german food and restaurants

Eating out in Germany – Should You leave a Tip?

Eating out in Germany - Should you leave a Tip?
© Pixabay

Tipping is a classic dilemma for international travellers. It’s a way of showing your appreciation through paying a little extra for services, but how do you get it right and avoid embarrassment? Is there even a tipping culture in Germany?

No Need To Pay Their Wages

Visitors who come to Germany from the USA tend to be surprised by our relaxed tipping attitudes, but there is more behind this than miserly habits. While it’s common for service personnel in the USA to be paid less than a living wage, Germany fares slightly better.

Waiters and waitresses tend to make between 6 and 8 Euros per hour, and tipping is not considered the customer’s duty. Instead, German diners can use their tip to say “thank you” for good service and tend to consider this a bonus payment. The tip is aptly called *Trinkgeld* (drinking money). Even if you are a generous person, leaving a restaurant without a tip on an occasion is not considered a faux-pas.

So Who Gets How Much?

As a rule of thumb, 10% of the bill is a sufficient and polite tip in any environment from nail salon to restaurant. Here are a few services that commonly take tips:

  • Restaurant, café and coffee house waiters (table service is the German standard)
  • Taxi drivers, but not bus drivers
  • Toilet attendants in public toilets, although here it’s not considered a tip but an expected payment you’d be rude to evade
  • Tourist guides who give individual attention

In the following services, leaving a tip is not considered obligatory (but not unheard of either):

  • Hairdressers, nail technicians, massage therapists etc
  • Hotel staff carrying your luggage

Germany is still behind many other countries when it comes to adopting card payments, and the prominent use of cash has encouraged a system of rounding up your bill (*aufrunden* in German). You will be appreciated for leaving your tip in cash. Make sure you hand it to the waiter directly instead of leaving it on the restaurant table.

So when you get your bill, the calculation is not for an exact percentage amount. Instead, look at the amount (which usually includes tax), add 10% and then round up to the nearest Euro. This way, a bill of €18 is well-served with a tip of €20.

The way to communicate this is to say *Stimmt so* (that’s even) as you hand your waiter the rounded amount. If you are paying with a higher denomination (for example a €20 note for a €13 meal, and you want to pay €15 including the tip), you can tell the waiter which amount you want to pay and say *machen Sie 15* (make it 15). They will understand what you mean and generally acknowledge it with a *Dankeschön*.

If you feel like you need a little more guidance, this TripAdvisor page goes into detail.

Are German Waiters Rude?

Every now and then, I have heard friends from other cultures complain about the rudeness of German service personnel. This is not something I’ve ever experienced, but the standards are slightly different. Waiters will not introduce themselves by name, and as a restaurant visitor you are expected to find your own seat. If the restaurant is lively and has big tables, don’t be surprised when others ask to share your table – it’s part of creating a communal atmosphere. (You wanted beer halls, right?)

German waiters will be confused if there’s a hiccup in the “waiter-diner dance”, but in tourist-friendly areas it won’t be their first time. As long as you don’t ask for free water, pay in cash, make sure you ask for the bill, and tell them your requirements as early as possible, you’re on the right path.

german language

How to identify a German’s birthplace

speak-german-like-a-native-fluentlanguage
CLICK IMAGE TO GET TO KERSTIN’S  PRONUNCIATION COURSE

Les Allemands, the Germans, i Tedeschi

Guest post by Kerstin Cable of fluentlanguage from the 10th of August 2015

There is a reason the Germans and Germany go by different names in different languages. When you travel to our country, you’re always travelling to a specific region too.

When you want to learn German, what does that historic heritage mean for you?

The German you are learning in online classes and textbooks is our standard dialect called Hochdeutsch and will help you understand the language anywhere. But did anyone mention the 26 dialects? Beyond distinct identities, our different regions also speak different dialects. Some vary so strongly from German that it becomes almost impossible to make out what we are saying even for other native Germans.

Once you get down to speak to a native speaker, perhaps in conversation training or in lessons, you’ll quickly realize that they do things a little differently. A rolled R or a curious idiom are all parts of the many German dialects. To find out where exactly you are, you don’t even need to ask your conversation partner. Their language alone is going to give it away.

In this article, let me introduce you to some of the most remarkable signs of German dialects.

1. How did your friend greet you?

In order to discover if your conversation partner is going to be using a strong dialect at all, take their greeting as a clue. Young people often greet with “hi!” and very formal environments ask for a “Guten Tag”, but beyond that the local colours come out to play.

The area around Hanover is famous for employing the clearest German in Germany and regarded by many other native speakers as accent-free. Going further South, the regional varieties become stronger and stronger, but Eastern Germany and Friesland also hold their own.

As a rule of thumb, the more rural your environment, the more obvious the speaker’s local dialect will be. Look out for the following ways of saying hello from the different regions:

  • Moin in Hamburg
  • Un? in the Mosel Valley
  • (G’n) Tach in the Rhineland
  • Servus in Bavaria
  • Grüß dich in various Southern regions and Grüezi in Switzerland
  • “…..” in Berlin (they have a reputation for not greeting at all!)

2. Listen to the R

German dialects run through the whole range of what a speaker can do with the R. The North gives it a gentle roll, such as when a Hamburger speaks of the steife Brise. The middle doesn’t really do much and reverts to the “French R”, a gentle sound created at the back of the mouth. And finally there’s the South: Bavaria, Austria…that’s the rolled R as you know it from the movies.

So if you want to produce an authentic German R, don’t worry about rolling or not rolling. Just don’t round your lips like you do in English and you’ll be on your way.

3. What’s for lunch?

The regions don’t just vary in language and landscape, but also feature their very own interpretations of German cuisine. Traditionally, Germans eat a warm lunch as their main meal of the day. But at any time of the day you can find something very regional. This map from zeit.de shows what’s for lunch where.

I also love this German bread bun map from Zeit.de, showing the many identities of a Brötchen.

So next time you’re on a trip to the German restaurant, can you spot the authentic food beyond Schnitzel and Bratwurst?

4. A drink to go with that

Here’s a shocker: Germany may have a reputation as one of the true places of beer love, but not all Germans are beer drinkers. In fact, I think there’s something we love doing more than anything else when it comes to fizzy drinks. No matter if they’re alcoholic or not, your German, Austrian and Swiss friends will mix them together with gusto. This leads to fantastical creations like the filling Bananenweizen (wheat beer with banana juice) and refreshing Berliner Weiße (beer with raspberry syrup).

So if you want your German friends to reveal where they grew up, it takes nothing more than a trip to the nearest pub. Drink words are another giveaway to show you where someone is from.

Here are a few examples:

  • Words for sparkling water: Sprudel, Sprudelwasser, Wasser, Selters
  • Words for lemonade: Limo, Kracherl, Sprudel (confusing, much?!), Brause, Alsterwasser
  • Words for coke and lemonade mix drinks (yes, really): Diesel, Spezi, kalter Kaffee, Mexikaner
  • Words for beer-based drinks: Alsterwasser, Radler, Berliner Weiße, Panaché, Russe, Pots
  • Words for wine-based drinks: Schorle, Arbeitersekt, G’spritzter, saurer Gespritzter

If all that language has your head spinning, it’s simple to return to “normality”: Just switch on the evening news for a friendly “Guten Abend, meine Damen und Herren.”

And if you’re excited about learning German, I would love to invite you to join the VIP list for my new German course.

The list includes a completely free email series, guiding you through the most important points that you need to know so you can lose your accent, speak German with confidence and master every sound.

————-

Kerstin is a native German speaker and has lived in the UK since 2003. She’s passionate about languages and has studied 7 languages. Kerstin is the lady behind the popular Fluent Language blog and has created Speak German like a Native for German learners, a course that focuses on helping learners develop better pronunciation and accent in German.

Also try out her free 7-day email series to boost your pronunciation skills at fluentlanguage.