The Truth About Tipping (Trinkgeld) in Germany

Much of the online English-language tipping advice for Europe – and Germany in particular – is wrong. This is understandable when you realize that even most native Germans get restaurant tipping all wrong.

The Myth That Won’t Die
If you ask the typical German about how tipping should work in a German restaurant, the standard answer is to just round off the amount of the bill to the nearest euro. If the Rechnung comes to 33.40 euros, they’ll tell you to round that off to 34 or 35 euros, but never more than two or three euros Trinkgeld. Some Germans are even more stingy with tips than that! They will tell you that wait staff in Germany are well paid and the Bedienung (service charge) is included in the bill. But this is a stubborn myth (and lame excuse) that somehow never dies. Only if the menu clearly states that the service charge is included in the prices (Preise inklusive Bedienung) is that true, and that is almost never the case. But there is also an important distinction between Bedienungsgeld and Trinkgeld, which we will explain below.

restaurant menu

A doorside restaurant menu in Germany. Is a service charge included in the prices? Usually not. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

The Truth
Germans who are better informed will tell you the truth: The wages earned by a Kellner/Kellnerin in Germany are among the lowest of any profession in the country. Food servers in Germany start out at a minimum-wage level of just under nine euros per hour brutto (gross, before deductions). Experienced waiters/waitresses can earn from 10 to 12 euros per hour, depending on the location and the type of dining establishment. A new waiter in Bremen earns on average about 950 euros a month before deductions and tips. The German average is 1,646 euros a month. More experienced Kellner/Kellnerinnen can earn up to 2,400 euros monthly. The average annual wage for a food server in Germany is 18,000-21,000 euros, not including tips. (Wait-staff wages in Austria are lower; those in Switzerland are higher.) Whether experienced or not, a food server working in a German restaurant depends very much on tips from customers to bring their income up to a more reasonable level. If you consider 10 euros an hour, or 18,000 euros per annum “well paid,” then you have rather low expectations. Continue reading