When going to a restaurant in Germany, it’s not common practice to wait by the door to be seated. It’s quite normal to just choose a table and sit down. It’s only the exclusive, up-market restaurants that you’ll be welcomed at the door and taken to your table.
The regular’s table (Stammtisch)
Many smaller restaurants and particularly pubs in the smaller villages usually have a table used by regulars. These tables usually have a “Stammtisch” sign placed on it and you shouldn’t try to sit there without first checking with the waiting staff.
Sharing your table
In Germany, it’s quite normal to allow strangers to join you at your table if you are seated at a table larger than your party. This is particularly true in beer gardens and vineyard restaurants. It’s actually seen as friendly if you offer any free seats at your table. Think of it as a great way to get to know the locals and make new friends – after all, isn’t that what visiting a new country is all about?
Water on the table
(Tap) water or iced water is not usually served as a complimentary drink as it is in many other countries. Most Germans prefer to drink sparkling water with their meals. If you order water you will be expected to pay for it and will be asked whether you would like still or sparkling mineral water (Wasser mit Kohlensäure). In some places, you can request tap water, but the practice is not common and it may be seen as cheap or even rude.
Tipping in Germany is completely different to tipping in some other countries like the United States, for example. In Germany, the waiting staff are paid more, so the tips are generally much smaller than in the USA. In bars, restaurants and cafés, service and VAT are included in the price.
It is typical to round the amount of your bill up if you were happy with the service with the general rule of thumb being to add 5-10%. However, Germans are not shy about not leaving a tip if they weren’t happy with the service. The waiting staff understand this as a sign that they haven’t done a good job.