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I recently saw a news article about how tipping has gotten out of hand in the US. Luckily, things are much different here when it come to tipping in Germany. There are quite a few differences so I’ll cover it all from “Do they tip in Germany” and of course, we’ll cover “How much do you tip in Germany” and why…and the answers all might surprise you a little.
If you don’t want to read the rest of this article, the quick answer is that you are safe to tip about 10% no matter the restaurant. However, how you pay for the bill might be much different than what you are used to, so keep reading to find out the German restaurant etiquette so you are prepared.
Germany’s Wages and Social Systems
In order to really grasp the topic of how to tip in Germany, you first have to understand the social systems in place in this country. While many people will say, “Waiters and waitresses get paid a good wage” that is only a bit half true. You see, compared to waiters in the US, who don’t even get minimum wage and quite literally usually survive off of tips alone, the servers in Germany actually get a base minimum wage and or salary. The thing to note here is that it is on the lower end of the spectrum of salaries for jobs in Germany.
The other thing that is really important is the health care system in Germany. Without getting into too many details and nuances, basically all Germans are entitled to and have access to health insurance and health care, including servers at restaurants.
This is all important to remember when trying to decide “Is it customary to tip in Germany” and how much is appropriate.
Getting Your Bill at a Restaraunt
Before you can even decide how much to tip in Germany after that delicious meal, you are going to have to first get the attention of the server. You may have heard the stereotypes of Germans being “cold” or rude, especially when it comes to service at restaurants. However, this is completely a cultural thing and if I’m being honest, I actually love it!
In Germany, going out to a restaurant is a time for socializing, enjoying your company, and savoring the food. You’ll be seated and then it is up to YOU to decide when you would like something. The waitress will NOT be coming over every other minute to ask “How are ya’ll doing?” or “How is your food?” or “Would you like a refill?” (Free refills aren’t a thing here, by the way!) Nope. If you want another Bier or realized you wanted Mayo (yes, mayo…trust me on this!) with your Pommes (fries) you will have to hold up your hand and politely wave down the server. They aren’t ignoring you and this is not considered rude at all! It is just how it is done because they don’t want to keep bothering you when you are there to enjoy your meal.
Same goes for getting the bill. If you wait for them to bring it to you, you will literally be there all evening and it has nothing to do with slow service or them ignoring you! Until you ask for the bill, they will never assume that you are done (maybe you wanted another Bier after all!) So, when you are ready to leave, again, politely say “Entschuldigung” (excuse me) or give them a slight hand raise and then ask for, “Zahlen, bitte” and they will gladly bring you the bill.
Paying For Your Meal and Figuring Out How Much Do You Tip in Germany Restaurants
Credit cards are becoming more and more common here after Covid, but many restaurants may still only take cash. That’s why I always recommend having Euro on you at all times, just in case.
Either way, they will bring the bill to you and basically will stand there for you to pay right then.
Now is when you figure out how much to tip.
A tip is NOT mandatory in Germany. You truly do tip based on the service of the staff and the quality of the food. So then is it rude to tip in Germany? No. All this to say that you’d still be a pretty big jerk to simply not tip at all.
The general rule is that you round up to the nearest Euro. However, this is a slightly outdated practice and I recommend at least a few Euro for average service. For example, if my total came to €22, I wouldn’t just round up to €23. Instead, I usually round up to the nearest 5. So, if it was 22 Euro, I’d round up to €25. If it was €34 I might go to €37.
However, for great service, tipping 10% is very kind. Rarely do I ever see servers expecting at 15% tip, but for above and beyond service and exceptional food, they are very grateful.
Now, to make it all a bit more complicated, I will say this; in more touristy areas or restaurants that cater to tourists, many servers have come to expect a 10-15% tip simply because that’s what most Americans have grown accustomed to and just assume that is what they should do in Germany as well.
Where to Leave Your Tip in Germany Restaurants
This may seem like a silly thing to discuss, but it’s just another small, cultural difference.
In the US, you would leave your tip on the table before leaving. However, in Germany, when the server gives you the bill, s/he will stand there as you give her the money right there. This also includes the tip.
If you are paying with card, this is when you’ll say the total that you want to pay for (including the tip). Here’s exactly how I do it:
- Ask for the bill. If I am paying with card, I tell them right then because they will bring the card machine to the table at this time.
- Look at the bill
- Quickly decide on my tip, either rounding up the nearest five or giving several extra Euros.
- Tell the server the total amount. Just simply state the amount you want to charge. For example, if my bill was 26 Euro, when I hand them my credit card I’ll say, “30 Euro” (“Dreißig Euro, bitte”). If you are paying with cash, hand them the total amount with tip included and you can say something like “Passt” which literally translates to “Fitting” but it’s really like saying “All is good” and they will know that they shouldn’t give you change back.
- Alternatively, let’s say your bill cost the 26 Euro and you want to give a 4 Euro tip but you only have a 50 Euro bill on you, then you’ll hand them the 50 and just say “Dreißig Euro, bitte” (30 Euro). And they will automatically know that you are giving them the €4 as a tip and will hand you €20 back.
What is Trinkgeld?
In some places, most commonly locations that you order something at a bar or take your food and drink away yourself, you may see a jar that says “Trinkgeld” which literally translates to “Drink Money.” Considering that you can get a great bottle of German beer at the store for less than a Euro, if you are giving Trinkgeld, 1-2 Euro tips are perfectly acceptable, but not mandatory.
Where Else Should You Tip in Germany?
In addition to tipping in Germany restaurants, it’s good to keep a few Euro coins on hand to tip in places like:
- The Hotel Bell Hop: A few euros per bag
- Hotel Maids: A few Euros a night is good
- Tour Guides: 5-10%
- Bathrooms: This one always gets people. You may see a lady sitting outside a bathroom. If you are customer at the location, you are not obligated to pay, but in public places (like a fest) it’s typical to give her a 50 cent piece
- Cab Drivers: 5-10% is fine
Important Words To Know When Eating and Tipping in Germany
- Ich möchte die…”: I’d like the….(Schnitzel, Käsespätzle, etc)
- “Bitte noch eins”: “May I have another one please” (Beer, wine, etc…)
- “Zahlen Bitte”: May I have the bill, please?
- “Nimmst du karte?”: Do you take credit cards?
- “Nur Bar/ Nur Geld”: Only cash
- Your numbers (learning numbers by the fives are usually just fine for “Restaraunt” German) Ie: Fünf, zehn, fünfzehn, zwanzig, dreißig….
- Passt/ Passiert or Stimmt so: This is like saying “We’re all good here” or “This is no problem” or “This is all ok” – in the context of paying at a German restaurant, you’d say this when giving the tip to let the server know not to give you any change back.