HOW TO: Behave in a Restaurant in Germany

When you come to Germany as a tourist or for a gap year (or whatever) it might be good to know some table manners. The dining etiquette in Germany isn’t so different from that in other European countries or the USA, but it can be good to know the variations.

Basic table manners

  • If you want to order something get the waiter’s attention and say: 
    Ich möchte bitte bestellen.
  • Before we start to eat we wish the others a Guten Appetit.
    Before we start to drink we say Prost or Zum Wohl.

  • While toasting, look in the other person’s eye. Otherwise you both will have 7 years of bad sex. Nobody wants to risk that.

  • We don’t eat with our hands in a restaurant. Even Pizza is eaten with knife and fork. Exceptions are Burgers and Hotdogs in a diner and fries when you eat outside (although fries are most times served with a little plastic fork).

  • In Germany we hold our fork in the left and the knife in the right hand. We don’t switch knife and fork like in other countries.

  • Keep your hands on the table, but not the elbows. But relax, it’s not a real faux pas to have your hands on your lap, if you forget it.

  • Eat all the food you ordered. It is impolite if you leave food on your plate. So never order more than you can eat.

  • When you finished eating, lay knife and fork side by side on the plate pointing to the middle. If you put the knife on one side and the fork to the other, others will think you haven’t finished.

  • If you’d like to pay you catch the waiter’s attention and say: 
    Ich möchte bitte zahlen.

Tap water 

In Germany it is not usual to get tap water for every meal, like it is in the USA. If you want some water, you have to order it. Sometimes you can get tap water for free, but normally we order non-sparkling water and pay for it. 


Tipping We don’t have set rules for tipping in Germany. So you won’t find a suggested tip on the bill. Here in Germany the tip depends on the restaurant, the staff and the quality of the food. The normal tip is about 5-10%, but sometimes it is totally okay to just round the sum up or give a Euro more.  

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