If you caught my previous posts on the differences between Germany and the US, you might remember the seemingly basic daily activiity of running errands can be quite different already. Today, we’re returning to the supermarket once agan and then delve into the dangerous 😉 territory of eating out. Can’t be that hard, you’re saying? Just wait for it!
Bring back, bring back oh bring back my
baby cart to me, to me
Disregard the unfortunate rhyming above. The hidden statement here: German groceries want you to bring your shopping carts back. Orderly. That’s right: no just randomly leaving yours somewhere in the parking lot or around the store. Their tactic? Money. Want a cart? Bring a coin. Outside stores, carts are strung together and you can fetch one by inserting a coin – usually 1 € – into a slot on the car, by this untying it. No worries: if you’re a good customer 😉 and bring your cart back to where you got it, you’ll get your money back. No losses for the store = no losses for you. We’re fair players here. And because we want our every penny back we also …
Return bottles to the store
Yes, that’s right. Stores don’t stop at the carts there. Thirsty? Grab a bottle of your favourite beverage from the shelves but be aware that the price noted isn’t the full one yet. When you pay, the store system automatically adds a so-called ‘Pfand’ – typically 0,25 € per bottle – to the price stated on the shelf. Don’t worry, though: you get your Pfand back when you return your empty bottles to the store. And if you’re anything like me you feel just that little bit feisty in getting a – actually only mental – discount on your next purchase that way.
Sit down where you please
Waiting at the restaurant door to get seated? Nah. Just get inside and seat yourself wherever you please – unless there’s a reservation sign on a table, obviously. Unless you’re at a fancy restaurant or one that specifies reservations are necessary, it’s the norm to pick whichever table you want and waiters will attend to you soon. Waiting staff isn’t assigned certain tables. In fact, it’s not unusual to have one waiter pick up your order and another cash you at the end.
Tap? Not really
Now we’re not talking tap beer – locations that have it will gladly serve you up a foamy cold beer, no worries. But asking for tap water along with your meal? I’m afraid to tell you that’s not so much of a thing here; potentially even looked down upon as a cheap opt-out of ordering a beverage you’d have to pay for. Bottled water is the norm – whether it be ‘still’ or ‘sprudelnd’ (sparkling). The latter is what the majority of us go for – so refreshing! It’s what I keep at homes at all times, too, though I occasionally just have some straight from the tap, too.
Take your time
Let’s talk tipping [Or. Trinkgeld]
Unlike in the US, German waiting staff doesn’t depend on your tip making up most of their salary. This doesn’t mean they didn’t appreciate it as much [you still don’t make a fortune as a waiter]; it’s just not that you’re required to. Most restaurant goers still tip unless the service was terrible. Since staff doesn’t ‘expect’ you to give it, the common practice is to ask your waiter for the bill [note that it doesn’t automatically arrive at your table after you finished your meal; see point below on taking your time]. When he shows up at your table with it, hand them over – yes, another situation where many of us use cash rather than credit cards – the money and say how much you want to pay. I.e. if your bill says 33,20 € and you enjoyed the service, you might hand them 35 and say “stimmt so” [as in: that’s right = keep the remainder] which then indicates how much they get to keep to themselves.
And that’s it for another episode of the small but important differences between Germany and the US.
Happiness-inducing today: A short uplifting conversation after a rough day at work.
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Which one of these surprised you the most?
What differences between your homecountry and places you’ve traveled to have you noticed before?