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Day 3-4 and Of Eating in a German Restaurant

Tuesday, the 28th, classes started. There are only three of us in the German lit class that I am taking, so instead of meeting in a classroom at the local Gymnasium (high school) like the others, the three of us are meeting with our professor in a cafe close to the hotel for class. I am good with that. :)

The second class will sometimes be at the Gymnasium and otherwise will consist of activities in the city. Today, we had a tour at the local BMW Fabrik as our ‘class’ and saw the process of how BMWs are made. We unfortunately weren’t allowed to take pictures. The tour was in German and I’m not that into cars, but I understood most of it. It was very long though, and I’m pretty tired. I’m not used to walking this much. I’ll get better eventually. I just hope it stops raining soon! I also didn’t speak any English until around 3pm today; I had a bet with a kid in our group that neither of us would speak any English or we would have to buy the other a drink. We both got tired of it around mid-afternoon though and decided to relax a little. We’ll go for longer next time.
During my short stay here so far I have also picked up a few tips and differences in eating at a German restaurant compared to an American one. I’m sure I will learn more as time goes on, but there are things I’ve noticed right away.

The first is that you don’t wait to be seated. Once you get to a restaurant, you walk in (or not, if you want to sit outside), choose a table, and sit down. Then a waiter will bring you a menu. Menus can often also be provided in English at lots of places here, but I don’t ask for them; I’ve never seen menus offered in two languages at home. Also, the menus here all seem to be huge, and they also take me longer to read because I’m trying to translate.

This is unfortunate, because they ask for your drink order almost immediately. They might also ask what you want to eat right away, though others times waiters will not come and check on you to see if you are ready to order until you close your menu and set it aside. If you’re eating in a group, they will not wait for all the food to be ready before bringing it out; as soon as a meal is done cooking, they will bring it to the table.

When you’re done eating, you’re supposed to cross your utensils on top of your dishes so they know to clear your place, and if you didn’t eat all of your food, a waiter might ask you if it didn’t taste good; Germans don’t often waste food. Sometimes, they won’t bring you the check or clear your dishes at all until you grab their attention and say “Zahlen bitte” or, check please. Waiters do not come to you often or check on you as much as they do at home because they don’t rely on tips.

Tipping is the last big difference- the waiter comes with a little wallet/bag of change after they have cleared your dishes and you finish the transaction that moment. Apparently, you can pay by card, but I’ve only ever seen it done by cash so far. Tipping is only 5-10%, and mostly you just round to the nearest dollar. If, for example, the meal was 5,60 Euros and I wanted to pay 6, I might hand them a ten and say “sechs bitte” (and the waiter usually replies with “danke schön” in acknowledgment of the tip). You never get a reciept for anything; they keep track of the price of your meal on a little notepad they carry with them and add up how much your meal and drink costs by hand to show you.

Basically, in a restuarant in Germany, one is much more assertive than he or she would be in an American restaurant. You find your own seat, must draw attention if you want a refill, and pretty much always have to ask for the check.  I guess it’s a good way to practice my German?

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