Dos and Don'ts
Greeting: Don’t smile away. Most Berliners have been brought up to think that smiling is a sign of superficiality. Don’t be deterred by stern faces, cold welcomes, and impassive service in shops and restaurants. Most people are actually much more genial than what they let show—politeness and warmth are just not the German Volk’s best attributes.
Tipping: Tip fairly. Servers receive a fixed salary, so it’s usual to just round up the bill to the nearest euro, although American tipping habits are catching up in Berlin too. Generally speaking, the higher the bill, the higher the tip with a good 10 percent being the norm in proper restaurants.
Paying: Berlin women are expected to be strong and independent, hence self-sufficient. To buy them a drink or a meal could be interpreted as macho and most women will insist on splitting the bill—which is a very German habit in general. Most Berlin servers will ask you right away whether you wish to pay “together” (zusammen) or “separate” (getrennt).
Following the Rules: Be ready to learn. Berliners are often described as lecturing and haughty know-it-alls. However aloof they may seem, they’re not indifferent. Are you possibly feeling like you’re being talked down to or lectured about traffic rules, or something else you were spotted doing wrong? Just take it as a sign of concern and care.
Hello: Guten Tag. Pronounced goo-ten taag.
Goodbye: Auf Wiedersehen. Pronounced owf vee-der-zayn.
Thank you very much: Vielen Dank. Pronounced fee-len dunk.
Please: Bitte. Pronounced be-tuh.
How are you?: Wie geht es Ihnen? Pronounced vee gayt es ee-nen; formal.
Excuse me: Entschuldigung. Pronounced ent-shul-de–gong.
Help!: Hilfe! Pronounced hill-fuh.
What’s your name?: Wie heissen Sie? Pronounced vee hy-zen zee.
Do you speak English?: Sprechen Sie Englisch? Pronounced spray-khen zee English.
I’d like to: Ich möchte. Pronounced eekh merkh-te.
How much is that?: Wieviel kostet das? Pronounced vee-feel kos-tet das?
Could you help me, please?: Können Sie mir bitte helfen? Pronounced ker-nen zee meer bee-te hell-fen?
Subscribe to Nat Geo Traveler
Available in print and for iPad®! See destinations come alive with 360-degree photos, videos, and more!