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It is traditional in Germany to eat the main meal of the day at
lunchtime, between 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM.
In contrast to a long, several-course meal, a German lunch usually
consists of an appetizer (usually soup), a main course, and a dessert.
When you are attending a business conference, both lunch and dinner
are considered important components of the conference. Meals allow
those attending to make personal contacts and to continue discussing
business issues in a more casual atmosphere.
Ladies at the Dinner Table
Contrary to earlier traditions that frowned upon women speaking
with the waiter, tasting the wine, or paying the bill, all of these
things are normal today. It is not only acceptable for a woman to
ask for the bill, but also to enter a restaurant first, and - if
acting as hostess - to try the wine before it is served. However,
this last situation will usually not come into question at business
luncheons because, in most cases, only non-alcoholic beverages are
The consumption of alcohol in Germany (even during the work
day) may be more common than you are used to in your country, and
when others drink, you may feel pressured to drink as well. Again,
you don't need to worry - modern etiquette suggests that it is acceptable
to refuse a drink. In fact, you can even offer to order drinks for
others and refrain from drinking alcohol yourself.
Leaving a Tip
Generally, the rule states that 10-15% of the bill's total should
be left as a tip if you were satisfied with the service you received.
If you weren't satisfied, you can simply not leave a tip, and others
will not frown upon you. You may, on the other hand, want to leave
more than the standard 10-15% tip if the restaurant staff really
went out of their way to accommodate your needs. Also, when leaving,
it is polite to thank the staff or your waiter / waitress with,
"Danke schön." ("Thank you.") This lets
you express your appreciation in addition to the tip that you leave
- When in Germany, should I
conform my table manners to those of the Germans?
For the most part, you do not have to make too much effort to
mirror the Germans at the table. If you practice good table manners
at home, they will suffice in Germany; it is not necessary to
worry about how to hold your fork or where to place your napkin.
But be careful - some behavior should be avoided. For example,
in Southern Asia, it is normal to chew loudly when eating and
to belch after a good meal. If you were to do this in Germany,
it could embarrass you as well as those sitting with you.
- What are a few table manners that
I should keep in mind in Germany?
Should a host pay the bill
at the table with the guests present?
- Before eating, wish everyone at the table "Guten Appetit."
("Enjoy your meal.")
- Only take as much food as you plan on eating. The Germans
usually "clean their plates".
- When you or others are eating, keep your hands on the table,
not under it.
- Sit up straight, close to the table.
- Don't prop your head up with your hands.
- Don't bend your head over your food when you are eating or
"shovel" your food in your mouth.
- Don't begin eating until everyone at the table has been served.
- Don't begin drinking until everyone has something to drink
and a toast has been made.
- Look others in the eye when toasting.
- Do not get up to leave when you have finished eating, but
wait for the others; if you came to dinner with others, then
leave with them also.
- Do not belch or chew with your mouth open.
- When you are finished eating, places your knife and fork together
and rest them on your plate.
No! It is much more polite to pay the bill at the bar in order
to avoid misunderstandings or discussions about paying. This also
allows the host to inconspicuously pay, look over the bill, leave
a tip, and order an aperitif for everyone.
Is it acceptable to ask for
the house wine in a good restaurant?
Yes! A good house wine is a good advertisement for a restaurant.
Also, you can be sure that a wine from wine countries such as
Germany, France, and Italy will never be of bad quality. When
your budget doesn't allow an extremely expensive wine, ask the
waiter to recommend a low cost, quality wine. By naming the amount
that you are willing to spend, you show that you are confident
in the situation and not embarrassed to ask.
When I order soup, is it
polite to tip up my soup cup and drink the last bit of soup?
Yes! However, in order to do this tactfully, take hold of one
of the soup cup handles, tip, and drink. Keep in mind that this
is only polite when your soup comes served in a CUP, not a bowl!
Is it appropriate to use
toothpicks or put on lipstick at the table?
Yes! These are not the most tactful things to do at the table,
but if they have to be done, then go ahead. Lipstick can be put
on discretely almost anywhere, but is it really necessary to put
it on at the table? If you really want to freshen up your make-up,
be sure to go to the bathroom.
When I attend a social event,
should I wait to take off my sport coat or jacket until I am asked
to do so by the host?
Yes! Good hosts and hostesses should react quickly when they notice
that the room temperature is rising and offer to take your coat
Is it true that I should
not lay my paper napkin in my plate when I am finished eating?
Yes! In Germany it is customary to fold your napkin after eating
and place it to the left side of your plate. The Germans have
a very strict recycling system, and this helps ensure that the
napkin ends up in the correct recycling bin. Cloth napkins should
also be folded and laid to the left side of your plate, never
in the plate!
If I would like to say a
few words at the table or to make a toast, is it appropriate to
bang on the side of my glass to get people's attention?
No! Although you typically see this in old German movies, today
it is more appropriate to stand and ask for their attention in
a slightly raised voice. Those seated at the table should automatically
stop talking and pay attention.
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