Interested in Germany?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for Germany each week.
Topics include Transportation, Things to Do, Dining Scene & more!
Service and VAT are included in the menu price in restaurants, bars, etc. all over Germany. Still, it is typical to "round up" the amount to some more-or-less round figure. A rule of thumb is to add 5-10%, generally ending with a full Euro amount.
Caveat: it is not typical to be given a check, then leave your money on the table. You have to tell the amount including tip you want to pay before you pay (via cash or credit card)
How You Pay: Typically, the waiter/waitress always comes to you and tells you your total. You then tell him/her how much you will pay, i.e. the amount you owe plus any "rounding up" -- for example, the waiter/waitress might say "€7.60;" you hand him/her a €10 note and say "9 Euros." S/he then will give you €1 in change.
Tipping in Germany and tipping in some other countries, such as the United States, are totally different. In Germany, waitresses are paid more and so the tips are smaller compared to the USA. Nevertheless, the 5-10% rule of thumb still applies. If you want to tip less (according to some advice on the net) be prepared to appear stingy. Credit Cards: While Germany is a leader in many areas of technology, it is decidedly not so in credit card acceptance. When eating out, visiting any store or trying to pay for just about anything, don't be surprised if the response to your credit card is "Nein." Most Germans still settle in cash or rely on debit cards called "EC" or "electronic cash" cards which are not logo-bearing and do not work like credit cards. While some hotels, restaurants and other venues will take credit cards, by far the majority does not. When shopping or consuming anything, it's always wise to ask in advance, otherwise you'll be expected to pay in cash. Personal checks are no longer used in Germany (having been replaced by EC cards), and Traveller's Checks often carry a substantial "service charge" for cashing them.
Splitting a Check: This custom is not uncommon. Simply tell the waiter/waitress when paying what you are paying for, s/he will readily add up your amounts and present you with a personal total, which you should round up, as explained above. The waiter/ress is likely to come up at the end of the meal and ask "All together?" or, in German"Zusammen?"
Customs: It is seen as a sign of hospitality and good breeding to invite guests to a meal. Older Germans sometimes almost "fight" for the honor or privilege of settling the bill. Among younger Germans, most will easily and readily pay for themselves except in the case of a special occasion, where the host will customarily pay for everyone.
Water, Ice Water: Water is not free. If you order water you will be expected to pay for it as any other beverage ordered. It is not customary to serve or receive ice water upon arrival in any restaurant in Germany. If you order water, you will be asked whether you wish still or carbonated mineral water. In some you may request tap water, but the practice is uncommon and seen as cheap, if not downright rude. [In other places in Europe, like France, good drinkable tap water is available free in restaurants with no such negative impressions (eg: un carafe d'eau).]
Beverage and portion sizes: Soft drinks generally are served in 0,2 and 0,3 L sizes. Beer is usually served in 0,3 (small) or 0,5 Liter sizes (large), although in some areas of Germany a 1-liter glass is "large" but not extraordinarily so. The vat-sized softdrink containers found in the U.S. are largely unknown here, as is the "free refill" or bottomless cup concept, except in the venues of many American fast food chains, which have introduced this concept in Germany; so if you are handed an empty cup with your food, this means you have free refill. Coffee will in some restaurants be served either by the cup or by Kännchen (small pot - usually about 2 cups) and is always accompanied by cream and sugar. The same holds true for hot tea (where lemon is also readily available and usually served alongside without asking). Cocoa is usually a third option readily available in this manner, and is also readily available for breakfast in most places, especially if you have children in your party.
Table/cover fees: Bread, butter, rolls, table settings sometimes are added to the bill as a separate cover charge. This is not fraud, but customary in some areas, just as it is sometimes customary for guests staying for a longer stay and enjoying half-board or full board to reuse their cloth napkins for several meals. Please be aware that service in restaurants especially with a multiple course menu is decidedly more slowly than in the United States. It is not custom to leave your table for the digestiv.
Condiments: In some American fast food restaurants, (for example: McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's) you must pay separately for ketchup and/or mayonnaise . Be aware that the menus at most fast food restaurants in Germany are not exactly the same as they are in the U.S. . You may also notice that a sandwich that you recognize from "back home" may taste a little different or may be smaller.
Seating/Non-Smoking Sections: The concept of a "host" or "hostess" is unknown in all but the most exclusive restaurants in Europe, where the Maitre d' will personally seat you. In most restaurants, just walk right in and pick the table of your choice. Please note that in most parts of Germany smoking is not allowed in public buildings and inside restaurants/cafes. However in some regions there might be socalled "Raucherclubs", i.e. small pubs etc. where smoking is still allowed but you have to become a member when entering. The caveat applies: If you don't like the place, leave and go somewhere else. Making a "big stink" about smoking only brands you as a hapless tourist and does not endear you to anyone. Note also that in many restaurants it will be customary for you to allow perfect strangers to join you if you are seated at a table larger than your party; this holds particularly true in beer gardens and vineyard restaurants. Instead of objecting, look at the practice as an opportunity to get to know locals and/or make new friends - after all, isn't that what visiting a foreign country is all about?
Stammtisch: Many smaller restaurants will have a table used by regulars from a company, a society etc. Such tables will usually have a "Stammtisch" label. You should not try to sit at such a table without checking with a waiter / waitress.
Service: Unlike other countries, such as the USA, customer service is often not a high priority in Germany. Although Germans themselves are very friendly and hilfsbereit (helpful), people working in customer service roles can often be quite rude. Don't be personally offended if someone seems dismissive or unhelpful; it simply is not expected or demanded as much as it would be in places such as the United States.