Tipping Etiquette in Germany

Today I want to talk about tipping in restaurants and cafes. This is a matter which varies so much between countries, and can even cause offence if done wrong.

Being British, my parents raised me to reward good service. 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 among us may leave a Pound if the service was particularly pleasant or efficient. Of course, in a self-service café no tips are necessary, although nowadays coffee is more of a skilled art form and I notice an increasing number of places have a gratuity dish on the counter for the barista.

In restaurants, it all depends on whether you are somewhere fancy or not. I generally work on the ten per cent rule. If the service was good then I would leave around ten per cent as a tip. If the service was poor, 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 most countries I been to. Except Germany.

As a Brit, I find the method of tipping in Germany totally quirky and in some respects, rather uncomfortable. Back home, we settle the bill, leave the tip and scarper thereby avoiding any embarrassment should the tip be an insultingly low or non-existent one. In contrast, here in Germany, you tell the server when settling the bill how much are tipping them, either by telling them how much change you want back or how much extra you are adding to the bill as the tip.

The upside of the German method 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, round the bill up to the nearest Euro or so. In restaurants, I still apply my ten per cent rule, although my German friends tell me that is generous and it is better to limit it to two or three Euros regardless of the cost of the meal. Leaving a tip on the table is not the done thing in Germany.

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 per cent or so to appear at the end of the bill. I find that 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. But, like I said, I am not sure if such “service charges” are allowed in Germany.

At the end of the day it is down to the individual whether they tip or not and how much. But remember, we all like a bit of recognition for a job well done.

6 thoughts on “Tipping Etiquette in Germany

Add yours

  1. I can’t imagine this way of tipping working well with english awkwardness around giving tips!

    Despite having visited Germany for many years and owning a house there – I never knew this! It explains some embarrassing moments! Thanks!

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  2. Hi Simon – Thanks for the tip about tipping in Germany (excuse the pun!) I like you get extremely irrated when the service charge is added to the bill, which seems to becoming more common in the U.K. I can sort of understand this if there is a large group of you dining, but not for tables of under say eight people.

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  3. Hi Rich.
    Luckily in Germany they don’t seem to expect too much when it comes to tipping, and anything seems to be gladly received. Certainly not the same as in France where expectations seem to be much higher and the servers can get rather snotty if you do not fulfill their expectations!

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