Once you’re tired of surviving on a diet of only kebabs and pasta, eating out at a restaurant sounds rather appealing. Thankfully in Mannheim there is a wide selection of places to go eat.
A regular restaurant will mostly have German types of food. This means a lot of meat, potatoes, and sauerkraut. If that doesn’t sound appetizing then there are several Italian and Mexican restaurants in the city. Other options are cafes where they serve sandwiches and salads. If you are looking for something familiar then Burger King is located on the main street, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Overall the choices of food are pretty similar to the one’s you find back home when eating out, the etiquette though has a couple of key differences.
The first thing you will notice when going to a restaurant is that there is no waiter who will sit you down. In Germany there is no need to stand in the entrance and wait to be seated. As long as a table isn’t clearly marked as reserved you have free reign to sit yourself anywhere you want. One way to make sure you aren’t sitting in someone elses table you could ask the waiters, “Ist dieser Tisch frei?” which means is this table free? The next difference you will notice is when you ask for water. In Germany being served tap water is unheard of. Instead the waiter will ask you what kind of water you want. Wasser mit Gas is sparkling water while Wasser ohne Gas is regular mineral water. Water will always be served by the bottle at a restaurant.
Another big difference is the involvement of the waiter during your dining experience. In the U.S. waiters are constantly checking if everything is ok. On the other hand, in Germany you have to ask for service. The waiter will only bring out your food, it’s your responsibility to ask the waiter for something. For example the check will never be presented to you if you haven’t asked for it yet, which leads to the next difference, paying and tipping. In Germany it’s very common to pay with cash and it’s not uncommon to eat at a restaurant that doesn’t accept credit cards. The number on the check is the amount due and the amount you give to the waiter. Normally the waiter carries around a wallet and when you give them money they will give you back the exact change. If you want to tip the waiter you can tell the waiter to either keep what you gave them or tell them the amount you want to pay. Usually tipping in Germany is a lot lower than tipping in the U.S. A couple of euros will do fine and not tipping is not regarded as “unethical”. Waiters in Germany are paid at least minimum wage so their wage does not solely rely on tips.
Make sure to keep these things into account when going to eat out in Germany. A couple of tips will save you from looking like a complete foreigner.