Written by Kerstin Cable
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.