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Posted by
19170 posts

Before 2004, I would round a bill up to the next Euro, then add one or two Euro. I discussed this in 2004 with my hostess in a Privatzimmer in the Schwarzwald. When I told her my "practice", she was appalled and told me in no uncertain term that I as overtipping. According to her, I should merely round up the bill. Even if that meant only adding 0.10 cent.

I still have not quite got down to her expectations. If the bill is below x.50, I round up; if it is above x.50, I add .50, then round up.

In Rothenburg a few years ago, my bill was something like €23 (I can't remember exactly). I handed the waiter €30 and said "fünf und zwanzig Euro" (€25, a 9% tip). He was supposed to give me back €5, but he took it all (a 30% tip) and just dissappeared. I eventually had to hunt him down to get the rest. I spoke in German, but he obviously knew from my accent that I was an American and thought I didn't understand tipping in Germany.

As for the article, it is interesting to see that they do not print that on the bill for Germans. Understandable. If they did they would not have a German clientele.

Posted by
337 posts

If true (well "The Local"/Toytown is entertaining but not the most accurate news source) "demanding" a tip is quite appalling, calling it "service" indeed illegal.

Lee, I wouldn't give a 10 cent tip like your hostess. In my view that's actually insultingly condescending and definitely worse than not tipping at all.

BTW here in Berlin the income of waiters and cab drivers is roughly 80-60% wage and 20-40% tips.

Posted by
9044 posts

Lee, your hostess might have been correct about it in her business. It is common here NOT to tip the owners, whether it is a restaurant, beauty salon, or bar. One tips employees, but not owners. So, people running private B&B's of course do not expect tips, if they are doing all the work. If they have someone working for them, that is a different story.

Posted by
19170 posts

no, we were talking about what to do in restaurants. I think the Germans are still "burning" about the change to the Euro, and that rounding to the nearest Euro is like rounding to the nearest 2 Mark.

And, it is NOT a tip. Only Americans give tips. It is just that when you pay for your order, it is considered customary not to keep the small change. You do not leave the money on the table. When the waiter tells or shows you the bill, you round it up and give him that amount and say, "Stimmt so" or you give him more and say the rounded up amount, and he gives you change from that.

I agree, that if the bill were xx.90, and you gave him xx+1 and demanded the 0.10 back, that would be an insult, but that is what I was told is proper. In this country we have been so conditioned to the "tip mentality".

Considering that the minimum wage in Germany is applied to all workers, and there is not a sub-minimum wage for restaurant workers, and from what I have heard, the minimum wage in Germany is about the same in equivalent US$, this in a country where the average worker's wage is about 60% of U.S. workers, they are not so bad off.

Posted by
337 posts

"... it is considered customary not to keep the small change."

That is purely a cultural construction to make the tip look like a mutual beneficial deal, and less like charity or "bribe for good service".

"... if the bill were xx.90, and you gave him xx+1 and demanded the 0.10 back, that would be an insult..."

No. That is simply not tipping.

Giving xx+1 and then saying "Stimmt so!" as if you think that 10 cents would make her/his day, that would be considered an insult.

Even the cleaning ladies (and gents) at public toilets want at least 30 cents...

"Considering that the minimum wage in Germany is applied to all workers..."

Germany has no general minimum wage. Some industries (mainly construction) have inimum wages, gastronomy not.

Posted by
19170 posts

The point is that in the U.S., because unscrupulous restaurnt owners (sorry, that's redundant) have succeeded in getting minimum wage laws written so that they do not have to pay a minimum wage to tipped workers, so that they can show an artificially low price on their menu (Warning: prices on the menu are {much} higher than they appear), workers are paid only €1.53/per hour ($2.13 at current exchange rate). That's not so in Europe.

In the U.S., do you tip the grocery store clerk, or the counter worker at the gas station? Do you tip the sales person at Walmart? No. Only the restaurant worker because our laws allow the greedy owners to underpay them.

Posted by
671 posts

Lee, that is a state by state thing. In WA state, the servers make minimum wage ($8 something) and not a lesser amount. I believe Oregon and California are the same, but don't quote me.

I was tipping the klofrau about 1-2 euros each visit. At one toilet in Berlin, we didn't see her, so we left a euro in the plate. A minute later, she came in and handed us towels to dry off after washing. I didn't want her to think I was stiffing her, so I gave her the 2 Euro piece I had she ended up with 3.

With restaurants, I rounded up from the nearest 10%, so if the bill was 44, I would leave 50.

Posted by
517 posts

Great topic. Thank you, Jo!
Yes, we Americans "suffer" from this topic in Austria too. Actually, the topic is that most Americans tip way too much in these countries. Many Americans --even ones who live here-- cling to tipping 20% like it's a safety blanket. (I round up and then add 2 euros or so.) Americans look at me like I'm a cheap $%#@!, and the Viennese think I'm extravagant. --I can't win, either way. But it's not really a problem in the grand scheme of things. I guess the real problem is when, as the article hints, businesses in "tourist zones" come to expect the high tips as being normal and even snub you if you don't tip "like an American". I have never personally encountered this (we speak German to the staff) but have heard second-hand stories. Oh well. It's all part of the interesting joys and minor-trials of navigating a different culture.

Posted by
337 posts

Lee, there's absolutely no doubt that waiters and waitresses in America are way more dependent on tips than European ones. And of course American sized tips are (for that very reason) much bigger than European ones.

And, yes, most Americans tend to over tip in Europe.

But a few Americans use your reasoning ("European waiters/waitresses are paid living wages") to let the pendulum swing to the opposite extreme. Yes, not tipping a German waitress at all will not leave her starving, but her wage was negotiated with a certain amount of tips in mind.

Cate, if the bill was 44 and I had only a 50 euro bill, I would be torn between giving 50 and 45 (i.e. demanding 5 euros back). Six euros is quite a generous tip for German standards. I would only give that much if I was truly happy with the service. If I had 46 or 47 euros in my wallet (i.e. two 20 and a 5 euro bill and a one or two euro coin) I would give that.

Thomas, from a Berlin perspective your system (round up and then add 2 euros or so) works very well. For very small amounts (e.g paying a 4.30 bill with 7 euro) you would be over tipping though.

Posted by
12172 posts


I appreciated the article. There were interesting comments beneath the article too.

There are lots of places in America that use shady tactics as well - charging a 15-20 percent "service charge" in the fine print but leading you to believe you still need to tip. At many conference venues, waitresses will disappear with a $20 bill for an $11 dollar lunch rather than bring change - assuming you need to get back and it's not worth your hassle to chase them down.

These tactics turn me off so I don't return. Maybe they figure the tourists aren't coming back anyway so they might as well gouge them.

In Italy, I keep a lot of smaller bills and change ready for taxis. I prefer to hand them the exact amount including tip rather than worry about the change games they are notorious for. I never thought I'd have to do that in Germany.

Posted by
3580 posts

In a tourist area here in California, the wait-staff hate to see Europeans at their tables. The employees of restaurants in California and elsewhere in the US depend on tips for a large part of their income and are taxed as though they were being tipped something like 10%. Many Europeans dining in this tourist area don't tip or leave very little. This should "tip you off" about what is common in many parts of Europe. When I eat in a restaurant in Europe I leave a small tip, less than 10%. Recently I left 50 cents on a 10.50 Euro bill. I felt cheap, but so what. In hotels, when I stay more than one night I leave 1-2 Euros usually. I read recently that it is best to tip daily, as different cleaning people may be involved in the care of your room. I don't know whether Europeans tip hotel maids or not.

Posted by
15702 posts

I once had a group of 250 British cell-phone dealers in L.A. for a week long conference/convention. Every afternoon before dinner, they would descend on the hotel bar for a drink. As you can imagine, the bartenders and waitresses worked like crazy.

Not one of them left a tip. The service people complained to us and daily we would suggest to the conference attendees that in the U.S. it is customary to serve the wait staff or bartender--depending on who served you.

But they ignored it. By the end of the week, it was so bad, the wait staff refused to serve them. When my client, a cell phone manufacturer who was picking up the tab for everything, found out, he authorized us to pay each waitress approximately what she would have made during the week.

Whenever I led non-Americans on tours of the U.S., I had to explain the tipping policy here as it was "foreign" to most.