In Northern Germany, as is generally known, we don’t waste our energy on words.

Hence it is all the more astonishing that here of all places, in the middle of Bremen, people have decided to waste their energy on turning one small word into a almost ridiculously large symbol. I’m not talking about any old word – NO – but the most North German of all words.


According to my unconfirmed assessment, the word Moin comes in at an astonishing second place in the ranking list of North German communication techniques. Slightly ahead of the third placed pre-divergent auditory utterance “Hm”, and just behind the top-ranked eternal leader: passive silence.

The origin of the greeting Moin has not been definitively established, although the word has existed for well over 200 years in places where opening your mouth to communicate is generally considered unnecessary, if not excessive. It probably derives from the Low German word Moi, meaning beautiful or pleasant.

It’s good to know that the editors of Duden – the most exhausting dictionary ever, if you readit in one go – are unanimous in agreeeing with me.

Moi, therefore, means pleasant! And if you think about it, it’s perfectly obvious! Let’s imagine that you are not standing in this romantically landscaped park surrounded by ramparts; but on a pier in a German seaport some 50 kilometres north of Bremen. I’m talking about Bremerhaven, whose lighthouse, after suffering years of neglect, has finally given up hope of deliverance and chucked itself into the sea out of sheer frustration. So there you stand, shivering and staring at the choppy, murky sea, accompanied only by a flock of seagulls, the size of sheepdogs, screeching by overhead, with their wailing cries like music in your ears, and a mild gale, smelling of rotting cod, lovingly caressing your face. What other word would come to your mind than “pleasant”?

So, to cut a long story short: it is always good to greet someone with a Moin, as the word contains everything that needs to be said. The only thing lacking is the exact time of day. It’s screamingly obvious that Moin can mean “G’morning”; but it can just as easily mean “G’dafternoon!” or “G’devening!” or “Nice to see you!”, or more likely: “Nice to see the back of you!!”. So anyone who translates Moin as ‘G’morning!’ is just as off the mark as anyone who says Moin Moin: which is decisively inferior to the classic greeting, Moin, because it consists of a superfluous extra word. And that’s simply not on: not here anyway! Moin Moin, is tantamount to verbal diarrhoea!

Knowing this was certainly of help to the members of an organisation called the “City Initiative”, who were probably struck by the following thought when they were strolling through the park near the ramparts one day. “Wow, what a pleasant place this is! But how much cooler it would be if something in the landscape were to shout at me!”. So they decided to install a metal “Moin” amongst the trees, consisting of two-metre-high majuscules – and I’m not talking about those impressively masculine lumps on your arms that you can tear if you overdo it during one of your workouts in the gym or something like that – but a M.O.I.N. in huge capital letters. Not content with that, they decided to add a hashtag to it to see if the herds of tourists – it will not have gone unnoticed, I hope, that this place is called “Herdentor”, or “Herdgate” – would stop, pull out their mobile phones and be welcomed by the city with a loud MOIN.

And if you’re listening to me right now, it’s almost certainly worked.

On that note: Welcome to Bremen! If the sun is shining right now, don’t worry: it’ll soon disappear. It’s far better for you to lose your heart to the city or lose your way in the jungle of narrow lanes than to get lost in a deluge of words. It’s a pleasure to have you here.

Or, to put it in a word: