Dear Tante Lene,
“For good service, I will gladly pay a tip… but how much is appropriate in Germany? And what do I do if I was not satisfied?”
To tip is not only polite in many service occupations but appreciated. In Germany, restaurant waiters/waitresses receive higher salaries than in the US but many still depend on tips. After all, your server is working for a living and giving little or no tip is felt at the end of the month.
In Germany a service fee is usually already included in your restaurant bill but tipping is still appreciated if you were particularly pleased with the service. A rule of thumb is: rounding up the check to a whole number when ordering just a drink or a ten percent tip for good service when having a full meal. Leaving your tip on the table is considered poor etiquette. It is best to tell your server the amount you want to pay just prior to paying the bill since in most cases you will pay them directly. If you want to tip less, be prepared to appear stingy.
If you round up from 19.90 euros to 20 euros, it will probably not be seen as generous, but as an insult. If you are not satisfied with the service, you should give no tip rather than too little and let the owner or manager know of your concerns.
Splitting a check is not uncommon. Simply tell the server when paying what you are paying for and they will readily add up your amounts and present you with a personal total, which you should round up, as explained above. The server is likely to come and ask you at the end of a meal “All together?” or, in German “Zusammen?”
Also keep in mind that if you ask for water you will be expected to pay for it as you would any other beverage. You will be asked if you would like still or carbonated mineral water. Requesting tap water is uncommon – not because it isn’t safe but there are so many better things to drink. Another charge that may be added to the bill is a separate cover charge for bread and butter.
When traveling abroad it is important to familiarize yourself with tipping customs.
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