When eating out in Germany, one notices quite a few differences to North America.
When entering a German restaurant, men generally precede women. This might be a remainder from times when the man was the one to decide whether the locality was respectable enough for the woman to enter. In entering first, he would screen her from curious stares and if the decision was made that the locality was appropriate, he would choose the table.
There are no hostesses in German restaurants to greet and seat the guests. The guests enter and look for a table themselves.
Some more traditional German restaurants have longer and bigger tables and in that case it is customary to join other people at a table if there is no empty table anymore. You would approach and ask, “Ist hier noch frei?” (Are these seats taken?)
When asking for the menu say “Die Speisekarte, bitte.” If you ask for “Das Menü, bitte,” you are asking for the three course meal of the day (soup, dinner and dessert).
German table manners are different from North American ones. The fork is held in the left hand, the knife in the right, keeping them this way throughout the meal. The knife is used to push the food onto the fork. If eating only with a fork or a spoon, the left hand is placed on the table besides the plate, not in the lap. Placing your hand in your lap would be regarded as rude.
Germans rarely drink plain water with a meal. Beer, wine, juices, pop drinks or carbonated water are ordered. If you want to drink regular water you will have to specifically ask for “Leitungswasser, bitte,” or the server will assume you want to drink sparkling water from a bottle. There are also no free refills on drinks.
To ask for the cheque you say, “Ich möchte bitte zahlen!” (I would like to pay please) or “Die Rechnung, bitte!” (The bill please). Normally you pay your server at the table. Tax and service charge are already included in the total amount, so a tip is not necessary. However, most people round off the bill to the nearest Euro if they are pleased with the service. For instance, if the cheque amounts to EUR 15,50, they might say “Sechzehn Euro, bitte!” (Make it 16 Euros please). That indicates to the server that he will only have to give change for 16 Euros.
Most smaller restaurants expect cash payments as paying by credit card is not as customary as in North America. However, bigger or higher-end restaurants will accept credit cards.