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In German restaurants (at least the less fancy ones) the waiter usually brings you the check and immediately collects the money.

In other European countries (e.g. France, Italy, Belgium), the waiter brings you the check and leaves.

I've always managed to pay my bill in some way, but never understood what the intended follow-up is.

Suppose you want to pay in cash (otherwise it's simple) and you don't need any change:

  1. Do you lay the money on the table and leave? Or do you lay the money on the table and wait?

  2. If (as common) the check is in a book, do you place the money on or in the book?

  3. If the answer to 1. is "wait" and the answer to 2. is "in", the waiter can't see if you've put the cash in. Does he come back after some time or does he wait for a signal?

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2  
Leave the cash sticking partway out, so that it is visible. –  Michael Hampton Aug 17 at 21:00
    
Also, don't leave stray cash on an outdoors table -- putting it in a book makes sure it doesn't get all over the street by a sudden gust of wind. Make sure you put any coins in the pocket of the book, if available, so that they don't fall out when the waiter picks up the book. –  mindcorrosive Aug 20 at 17:15
    
All three answers were very helpful, thank you very much. I'll accept Relaxed's for his insight on the staff's expectation. –  Stefan Walter Aug 23 at 20:11

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I think the most standard scenario is visibly leaving the money (or a credit card) in the book/cup/whatever. Make sure banknotes cannot fly away and wait. The waiter will expect you to do that and try to check again shortly. Just laying the cash and leaving is not the end of the world but it's clearly not the usual way, at least in France. If they are too busy and you really want to leave, you can also walk up to the counter/desk/whatever but that would also be somewhat unusual. Whatever you do, waiters will try to accommodate you but people standing up before they have paid does create some stress.

Note that in France for example, a tip is not really expected (as a waiter I am happy of course but half of the tables don't give any and that's perfectly OK). The way most people tip is by getting their change and them leaving some (or perhaps even more than that) on the table when leaving. Saying “make 15” (say on a EUR 20 banknote for a EUR 13 bill) is something Germans do ;-)

I don't know precisely about Italy or Belgium but I think that in the Netherlands there is a stronger expectation that you stand up and go to the desk to pay, at least if the place is not too fancy.

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Just FWIW I'd say

for (1) yes it's perfectly OK to put the money in the folder, and just get up and leave. you're the heavily paying customer, you've paid and you're done. at a cafe that would be normal. maybe the staff will wave bye-bye to you. at a nice restaurant, the staff SHOULD come and fuss over you as you leave!

for (2) inside the book, just so it doesn't blow away

for (3) if you do not need change, screw them, do not wait. if you do need change, just wave and yell out to the waiter. put your hand up and say hello or some other word

Of course, it's completely normal in many parts of europe that people, simply, "hang around" a lot, are slow processing the payment at eateries, ie, it could take a long time for the guy to come back to make change.

If you're in a hurry to get change, it's utterly normal to (i) stand up and walk right over to either the cash machine, or a waiter, and give them the folder, to get your change. or indeed if you're in a hurry, here's a tip, (ii) AT THE MOMENT they drop off the folder, have your wallet out, and put in a bill. the waiter will then make change on the spot or go to the machine for the change

(or similarly have your credit card ready and the moment the folder arrives, give the folder back to the waiter, with, your credit card)

hope it helps!

ps you know how you mention, in Germany the waiter generally immediately collects the cash. I'd say, really it just varies all over (europe) - I don't think there's a particular flavour in one country or another. it's all pretty relaxed!

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1  
I disagree with point number 1. It's not “normal” and does create some stress for the waiters. –  Relaxed Aug 18 at 8:50
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@Relaxed: in the Netherlands 1 is indeed the utterly normal way. Or was anyway, using cash is becoming rare. –  RemcoGerlich Aug 18 at 9:52
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Hi Relaxed ... hmm, what regions or countries were you thinking of? Certainly in france, germany, italy, spain, suisse, it is definitely the norm. certainly at a cafe or less-expensive eatery. I guess, at a 3-star restaurant, I mean they wouldn't "let you" get up without helping with your chair and stuff; the issue wouldn't arise eh! :) –  Joe Blow Aug 18 at 10:00
1  
@JoeBlow I am thinking of France in particular. Obviously, there are some differences depending on the kind of restaurant and nobody is going to openly complain but, having worked briefly as a waiter, I can tell you that it's not what your waiter expects or what most other diners/guests do. –  Relaxed Aug 18 at 14:24
1  
Incidentally, I disagree with the notion that you since you are the “heavily” paying customer (How so? It's not as if most employees or even restaurant owners were making outrageous wages, you are just paying for the work being done), you can “screw them”. You can do it and get away with it of course, but you don't get to call it “normal”. –  Relaxed Aug 18 at 14:33

I don't think there is a single correct way to do this. Leaving cultural difference aside, and drawing from personal experience (as a guest, not as a waiter), I would say you can either of the things you mentioned, the waiters will act accordingly.

If you have exactly the amount you want/have to pay (including cash), you can either put the money on the table, or in the book on the table and leave. Believe me, they will check the moment you leave and chase you if you didn't pay. You can also put it in the book and hand the book to the waiter when you leave.

If you expect a change in return, you can remain seated, either with the money or you wallet in your hand. The waiter will understand that you want change, and will come back to help you with that. Depending on the restaurant, the waiter will have the money on him/her, or has to walk back to the counter. After he/she returns, you can leave.

If you do not do any of the above, the waiter will assume that you want to stay seated, and won't come back for quite some while (unless they need the table).

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3  
and I would say the "signal" is that you close the book (same as closing the menu means you have made your choice) –  Vince Aug 17 at 20:37
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You know I think a good takeaway for the OP is you can leave if you want to, after putting the money in the folder. you can put the money in, and if you need no change - just leave, that's it. no need to wait for the waiter. –  Joe Blow Aug 18 at 7:44

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