Friday, February 10, 2012

Life in Germany: You won't get that for free

This is so banal and random that I often forget about it completely but it comes down to what we as Americans are used to getting for free; condiments at a fast food restaurant, tap water everywhere, use of bathroom facilities, a refill on our soda or coffee. And what Germans are used to getting for free: nothing.

I'm exaggerating a little but the whole idea of the customer being king is most definitely not German, and in general customer service is something which while improving is just not particularly good.

Things like condiments at a place like Mickey D's normally cost 30 cents. That's right 30 cents for one of those small packets of ketchup that people take by the fistful in the U.S.. You might get one for free if you ordered some type of "meal" but want anymore and you get to pay up.

Free refills don't exist. You also won't ever get a glass of water for free when you sit down for a meal at a restaurant. If you are thirsty you get to order a glass of mineral water. Of course you are allowed to ask for tap water but the chances are 50/50 that they will actually give you one for free. A nice bottomless cup of coffee? Dream on my friend.

The bathroom issue is another pain. Now in any establishment like a restaurant you of course aren't paying a cent but at a mall, gas station, zoo, etc there will normally be someone who cleans the bathrooms with a plate set out for expected tips of about 50 cents. Now in some cases you can choose not to pay and just get a dirty glare, but in other places it is all automated and you won't be able to get to the bathroom without paying. The problem with these tips are that in some cases- often at malls, there is a person standing at the table for tips who has nothing to do with cleaning the bathrooms, the money is going straight to mall management.Or a place like the zoo, I pay a large sum of money for a yearly membership, there is no way I am going to pay to use the restroom.  I won't pay these ones, but for the ones where I see them cleaning the bathrooms I don't mind paying the tip, although it drove me crazy when I first moved here.

The nice thing about this is it forces us to be a bit more aware of how much we are eating and drinking, and we often have small change with us. The bad thing, sometimes it would just be nice to have that bottomless beverage!


  1. England is the same. whenever I go visit I have to remind myself of that, especially the water at a restaurant!

  2. I imagine that the U.S.A is probably quite unique when it comes to it's "freebies" as so far all the European countries I have visited have been similar to Germany, although I have visited that many to know for sure.

  3. Although I have *not* visited enough countries to know for sure. :)

  4. Ho hum... England is definitely not the same?! Ketchup is free at McD's, and I've yet to encounter a restaurant that doesn't give you tap water for free. Very often they bring out a pitcher with ice and lemon slices in, not just a glass. And I'm not paying to use loos either; as in, there is no one collecting a "tip" like Ash decribes.
    I don't think England is *as* customer service orientated as the US, but more in terms of how friendly staff are as compared to what you get for free.