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?

  • 4
    Leave the cash sticking partway out, so that it is visible. Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 21:00
  • 2
    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. Commented Aug 20, 2014 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.
    – user19361
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 20:11
  • I opened this twice and each time I thought ‘why would the restaurant give you a check and where would you even cash it nowadays?’, before I remembered UK/US differences …
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 9:35

4 Answers 4


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 (when I worked as a waiter I was happy to get one of course but at least half of the tables don't give any and that's perfectly OK). The way most people tip is by getting their change and then 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.


For (1) yes, it's perfectly OK to put the money in the folder, and get up and leave, if you need no change.

For (2) inside the book, so it doesn't blow away.

For (3) if you do not need change, do not wait. If you do need change, wave and yell out to the waiter.

Of course, it's normal in many parts of europe that staff (and customers) have a relaxed pace at cafes / restaurants.

If you're in a hurry and need change, it's completely normal to stand up and walk right over to either the cash desk, or a waiter, and give them the folder, to get your change in a hurry.

Alternately, here's a tip to hurry things along: AT THE MOMENT the waiter gives you the folder, give the waiter your cash or credit card, so have your card or cash out and ready when they're approaching.

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    I disagree with point number 1. It's not “normal” and does create some stress for the waiters.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 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. Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 9:52
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    @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
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 14:24
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    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
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 14:33
  • 1
    I'd be nervous leaving anything more than 10 euros on a table and leaving.
    – blackbird
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 14:35

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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    and I would say the "signal" is that you close the book (same as closing the menu means you have made your choice)
    – Vince
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 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.
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 7:44

The below is my observation as a visitor to the Netherlands:

In the Netherlands, on most sandwich shops, you pay before you are served - so it solves this problem.

In cafes; the waiter will bring you a book. If you notice in this book there is a small slot at the top; if you put your card in this slot and close the book, the waiter knows you intend to pay by card (the card will partially stick out). However if your card requires a PIN, then you'll have to walk up to the counter as every shop I have been to - they do not have mobile POS terminals which are common elsewhere.

If you intend to pay by cash + coin, simply place the total amount you want to pay; and if you do not expect change - just leave the table.

For tips:

  1. I usually add the tip to the receipt (if there is a line for it). Some of the point-of-sale devices don't print such receipts.

  2. Or, I will walk up and say "make it ___" (whatever the next whole number is) if I am paying by card.

  3. If I am paying by cash at the counter, I try to pay by the nearest rounded amount. So if its 17, I just pay with a 20 and then say "thank you" when handed back the change (and don't extend my hand to receive it).

  4. If I am paying by cash on the table, I just leave the money in the book, close the book; make sure I indicate to the wait staff that the money is there; and then just leave the table.

Unlike some restaurants in the US, there is no "tip jar" or similar that I saw in the places I visited. Usually it is placed near the counter for people to drop their tips; which I assume are collected at the end of the shift and distributed - but I didn't see something similar in the Netherlands.


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