arrive more than 15 minutes late.