Each restaurant must post a menu and price list on or near the door. Remember, VAT is already included in the price of each dish.
Unless there is a host or hostess to seat you, you may choose your own table. Don’t sit at the table marked “Stammtisch.” It’s reserved for regular customers. Check out the huge variety of restaurants from page 273.
Tables are sometimes shared. If there are empty seats at your table, someone may sit down there if the restaurant is full. Likewise, don’t be afraid to take the vacant end of a table.
• Ordering and Eating
Ask for a “Speisekarte” for meals and a “Weinkarte” to see the wine list. If you ask for a “Menu,” you may be served the meal of the day — it means a set price meal of two or three courses.
It is customary to eat as soon as your dish arrives on the table. It’s not rude; it’s practical. German restaurants serve each meal as soon as it’s finished cooking — fresh off the stove.
Signal your waiter/waitress when you’re ready for the bill. Eating in Germany is considered a social experience: the table is yours for as long as you want it, even after the dishes have been cleared. You pay the bill at the table.
Most of the tip is included in the bill, but it is highly appreciated if you tip an extra 10%. You can also use the 10% rule of thumb for other services such as taxis.
On weekdays, stores may stay open until 8 p.m., though many close at 6 or 7 p.m. Some businesses close during lunch, sometimes between noon and 3 p.m. Many small stores might close one afternoon a week, usually Wednesdays. On Saturdays, big stores may stay open until 8 p.m., but many small ones may close at noon or 2 p.m. All shops are closed on Sundays. Gas stations, shops at airports and railway stations, and souvenir shops in resorts are the only places open.
If you forgot to buy milk, coke, beer or some packaged foods, you can buy them at the nearest gas station.
• Returning Merchandise
Returns are normally handled as exchanges or credits with a “Gutschein” or voucher. You may not be able to get your money back, but you can ask. Be sure to bring your receipt.
Bring a basket or bag to the store with you — these aren’t always provided for free — but if you forget, you can buy a plastic bag for small change. Everyone bags his/her own groceries. Don’t be shy about buying small quantities; Germans shop frequently for fresh food and often buy cheese and cold cuts in portions of 100 grams — less than a quarter of a pound.
• Shopping Carts
Usually you pay a €1 coin deposit to use a shopping cart. You insert the coin in the slot in the handle of the shopping cart, and you get the money back when you return the cart.
• At Small Shops
People may not form a line or take a number at many small shops such as bakeries and butchers, or at vegetable stands. Stand close to the counter. Clerks are pretty good at serving whoever came first, but don’t be shy about speaking up when it’s your turn.
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