Friday, December 16, 2011

5 Tips for Eating At a Restaurant In Germany

Our monthly University staff meeting affords us a nice lunch at various restaurants in Munster. It's also a nice way to pick up on small nuances of eating a meal with my German colleagues. Based on these experiences, I have some small differences that I would like to pass on to Americans that may find themselves eating a meal at a restaurant with other Germans.   Here are the top 5 tips in no particular order: 
  1. Conserve your Drink. There are no free refills here in Germany, even at a fast food restaurant. If you want another drink, it's fine. You will just pay full price for it. This is a tricky rationing situation, especially if you don't know how long a meeting will last. I usually allocate half of my drink to before receiving our food and the other half after we receive the food.
  2. Don't drink the water. Not because it's harmful for your health, but because if you order a water, you will pay for a full bottle of tonic water.   The water here is usually just as expensive, if not more than any other drink.  There is no such thing as a free ice water here. I haven't asked for ice water directly, but I am pretty sure that the waiter would suggest that I take an empty cup to the bathroom if I really wanted a free water.   
  3. Don't use your hands...ever. This nearly killed me the first time we had pizza. In Germany, the pizza comes whole, not cut into slices. Germans eat pizza from the outside in, with a fork and knife. I tried this tactic for a short time until I became so frustrated that I finally grabbed a big chunk and said with my mouth full, 'Forget this. This is how you eat pizza.'  The same rule applies to burgers. People eat their hamburgers with a knife and fork. At this point, I put my foot down and refused to even try eating a hamburger with utensils. I can't imagine people eating Five Guys Burgers with a knife and fork. I think they would get thrown out of the restaurant if someone would try.   
  4. Finish your food and don't ask for a doggy bag. It is quite normal that everyone at the table, I mean everyone, eats every scrap of food on the table. I am not sure if eating everything on their plate is a story passed down from the grandparents ala a Wiemar hyperinflation story. No matter how much food is dished out, it gets eaten. I got laughed at when I asked for doggy bag. It's possible to get a doggy bag if you ask, but it is not a typical request. I would advise against it. 
  5. If it's your party, you pay.   Normally, if you are hosting a celebration (graduation or birthday) at a restuarant, the honorary person (new graduate or Birthday boy/girl) pays the bill.  This shocked me at first when we had a dinner celebration for a two guys who received their Doctorates in the Finance Department. At the end of the meal, instead of the dinner party coming up with the money to pay the bill, the two new graduates grabbed the bill and paid for our night.  
Are there any other tips that I am missing? 
I know the first place I am going to eat when we land in America over Christmas..Five Guys. 

That's how you eat pizza.


    Anonymous said...

    Das klingt alles so ungewöhnlich, wenn du das sagst ;-). Als Deutscher hat man irgendwie noch nie über solche Dinge nachgedacht.
    ad1) Das ärgert mich auch jedes Mal. Aber vielleicht sind dafür ja die Preise für das Essen günstiger als in den Vereinigten Staaten?
    ad2) In Deutschland kann man auch kostenlos Wasser dazu bestellen. Das ist aber eher ungewöhnlich (siehe "Doggy bag") und tatsächlich dann "from the bathroom" ;-). Aber das deutsche Kranwasser ist von der Qualität mindestens genauso gut wie das aus Flaschen.
    ad3) "Don't use your hands" außer bei Artischocken, Austern, Canapés, Garnelen, Muscheln, Spareribs, Wachteln und
    Allerdings kannst du glauben, dass zuhause auch niemand Besteck benutzt.
    ad4) Doggy bags sind was für Kinder und alte Frauen ;-)
    ad5) Nur wenn du dezidiert in ein Restaurant einlädst (z. B. zum Geburtstag, Examen, ...), könnten die Gäste davon ausgehen, dass du bezahlst. Verabredet man sich im Alltag (Feierabend-Bier, Kino, "Pärchen-Abend", ...), so zahlt erst einmal jeder für sich selbst.

    LG aus Münster,
    ich liebe euren Blog. Leider hat man nicht die Zeit, zu allem etwas zu schreiben.

    Bryan said...

    These are great points. Thank you, LG, for the comments. I forgot to mention two important points that make the final bill cheaper in Germany:
    a. if you order a meal that costs 9.99, that's what you pay (the tax is built into the price.)
    b. It's normal to tip approximately 10% here in Germany.

    Das sind stark Punkte. Vielen Dank, LG, für die Kommentare. Ich habe vergessen, zwei wichtige Punkte, die Endrechnung günstiger in Deutschland machen zu erwähnen:
    a. wenn Sie eine Mahlzeit, die Kosten um 9,99, das ist was Sie zahlen (die Steuer ist in dem Preis gebaut.)
    b. Es ist normal, ca. 10% hier Spitze in Deutschland.