It’s more than a different continent, another currency and people speaking in a foreign language. Germany is similar and different to the United States in many ways.
Here are a few things you want to keep in mind when in a restaurant or café in Germany.
Water, sparkling water, and Schorle.
First: If you don’t specifically ask for tap water, you’ll be charged for it.
Second: Sparkling water is common in Germany anyways.
Third: Bottled water is more expensive in Germany than in the U.S.
Advice: Order a schorle. Apfelschorle, the most common one, is a mix of apple juice and sparkling water. Germans drink it because it’s refreshing: Not as sweet as just juice, but with more taste than just water. You’ll also find “Wein Schorle”, a mix of white wine and sparkling water.
Germans wait until the food has arrived for everyone at the table before they start their dish. Also, they say “Guten Appetit”, the German “bon appetit”, which means “Enjoy your meal”.
Free refills? Nein Danke.
When ordering a drink in Germany, be aware of the fact that there is no such thing as “free refills”. Not for coke, not for coffee, and not even for schorle.
Taxes are included, tip is not.
Groceries as well as newspapers are taxed at 7%, while clothes, furniture and other goods are taxed at 19% in Germany. Different to America, these regulations are valid all over Germany and don’t vary throughout cities, counties, or states.
Also, every price tag you see already shows the final price including taxes. Same for the price of your food. Prepared food in restaurants is taxed at 19% and not 7% like groceries.
Tipping is different too. In general, Germans tip less – sometimes not at all. That is also the case because the waiters earn more. The idea of “one pays, one tips” also doesn’t exist. If you pay, you pay.
Cash is King
While some places take debit cards, some small shops or restaurants will not accept credit cards. Different from the smallest café in San Francisco that offers square, many places in Germany disagree with paying for the extra fees the card companies charge them with. In case you’re insecure, ask the waiter before ordering.
While it’s impossible to sit down, have a coffee and a cigarette in the US, this is pretty common in Germany. Bars even often allow indoor smoking at night. Drinking on the street is also not an issue. “Wegbier”, a drink while walking from one place to another, is no problem in Germany. Walking through the streets at nights, you’ll see many people hanging out outside, having a drink and a smoke.
And finally, if you decide to go for drinks or parties after dinner, you’ll find that bars are open way longer than elsewhere and close, just like clubs, maybe at 4 or 5 in the morning. Maybe even after that.
If you’re hungry or not, before you go home early in the morning, make sure get a kebab.