Sorry for not posting anything for a while – I have don’t seem to have had five minutes to myself because over the last six weeks I have taken no fewer than five flights to five countries, hired three different cars, spent an absolute mint on fuel, gained several kilos and secured a new job! Trust me, I really do need a holiday right now…!
Anyway, today I will talk about tipping in restaurants and cafes. This is a matter which varies so much between countries, and can even cause offence if done wrongly.
Being British, my parents raised me to reward good service and across the British Isles it is commonplace to leave a tip for the server on the table when you leave. The amount left depends on the type of meal and how good the service was. In a café, it could be nothing at all, but the more generous amongst us may leave a Pound if the service was particularly pleasant or efficient. Of course, if it is a self-service café, then no tips should be necessary, although nowadays coffee is more of a skilled art form than days of old and I notice an increasing number of places have a gratuity dish on the counter where people sometimes throw the small change. In restaurants, well it all depends on whether you are somewhere fancy or not. I generally work on the ten percent rule if the service was good – that is to say I would leave around ten percent on the table when I leave. If the service was rubbish, I would leave nothing. If the service was like something from Fawlty Towers, then I would leave just a few copper coins as that is actually more insulting than leaving nothing (think British sarcasm here). This tipping philosophy seems to work in virtually every country I have lived in or visited. Except Germany.
As a Brit, I find the method of tipping in Germany totally alien and in some respects, rather uncomfortable. Back home, we basically settle the bill, leave the tip and scarper thereby avoiding any embarrassment should the tip be an insultingly low or non-existent one. In Germany, however, you actually tell the server at the time of settling the bill how much gratuity you are giving them by either telling them how much change you require back, or how much extra you are adding to the bill as the tip. The upside of this is it can be quite amusing seeing the server’s reactions to how much you left, and you soon learn to gauge what is an acceptable tip for the level of service received. As a general rule, if you are in a café, just round the bill up to the nearest Euro or so, whereas in restaurants I find the good old ten percent rule works just fine, although my German friends tell me that can be a bit generous and it is better to limit it to just a two or three Euros regardless of the cost of the meal. Leaving a tip on the table is simply not the done thing in Germany so for a while you are left wondering whether you tipped too much or too little.
Of course, it is always worth checking the bill to see if a service charge has been added. I am not sure if that is allowed, but I know in some countries it is becoming commonplace for an extra ten percent or so to appear at the end of the bill. I find that really cheeky, as unless it says on the menu upfront that prices are subject to a service charge, the customer should be at liberty not to pay it. Whenever I see such a charge on a bill, I ask the server if they actually receive it – if not, I deduct it from the payment and give it straight to the server. However, like I said, I am not sure if such “service charges” are allowed in Germany.
At the end of the day it is really down to the individual as to whether they tip or not and how much, but the way I see it is we all like a bit of recognition for a job well done.