Maybe you’ve just enjoyed your first big German meal at a Brauhaus, complete with schnitzel and spaetzel and Weissbier and singing maidens with braids and a dirndl (Ok, you caught me – we don’t eat out much here). Anyway, now it’s time to pay. So your German maiden brings you a check.
And then stands there. You look at her. She looks at you. Now what?
This is a very small difference between Germany and the U.S., but it can lead to a lot of confusion and embarrassment at first. It’s something that we certainly didn’t know before we came here: when it’s time to pay , your waiter will stand there and wait for you to hand over the money. They make change directly out of a wallet that they carry around.There’s no leaving money on the table and waiting for them to come back with change, which actually makes things more convenient in some ways. However, the other side of it is that you don’t even leave the tip money on the table – you have to tell the waiter how much you are giving them as a tip so they can make proper change, all in one go.
Tipping in restaurants is typically 10%, so it doesn’t sound like it’s that hard – but if you’ve been brought up to be able to do this at your own pace, then paying for your food here can leave you sweating bullets. Plus, we are used to the idea of a 15-20% tip, so if total panic sets in, we tend to just round up and up and up…Doing math and speaking German at the same time is just too many foreign languages to handle. So, if they couldn’t tell we were Americans before, the strange and generous tip certainly seals the deal.
If you’re eating in a group (or even just in a pair), it’s no problem for them to split the check – in fact, it’s pretty standard for them to ask if it’s together or separate, and then sit down at the table and add up how much each individual person owes towards the bill.
Two helpful phrases to know:
“Auf _____.” – If you’re handing over a large bill, this specifies how much you are giving. Maybe you are giving them a 50 euro bill, but you owe 18 for your food and want to leave a 2 euro tip. “Auf zwanzig,” simply means “Make it 20,” and you should get 30 euros back.
“Stimmt so.” – Maybe you’re in the above scenario and you are actually handing over a 20. This is the equivalent of “keep the change” – more literally, “that’s exactly it.”