Ordering in German — Auswärts essen


Ordering in German — Auswärts essen

Learning a new language takes a degree of humility. It often means starting from zero and learning things like the alphabet and counting again. Simple ideas can be a struggle to express in your new language and then when you get that far, you might still not sound like an educated mother tongue speaker. Those who take on the challenge though often reap the rewards of gaining insights into different cultures, ways of thinking, and finding themselves in deeper relationships. One of the questions I often get is: “How can I expediently increase my speaking and listening skills in German.” To that I say speak as much as you can with as many people as you can and then listen carefully to what they say. That piece of advice, however simple it may be, is often followed by the bemoaning comment “But the Swiss don’t speak proper High German.” Newsflash very few people speak a language the way it’s written or the way it sounds on the news. We slur words, mispronounce them, have regionalisms and dialects in most of the world’s major languages. I was just in Südtirol at the weekend and there instead of “hinauf” they say “auffi”. One of the best and easiest places to practise your German is of course in cafés, bars, and restaurants. You have to interact with the server so why not just go for it. The customer is the king – Der Kunde ist König – so they’re somewhat obligated to interact with you as you want.


Let’s look at some tips and tricks for improving your German when you’re out on the town and in your local.

First off, I’ve written this before about going grocery shopping, but don’t lose your cool. A restaurant in the German speaking world works pretty much just like restaurants do all over the world. Think context. Here is the simple seven step process:

Seven Basic Phases of Dining Out

  1. Welcome Willkommen
  2. Seating (perhaps) — Tisch (table)
  3. Drinks — Getränke
  4. Food — Essen
  5. How is everything? — Ist alles in Ordnung? (Is everything alright?) 
  6. Pay — Bezahlen 
  7. Goodbye — Auf Wiedersehen


Important Vocabulary

A Sample Dialogue to Practice

Okay there we have it, we’re prepared to go out. Let’s venture into a typical restaurant with a friend who’s visiting from the USA. You can show off your skills now.



What is said


Enter the restaurant. You see a podium type thing at the entrance and a sign reading…

“Bitte warten Sie, Sie werden platziert.” or “Sehr geehrte Gäste, bitte haben Sie einen Moment Geduld! Wir werden Sie gleich zu Ihrem Platz bringen.”

Great you know that this is probably a sign indicating that they will bring you to a seat. So you wait.


The waiter comes and welcomes you:

“Willkommen im Restarurant Kreuz!”


Now it’s appropriate for you to preempt further questions and show off your language skills:

“Guten Tag, wir hätten gern einen Tisch für zwei Personen, bitte.”


He might now ask you if you’d like to sit inside or outside. 

“Möchten Sie drinnen oder draussen im Garten sitzen?”


The weather is wonderful outside so take a seat there.

“Im Garten, bitte.”


As the waiter brings you to your table you notice that there is no shade, but that there are plenty of parasols around. You ask for him to set one up for you.

“Oh, danke. Könnten Sie bitte einen Sonnenschirm für uns aufstellen, so dass wir ein bisschen Schatten haben können.”


After he sets up the Sonnenschirm he’s going to ask you what you’d like to drink.

“Was möchten Sie trinken?”


On such a nice day with no more work to do you decide to order a beer and a water. You friend would like the same.

“Gern zwei grosse Bier und zwei Mineralwasser, eins mit und eins ohne.”

Here we see exactly how spoken language changes from written and what is grammatically correct. We leave out the words Gläser or Flaschen before beer because they are implied and the same with the Mineralwasser. The mit and the ohne here apply to bubbles – ohne is without and mit is with.


As the waiter comes back with your drinks he will then typically ask who has the mineral water with and without.

“Also denn, da hätten wir die zwei Bier und Mineralwasser. Wer bekommt das Mineral mit?”


You respond that it’s for you.

“Das ist für mich, danke.”


He then asks if you’re ready to order:

“Wissen Sie schon, was Sie bestellen möchten?” (Do you already know what you’d like to order?)


To this question you might reply no, because you’ve only seen the daily specials but not the menu. Be careful here, das Menü ≠ the menu. Das Menü are the daily specials sometimes written out as Tageshit (Yes, it looks like there is the word shit in there). If you want the menu though you’ll need to ask for die Speisekarte / die Karte.

“Dürfen wir uns bitte die Speisekarte anschauen?” (May we please take a look at the menu?)


The waiter will then respond and bring you your menus.

“Selbstverständlich, und hier die Spiesekarte. Im Angebot ist der Lachssteak mit Rösti.” (Of course. Here’s the menu for you. On special we have salmon steak and rösti.)


After looking at the menu you’re ready to order. Your friend is going for something typically Swiss, and you like the sound of the special.

“Ich hätte gern den Lachs mit Rösti, und der Kollege nimmt die Züri-Gschnätzlets mit Rösti. Als Vorspeise nehme ich den Gartensalat und er hätte gern die Tagessuppe.”


The waiter then usually responds by listing off your order to make sure he got it correct and asks if there is anything else.

“Das wäre denn einmal Züri-Gschnätzlets mit Rösti, einmal Tageshit, ein Gartensalat und eine Tagessuppe. Was für Dressing hätten Sie gern für den Salat?”


Now you need to make the call on the dressing. I recommend the French. You take that. (Note: dressing is usually never served on the side.)

“Französisch, gern. Danke.”


He then asks if you’d like anything else.

“Darf’s sonst was sein?”


You’re both happy, but notice that your beer is getting pretty low. You preempt the shortage and order two more, but ask the waiter for them to come with the meal.

“Ja, gern noch zwei Bier, bitte, aber erst mit dem Essen. Danke.”

Waiter 2

A while later, and this can be up to 20 or 30 minutes depending where you are, another waiter might appear with your food. They generally ask who ordered what as follows: 

“Guten Tag, wer bekommt jetzt den Lachs?”

If there are only two of you then they can guess who will get the other meal.


You respond that it’s for you.

“Ich bekomme den Lachs, danke.”

Waiter 2

The waiter then serves you both and asks if there is anything else that he can bring.

“Kann ich Ihnen noch etwas bringen?”


You’re happy and respond that everything is fine.

“Nein, danke. Das ist gut.”


After a while the waiter might appear and ask if everything is good.

“Wie schmeckt es Ihnen?” (literally, how does it taste?)


If your mouth isn’t full at this stage, you will probably respond with…

“Sehr fein, danke.”


When the waiter realizes that you are finished with your meal, he will come and clear away the plates and ask if you’d like dessert and/or coffee after asking again if you enjoyed your meal.

“Hat Ihnen das Essen geschmeckt?”

“Ja, das Essen war sehr gut, danke.”

“Hätten Sie gern noch etwas? Ein Dessert oder Kaffee?”


You’re watching your diet, but an espresso would be good and the bill, as it will take an eternity to get it otherwise.

“Gern noch zwei Espressi und die Rechnung, bitte.”

Note here that Germans often use Italian words and their plurals though some people will say Espressos.


The waiter comes with your coffees and the bill. He tells you how much its for and is ready to receive payment right away. This is good for you as you can then enjoy your coffee and leave afterwards.

“Hier sind noch die zwei Espressi. Das macht zusammen einhundert zwanzig Franken fünfzig (CHF 120.50). Bezahlen Sie zusammen oder getrennt?”


You’re treating your guest and say that you’ll pay the entire bill. Tipping in the German speaking world is quite simple. Most people simply round up slightly. It’s not calculated as a percentage.

“Zusammen bitte. Einhundert dreissig ist gut. Danke Ihnen.”


Says thank you and wishes you a nice day.

“Vielen Dank. Ich wünsche Ihnen noch einen schönen Tag.”


You wish him a good day too.

“Wünsche ich Ihnen auch.”

**If at any point during these transactions the waiter slips into English, simply assert yourself and tell him that you would like to speak German. There are two ways of doing this. 1. Just keep speaking German (they may not change back to German.) 2. Tell them directly “Ich hätte es gern, wenn wir das auf Deutsch machen. Danke.”

***Never apologize for your German. You are trying and that is great. A good waiter or waitress will help you along the way.


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