Dining Etiquette in Germany
If you’re an international businessman or woman, it’s likely that you travel to different countries as part of your usual routine. If that’s the case, it’s critical for you to be familiar with food etiquette in the countries you’ll visit, especially if you’re going to conduct business over a meal or two.
The Basics of Dining Etiquette in Germany
Pre-meal toasts are not uncommon in Germany, so you need to know how to conduct yourself during them. “Zum Wohl!” which literally means “with wine,” and “Prost!” which translates to “with beer,” are two frequently heard toasts in Germany, and both are meant to communicate a wish for good health.
No matter what the specific toast is to kickstart your meal, be sure you maintain eye contact throughout. If more than one person is being toasted, you should look each individual in the eye as they are recognized. Do not break eye contact until everyone’s glasses are placed on the table and avoid being the first person to put your glass down.
Maintaining eye contact during a toast is important throughout Germany, but this part of dining etiquette is even more crucial in eastern regions of the country.
The Do's of Dining Etiquette in Germany
Food etiquette in Germany mandates that you wait to begin eating until your host or hostess says, “Guten Appetit.”
As you eat, hold your knife in your right hand and your fork in your left hand. When you’re done eating, lay your utensils parallel to each other on the right-hand side of your dish. The tips of your utensils should point to ten o’clock. Position your knife so that it rests above your fork and its blade points in toward the center of your plate. Knowing what cutlery to use can be a challenge no matter what country you’re eating in.
To ensure you’re adhering to the rules of dining etiquette in Germany, it’s wise to always start with the utensils located farthest from your plate and work your way in, course by course. Reserve the fork and spoon that might be located above your plate for dessert.
The Don'ts of Dining Etiquette in Germany
Even if you have nothing in your hands, you should avoid resting your hands in your lap. You should keep your hands above the table so that your dining companions can see them at all times.
Avoid using your knife unless you absolutely have to. In Germany, it’s customary to use the side of your fork to slice through things whenever possible. While you may slice roasted potatoes with a knife in other locations, dining etiquette in Germany dictates that you should use your fork instead while you are in that country.
If you need the assistance of your waiter or waitress, get their attention by making eye contact. Avoid waving or addressing waitstaff by name because these actions are considered rude in Germany.
Even if you’ve traveled half-way around the world to talk about a business matter, you shouldn’t be the first one to bring the subject up. Be patient and wait for someone from your host country to start talking about business before you do.
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