The rule of thumb in Germany is: Guests may give a tip, but they don’t have to. Unlike in the United States, service and VAT charges are included in the menu price in restaurants and cafes in Germany. The minimum wages are much higher for waiters in Germany and, unless they are students, waiters and waitresses are fully employed with a monthly fixed salary including health insurance, pension and social insurance.
In Germany, like in most European countries, it is not common to be given the check and then leave money on the table. Guests have to tell the amount including the tip they want to pay before they pay in cash or by credit card. The German word for tip is “Trinkgeld.” Although the rule of thumb is that guests do not have to give a tip, the mutual understanding, however, is that if guests are satisfied with the service they should give the waiter ten percent of the total amount.
How to Pay in a German Restaurant
Typically, the waiter approaches the customers’ table and advises them of their total bill. The customers will then tell the waiter how much they will pay, that is the amount they owe plus any “rounding up.” For example, the waiter may say “12,80 Euros,” and the guest hands him a 20 Euro note and says “15 Euros.” The waiter then will give the guest five Euros in exchange. If this amount is correct, the guest may say to the waiter, as many Germans do, “stimmt so” (meaning “It’s correct like that”). If Germans are not satisfied with their service, they will not tip at all.
Credit cards are not accepted in all German restaurants. Most Germans prefer to pay in cash or rely on debit cards called “EC” or “Maestro Cards” that are bank customer cards issued by German banks. Before ordering in a restaurant, it is always wise to ask in advance if credit cards are accepted, otherwise guests are expected to pay in cash. Personal checks are unknown in Germany as every German has their EC-Card that is directly connected to their bank account.
Splitting Checks in Germany
The custom of splitting a check is very common in Germany. Waiters will always ask “Zusammen oder getrennt?” (meaning “All together or separately?”). The waiter will readily add up the amounts and present each guest with a separate total, which they should round up, as explained above.
Among younger Germans and students, it is a rule that they should pay for themselves, even among couples, while older Germans often fight for the honor of settling the bill.