6 Things You Need to Know Before Eating Out In GermanyGermany has a great food culture, I mean German food is amazing, so you don't want to miss out and while the concept for most restaurants is basically the same (sit down and have a meal) there are a few cultural differences to keep in mind when eating at a German restaurant, or even a Chinese or Italian  restaurant here in Germany. So next time you feel like going out, keep these 6 important tips in mind.

1) Seating

At most German restaurants it is customary for you to seat yourself. Coming from the United States this can often be confusing. It's also important to note that most German restaurants do not require you to make a reservation. At some restaurants or beer gardens you may find long banquet or garden style tables. It is perfectly acceptable to sit here, even if someone else, or perhaps a group of people, is already present at the table. In this situation it is customary to politely ignore your new dining neighbor. If you are unsure of where to sit, or don't know if a table has any space leftR12;feel free to ask!  Here are two key phrases to keep in mind: R20;Ist der Platz frei?R21; is this seat free or R20;Darf ich hier sitzen?R20; may I sit here. If your German isn't that great, don't worry about it! Most Germans will apprciate the effort your are making and have learned enough English in school to help you find your way!  Just relax, take a seat, and enjoy your meal!

2) Water

This one may come as a bit of a shock to anyone new to Germany coming from the U.S. Water at restaurants is not free, it's also usually carbonated. Although some restaurants will give you free tap water, this is not something that they will advertise or encourageR12;in fact in some places you may be refused and offered bottled water instead. When you do order water, keep in mind that if you do not specify otherwise it will be bubbly-- or sparkling water.  Water without bubbles is called R20;Stilles WasserR21; and tap water would be R20;LeitungswasserR20; --broken down it would be pronounced: lie-tungs-wasser.

Good news for all you beer lovers though! In many resteraunts beer and wine is cheaper than water and remember the legal drinking age for beer and wine in Germany is 16

3) Asking for the Bill

In most restaurants in the United States you will be brought your bill rather quickly after finishing your meal. This is not the case in Germany, you'll have to specify when you want to pay. Here you can say R20;Die Rechnung bitteR21; the bill please or R20;Wir Möchten ZahlenR21; we'd like to pay. Afterwards your waiter or waitress may ask you if you'll be paying R20;Zusammen?R21; Which means together. Here a simple R20;JaR21; or R20;Nein, getrennt.R20; *(Geh-trent = seperate) will do.  Which brings us to...

4) Cash VS Card

Although it is becoming increasingly more popular for restaurants and beer gardens to accept most Visa or MasterCard's, it isn't as prevalent as it would be in America or Canada. As always Cash is King. Anywhere you go you won't have trouble if you are paying in (Euro) cash, and luckily most restaurants are near an ATM or two. Some places may have what looks to be a card machine, but only accept German bank cards such as the EC KarteR12;However, if you are only staying in Germany for a few years it wouldn't be worth it to open up a German account. Some places may have a minimum amount you have to reach in order to charge anything on a card. Again, if you aren't sure ask the restaurant before you order anything R20;Nehmen Sie Karte/Visa/MasterCard?R21; If they don't take card they should be able to point you in the right direction for an ATM or R20;Geld Automat.R21;

5) Tipping

Perhaps the prices in German restaurants are a little bit more than what you are used to in the U.S. This is because German waiters and waitress are making a full wage and they don't rely on tips to make their living the way those in America do.  Service and VAT are included in the menu prices in restaurants, bars, and beer gardens all over Germany. Still, if the service is good a tip is warranted; 5-10% is usually more than enough, or you can simply round up the amount of the bill to an even number. For example, if your bill was 23 Euro and 57 cents you might give your waitress 25 euro and say R20;Stimmt.R21; Which more or less means R20;correctR21; and she won't give you any change. You can also give her a larger bill, say a 50, and tell her exactly how much you are paying R20;25 Euro.R21; If, however, the service was sub par Germans won't hesitate to leave without tippingR12;so you can feel free to do the same.

6) Taking Your Time

Last but not least some German restaurants may take longer to serve you than you are used to. In Germany eating out is a relaxed dining experience, and if your German neighbors or friends ever ask you out to eat expect to stay a while. From a German point of view Americans can seem to always be in a hurry, especially when it comes to our meal times. Here it's typical to stay and chat after finishing a meal, perhaps ordering a cup of coffee or having another beer. You don't HAVE to stay and chat but know that if you don't feel like getting up just yet after finishing a giant portion of Schnitzel and Pommes (French Fries) you are free to take your time.

German SchnitzelWhile in Germany I hope you truly get to enjoy all of the different culinary wonders this country has to offer. You might notice other cultural differences while you are out and about satisfying your taste buds; like how American Chinese food is different from German Chinese food or that Turkish Doner Kebaps are practically a German food staple(that you have to try!)R12;but these six tips should help get you through the door and to the table anywhere in Germany for a great dining experience.

Don't Feel Like Going Out? No Problem!

Check out this great recipe from Johannes Guggenberger to have a wonderful German meal at home or find more recipes on his website http://www.stuttgartcooking.de