HOW TO TIP IN GERMANY
In the U.S. tipping is customary and expected for everything from lackluster to outstanding service. It is an etiquette which is ingrained in all trades, from wait staff at restaurants to our baristas, valets, cab drivers, porters, and many more trades. In Europe tipping is not as habitual, however the Germans, unlike many other European countries, are not as tight fisted when it comes to tipping!
This guide attempts to cover most situations that you, as a tourist, will encounter. Hopefully using these `tips` will provide a smooth experience when interacting with locals in restaurants, bars, hotels, tour operators, and taxis.
The currency of Germany is the Euro. US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for Euros upon arrival. In our culture we can put everything on credit and debit cards, however in Germany you will find your cards frequently refused; their culture simply does not operate in that fashion! Currency exchange desks can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the city.Restaurants, Cafes, and Bars: When should I tip? How much is customary?
First thing is first: a 19 percent sales tax (actually a VAT, value-added tax) is included in the price of almost anything you buy in Germany, including food.With that being said, another important factor to be aware of is that most restaurants employ a table/coverfee for bread, butter, rolls, table settings - added to the bill as a separate cover charge. Neither of these are used for tipping to the waitstaff, but you will barely notice the charges as they are very reasonable. Always ask for an explanation IFyou feel you have been charged unfairly. You will notice in Germany that most establishments will not bring you a paper bill but instead your server will simply tell you how much you owe. Ask for the bill by saying `Zahlen, bitte` or `Die Rechnung, bitte.`
Now, as far as the actual tip (or `trinkgeld,` as the Germans say) it is generally expected but the expectation is much lower than you may be accustomed to. A `normal`German tip is 5 -10 percent, of course if the service was poor, you don`t have to tip at all. Simply round up by a few Euro, and do so aiming to leave a whole figure. Germans are famous for their precision, and keeping numbers nice and round eliminates the need to get into petty change and speeds up the process. If you are feeling bold, try a little German and say `Stimmtso` (pronounced shtimt zo, meaning `we are even`), and your waiter knows that gratuity is included.
DO NOT leave your tip on the table! It is considered very rude. ALWAYS tell your server the amount you wish to pay (including any tip) when handing over your payment!
For exceptional service 15% is more than admirable, 20% is almost unheard of.
In cafes and bars tipping is at the customer`s discretion, although it will likely win you favor with the person taking your order. One or two Euro per round of drinks, or 1 Euro for a coffee order will generally expedite service and result in a more friendly and enthusiastic server.
Here are a few things to take into account before heading out to your meal in Germany. Germany is not built around a customer service culture. Although Germans themselves are very friendly and `hilfsbereit` (helpful), people working in customer service roles can often be mistaken as rude. Don`t be personally offended if someone seems dismissive or unhelpful; it simply is not expected or demanded as much as it would be in places such as the United States. The second thing to know is that the Germans seat themselves (you will be hard pressed to find a host in any establishment) and will often sit next to perfect strangers. For example, you and a friend sit at a 4-top table, do not be surprised when a German couple sits down next to you. Most times you will politely ignore each other after a casual greeting. Be aware of tables which say `Stammtisch`as they are reserved for regulars. Lastly, the American fascination with having a glass of water automatically handed to you after being seated does not translate in Germany. Most Germans do not want to counter their meal with such a bland beverage, and most certainly never tap water! If water is desired, it is almost always bottled `Mineralwasser` (sparkling mineral water), or if you don`t want the fizzy stuff, ask for `stillesWasser` (shtil-es vahs-ser) - and be prepared to pay for it!
The practice of tipping is not very common in German hotels, at least not those whose star rating falls below a 4 Star. In most hotels a service charge is included in the bill for staff, however, Porters, Concierge staff, Chambermaids, Valets, and Restroom Attendants all appreciate the generosity of guests.
Beginning with theValet, if you have a rental car, an appropriate tip is no more than 1 Euro. If a Porter helps to carry your bag(s) to your room the customary tip is 1 or 2 Euros per bag, usually no more than 5 Euros total. Hotel Concierge staff can be very helpful for first time travelers; they are a wealth of information from directions to restaurant suggestions and reservations. Tip them 2 to 5 Euros accordingly for their helpful service (or up to 20 Euros if they score you tickets for an event or show). For Chambermaids in moderate hotels a 1 Euro tip, daily, is adequate; while in deluxe hotels 2-3 Euros daily is more suitable. Follow the same rules for tipping Room Service staff as you would a server in a restaurant, round up the bill by a few Euros and let them keep the change; alternately, if you charge your room service order to your hotel bill, give the Room Service carrier no more than 2 Euros. In very upscale hotels (and some nicer restaurants) there are Restroom Attendants, and it is polite to leave them maybe 1 Euro.
Tipping cab drivers is unusual, but appreciated, especially if they help you with your luggage or provide you with useful info about getting around in that particular place. In Germany just round the fare to the next whole Euro. Feel free to tip up to an additional 5% if they are extra helpful, they will appreciate it. Always remember when travelling abroad that it is good practice to agree on a final fare before the cab driver begins driving.Tour Guides: Is a tip required?
Tipping tour guides is very much appreciated but not expected. Common practice is in the range of 5 Euros or up to 10% for whole day or multi-day tours. The guides are often paid a low wage, so if one is particularly enthusiastic or informative do not hesitate to slip them a little extra if you wish!Miscellaneous: Is there anyone I should tip that I would not normally?
Other Services: In the event that you are in Germany for a special occasion (wedding, honeymoon, graduation gift, birthday, etc..) and employ the services of a hairdresser, make-up artist, party planner, personal shopper, tailor or spa services and the like, use your best judgment in tipping. Factor in the cost and quality of service and, as a general rule, stay in the 10% range.
Remember that in German spas it is very common to be completely nude. If that idea makes you uncomfortable, it is best to avoid them!Final Thoughts:
Remember that it is perfectly okay to abstain, especially if you are not happy with the service provided. Unlike in the U.S., waiters are paid a living wage, and the expectations for tipping are lower in Germany than in America. This is also true for hotel staff, though if you encounter a problem with the service within the hotel, we highly recommend speaking with the manager.
Try to pay for all services in cash (other than your hotel) and if you feel uncomfortable with that thought, be sure to ask for a receipt. This is important for two reasons; If you leave a tip on a credit card, the person providing the service may not always get it, and if there is a discrepancy it is important to have your receipt to settle it with the manager of the establishment and to prove that you paid for the service. Again, credit cards are not frequently accepted in Germany, and where they are accepted you will likely find a hefty (and perfectly legal) service fee for using it!