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Season of e-greetings, but don't text your boss

A survey issued on the anniversary of the very first SMS text message in December 1992 suggests nearly half of all season's greetings are sent in Germany electronically.

world Updated: Dec 21, 2007 13:08 IST

Germans are the world's champions when it comes to sending text messages or SMS, so it comes as no surprise that electronic greetings are replacing Christmas and New Year's cards in Germany.

Nearly half of all the season's greetings are transmitted electronically in Germany, according to a new survey issued on the 15th anniversary of the very first SMS text message in December 1992.

A Forsa study showed one-in-three Germans planned to send season's greetings this year via email, text messages or multi-media messaging.

Text messaging was particularly popular among the 14-to-19-age bracket, a majority of whom said they preferred this form of communication to cards or letters.

Some 56 of the 1,000 people surveyed said they would be sending cards or letters this Christmas as opposed to 21 per cent who planned to wish a Merry Christmas via email while 3 per cent planned to send multi-media images from their cellphones.

Since Germany lies within a single time zone, New Year's text greetings at the stroke of midnight often cause phone networks to break down.

Germans send more mobile text messages than any other nationality, with a total 22.4 billion text messages transmitted annually or an average 280 texts per person, the Bitkom Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media said.

Ironically, the very first text message ever transmitted was in fact a Christmas greeting sent by a British Vodafone mobile phone user in December 1992.

Originally a free service, SMS messages now make up $60 billion annually in service charges, the Informa Telecom phone marketing research agency noted.

"It is a cheap and non-intrusive means of communication for millions of people who just want to send a quick thought on a whim before they forget, without bothering somebody with an actual phone call," communications researcher Joachim Hoeflich of Erfurt University said.

German books on etiquette now devote chapters to the proper way of issuing invitations and making RSVPs via mobile text messaging. And an Austrian style guru recently advised to send season's greetings via SMS only to close friends and relatives.

"Electronic greetings to the boss are obnoxious," Thomas Schaefer-Elmayer, the country's leading expert on manners was quoted as saying by Austrian broadcaster ORF.

Christmas texts to business partners were an equally big faux-pas, Schaefer-Elmayer said. An email was "probably a bit more elegant", he added.

Schaefer-Elmayer, who runs Austria's most prestigious dancing school and was known for serving as master of ceremonies at Vienna's Opera Ball, said while there was no special style format for holiday greetings, sensibilities should be taken into account.

In Austria, Christmas was a rather contemplative holiday, he said, adding, "Some people don't take that into account when they write funny Christmas cards".