Go to the homepage of our German Course Chapter 4: In the restaurant University of Portsmouth
4.12 Eating out in Germany

Town and country
Guten Appetit!The choice of restaurants in Germany is broad and varied. This is particularly the case in large cities where you can find the cuisine of most countries of the world represented. Even smaller towns however will have their fair share of Italian, Greek, Turkish and Chinese restaurants - although Indian cuisine has yet to catch on to the extent that it has in Great Britain. What have become popular and very common are take-aways on the American pattern, delivering pizzas, Chinese and Mexican food to your home.

In the country you are more likely to come across "eine Gaststätte", "ein Gasthaus" or "eine Gaststube", a combination of pub, restaurant and café which invariably offers local delicacies. Take a look at the menu boards which are hung outside all German restaurants to see what they are offering!

What you will not find in either town or country is an equivalent for the British "caff" or "greasy spoon". Cafés in German-speaking countries are in general more upmarket, with tablecloths, carpets and upholstered chairs.

Restaurant etiquette
der StuhlWhen entering a restaurant in a German-speaking country, it is customary for the diner to find their own seat rather than waiting to be designated one. You should also not be surprised if another party asks if they may sit at your table. This is common practice on the European mainland. And do not be offended if the people in that party do not engage in conversation with you. They are rarely interested in making friends, just looking for a seat in a crowded restaurant.

It used to be the case that you would address the waiter as Herr Ober and waitresses as Fräulein. These forms of address are out of date nowadays however and should be avoided. If you want to order or pay you should make a sign with your hand (but do not click your fingers!) and say something along the lines of Kann ich bestellen, bitte? (= "May I order, please"?).

Paying and tipping
Credit cards are nearly always accepted in large restaurants nowadays but in more humble establishments hard cash is still the usual means of payment. If you want to pay by credit card, it is always advisable to ask before you order.

A Visa card

Paying for the meal is almost always done at your table with the waitress or waiter who served you. It is not necessary to tip 15%, because a 15% gratuity is included in the prices as a service fee (in addition to a 15% value added tax). It is nevertheless usual to leave a tip in restaurants, cafés and other places where your bill is brought to your table. This is done by rounding the bill up. If a bill is under 10 euros you round the sum up to the next full mark or next but one - i.e. 11,50 would be rounded up to 12. If the bill comes to more than 10 euros you should allow 5% for a tip, rising to 10% in a more upmarket establishment.

Leaving the tip on the table after you have paid is unknown in Germany. Waiters and waitresses are accustomed to receiving their tip as part of the bill, not by looking for the tip on the table after you have left. If you let them give you your full change (and then leave a tip on the table) they will think that you are unhappy with their service. Only if you are really dissatisfied with the quality of service that you have received should you not leave any tip at all - a token tip of a few cents will have the same effect.

Guten Appetit!One of the most striking aspects about a German city is the number of kiosks (der Kiosk), sausage stalls (die Würstchenbude) or snack bars (der Imbiss, der Schnellimbiss) on each street corner. They are most well-known for offering Bratwurst - a fried or grilled sausage - or curried sausage (Currywurst). In Austria, you may come across "Steckerlfisch" - grilled fish on a stick. You can also get chips there (Pommes, Pommes frites), but don't be alarmed if you are offered mayonnaise along with tomato sauce to put on them!

Such kiosks and snack bars serve beer as well as soft drinks, and many will offer a very good ground coffee. The preference for coffee over tea in mainland Europe continues unabated. You may be offered tea in a café or restaurant, but most Germans drink it with lemon or just black. Iced tea is becoming increasingly popular as a summertime beverage.

The traditional German kiosk and snack bar is however under attack from a variety of overseas food outlets, American fast food (hamburgers, pancakes et al.) being the most visible competitor. But you will also find Turkish kebabs, Italian pizzas and French crêpes doing a roaring trade on street corners.

Web links  Web Links  Web links

Hofbräuhaus München The Hofbräuhaus (Royal Court Brewery) in Munich has been serving fine food and drink since 1589. Its English-language website contains a multilingual menu.
Mutter Habenicht Need an English explanation of German specialities? The Mutter Habenicht restaurant in Brunswick offers multilingual culinary menus.
Fischstube Zürichhorn Is fish your dish? If so, the Fischstube Zürichhorn in Zürich has a detailed bilingual menu on its homepage.
Weinhaus Kinkel-Stuben The online menu of the Weinhaus Kinkel-Stuben in Bonn has both an English and a Japanese translation.
Altes Brauhaus Marburg The online menu of the Altes Brauhaus in Marburg still lists prices in both euros and marks.

Weiter! Chapter 4: Exercises

Go back to the top of the page Nach oben

Print this Document Print This Page

Homepage: Paul Joyce German Course
© Paul Joyce