It is said that in Germany asking for tap water in a restaurant is rude and looks stingy - examples in here and here. But I don't like to purchase water there as buying it in a restaurant would likely be too expensive since they can exploit it in their favor (at least that is true in Asia).

So I wonder if it is rude to buy it somewhere like a convenience store or supermarket in advance and bring it to a restaurant. Or is there anything others you can drink in cheaper price while eating?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JoErNanO
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 12:33
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    Note that in most of german restaurants/bistros etc. a big chunk, if not sometimes the most part of the revenue comes from selling drinks. The margin on food isn't really big.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 9:50
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    I don't understand why you think asking for tap water is considered rude and stingy, but bringing your own bottle of water might not be.
    – user13882
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 13:28

13 Answers 13


they can exploit it in their favor

Everything in restaurants¹ is more expensive than the pure cost to acquire or produce it. This is how the waiting staff and location is paid. The only difference in Germany is that there is no culture of offering free tap water everywhere.

Thus asking for tap water in a German restaurant (and expecting to pay less than for bottled water) is like insisting on only paying the wholesale price for any other beverage. On the other hand, if you are willing to pay as much for tap water as you would pay for bottled water, you are at worst considered eccentric.

So I wonder if it is rude to buy it somewhere like a convenience store or supermarket in advance and bring it to a restaurant.

Most restaurants¹ have a house rule that explicitly forbids you to consume food or beverages that you brought.² In cheaper establishments, you may find big signs telling you about this; elsewhere it is small print.

¹ And any other place that sells you food and provides a place for you to consume it.
² The main exceptions to this are many beer gardens, most canteens, and restaurants that won’t serve alcohol for religious reasons but allow you to bring your own for a fee.

Or is there anything others you can drink in cheaper price while eating?

If you are with a group, it’s fully acceptable to order a huge bottle of water with a few glasses and share the price.

Except for this, the answer is that you are expected not to go to restaurants if you want to save money. Of course, I am aware that this may not be possible for you, e.g., if you are with a group, but this is the general attitude towards this: Going to a restaurant is considered a (small) luxury; if you want to eat and drink cheap, you are expected to go to a supermarket, fast-food vendor, or similar. Note that while for fast-food restaurants and similar, the aforementioned rule usually still applies, you can almost always take the food and consume it elsewhere with your own water.³

Note that the waiting staff in Germany doesn’t rely on tips for their living. Therefore a less rude way to save money is to omit the tip, in particular if you provide an excuse for it (or it is obvious that you were dragged along with a larger group, who tips well).

³ The best way to do this in turn is to have one or two bottles that you re-fill with tap water at every opportunity, such as in your residence.

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    "less rude way" as in "less lethal weapon". Refusing to tip is usually understood as a sign of the customer being utterly unhappy with the food or service in Germany! And even if the wait staff receives the tip, refusing it is usually understood as sending a message of dissatisfaction to the chef and/or manager, not the wait staff. Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 20:45
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    @rackandboneman: Sure, hence if you provide an excuse. For example, if attendees of a scientific conference go to a restaurant, it is not uncommon that the students tip little or even nothing while the professors are more generous.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 21:43
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    It might bear mentioning that part of this stems from the fact that in Germany, eating out at restaurants is not the primary way in which people feed themselves, people generally eat home cooked meals. This means that eating at a restaurant is a luxury, which comes with the idea that if you're eating at a restaurant, you're probably willing to spend a fair amounts on tasty beverages too since you're 'treating yourself'.
    – Cronax
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 14:41
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    @Cronax Are there any parts of the world where people do primarily feed themselves at restaurants? Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 8:34
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    @user253751 I haven't lived there so I can't make statements with 100% certainty, but to my knowledge there are substantial groups of people in the US of A and Asia who do primarily feed themselves at restaurants/diners/eateries.
    – Cronax
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 9:46

While much has been said about the price and legal aspects in other posts, I am trying to give a bit of a cultural perspective in this answer (at least as far as I perceive it, as a native German who regularly likes to go to not-too-expensive (meals between 10 and 15€) restaurants with varying groups of people).

In German restaurant culture, drinks are considered about as important as food.

Typically, a short while after guests have sat down at the table and received the menus, a waiter will ask them what they would like to drink. Guests are then given some more time to study the food part of the menu before the drinks are served and the waiter will ask for food orders.

When the waiter arrives to accept drink orders, it is kind of expected that everyone will order a beverage to consume along with their food. It is certainly not unheard of that someone will only order some food, but it is slightly unusual (as in, a few people order only food out of a personal niche habit, but most will order something to drink).

Accordingly, most German menus I have encountered have an extensive drinks section with various alcoholic, non-alcoholic, hot, and cold beverages. Choosing and trying an interesting-sounding beverage from the drinks list can be given just as much attention as choosing and trying an interesting-sounding dish from the main courses.

This leads me to the following concrete answers to your questions:

It is said that in Germany asking for tap water in a restaurant is rude and looks stingy - examples in here and here.

But I don't like to purchase water there as buying it in a restaurant would likely be too expensive

Well, don't order water. There's a plethora of dishes to choose from, so you wouldn't order something as bland like a buttered slice of bread. Likewise, there's a plethora of beverages to choose from, so you wouldn't order something as bland as a glass of water.

(Caveat: Those Germans who do order water do, in my experience, connect some sense of exclusivity with the presumably particularly high-quality bottled water they will get served.)

So I wonder if it is rude to buy it somewhere like a convenience store or supermarket in advance and bring it to a restaurant.

Even without the probable violation of house rules1: Yes, it is just as rude as buying your food in a convenience store or supermarket and bringing it to the restaurant.

Or is there anything others you can drink in cheaper price while eating?

As I mentioned above, the set of available drinks is not a secret. That is, you don't have to rely on "insider knowledge" to know what you can order besides water. Along with the menu for choosing something to eat, you will get a list of available beverages (either as a part of the regular menu, or as a separate booklet) that will normally list both the price and the volume of liquid you will get. Like this, you can choose something that best meets your requirements for liquid intake and monetary expenses.

1: Note that those are not necessarily very easily visible in Germany. Maybe it is legally required, and maybe they are indeed posted somewhere, but it is usually understood as common sense that you cannot consume anything bought outside in a restaurant in Germany (except due to dietary restrictions, as explained in another answer). However, in some highly-frequented tourism spots in Austria, I have actually seen some restaurants that had very visible warnings signs threatening to charge a fine if someone is spotted consuming food bought elsewhere.

  • 38
    As a German I often order water in restaurants (when not drinking beer...), simply because I like it (and I don't really care for soft drinks and such). I don't think it is at all irregular, especially sparkling water (soda) is quite popular in Germany. Additionally, to add some point to the German restaurant culture: For many restaurants it is simply a profit thing. Dishes are are quite cheap and profit margins for drinks are usually much higher. So the restaurant needs the money from drinks so their calculation works out.
    – dirkk
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 16:10
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    @davidbak In France, they serve free tap water virtually everywhere: just ask for une carafe d'eau. Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 19:23
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    Your answer is completely misunderstanding why water is ordered. One drinks water so that you can refresh your thirst with the water and then slowly sip whatever drink you've ordered. In most European countries, free tap water is provided for this purpose - e.g. in Denmark, they bring it when you sit down by default; in the UK, it's a legal obligation to provide it for free. The German exceptionalism for interesting or nice drinks you describe simply doesn't exist; the exception is only in charging for water. Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 8:28
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    @JackAidley: "One drinks water so that you can refresh your thirst with the water and then slowly sip whatever drink you've ordered." - that doesn't match my experience. One drinks the ordered drink (for instance, apple juice, or whatever) to refresh one's thirst. And when the glass is empty, one orders another drink, and so on (that is why, for instance, as another answer describes, waiters sometimes ask for the next drink order when they notice an empty glass). Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 8:48
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    @JarkoDubbeldam the tap water in France is perfectly drinkable, it's just not to everyone's taste Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 13:15

Local here.

Is it rude to bring bottled water in a restaurant in Germany?

I would perceive it as such—it’s a bit like not ordering food and eating sandwiches you brought.

It is said that in Germany asking for tap water in a restaurant is rude and looks stingy - examples in here and here.

That varies greatly. I frequently ask for tap water (I usually order wine as well), and responses vary greatly. Some will happily bring you a caraffe of tap water, in one instance they kindly advised me that they would charge € 1 for it (a rather symbolic price, so I was OK with that), while others would flat-out refuse (which I find rather rude on the part of the restaurant—in fact there recently was a lot of media coverage about a famous German actor who charges € 4.20 for a glass of tap water in his restaurant).

There is even an intiative for serving tap water at public venues, including restaurants.

That said, what else you order makes a big difference. Getting a main course (and maybe some wine) and asking for some tap water is surely a different thing that odering just tap water (which would indeed look stingy).

Bottom line: Asking for tap water is free. If you find yourself in a place that doesn’t offer it, support those that do—local patrons will appreciate it.

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    And don't complain indeed about having to pay a small fee for tap water, the restaurant after all has a cost to serve it to you.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 8:22
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    Something very typical in Ireland and the UK in pubs is a lime squash, which often costs 50p or a pound. It's a shot of lime juice filled with water from the tab, and ice. Most Irish pubs in Germany I have been that had native Irish or English bar tenders actually would give me that for free. I never ordered that because it was cheap, but because I'd be the driver and who gets alcohol free German beer in an Irish pub?
    – simbabque
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 12:24
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    While it is true there are initiatives and social movements amongst some in Germany to change the traditional idea of no-tap-water - that would be exactly like pointing out that there are initiatives in Germany to drive slowly. The totally overwhelming reality for an American tourist in Germany and France, is, simply, "Funnily enough, there's no tap water in restaurants in Germany, but there is tap water in restaurants in France." It's "just that simple!" Goodness!
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:39
  • Styles of pub where you are expected to buy the drinks but welcome to bring your food exist, though :) Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 20:51
  • @DarrenRinger Well, the existence of initiatives shows that the point they’re trying to make is not universally accepted… and indeed while the French serve it without the guest needing to ask for it, Germany’s a case of “ask, and maybe you shall receive”.
    – user149408
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 18:39

I am half German and have lived there for decades. It is generally considered rude or at least stingy but if I have already bought something (even something as cheap as a latte macchiato) I always ask for my water and get it without complaint too. At the time I left Germany (2015) many good restaurants were starting to offer a tiny glass of water with the coffee, just as various Mediterranean nations have been doing it for hundreds of years (with a normal sized one). I just follow their example and ask for a normal sized glass. I even go so far as to ask for water with my wine. It is my right to enjoy my wine and not drink it to quench my thirst.

When the bill comes I give a decent tip to the waiter and with time, if the opportunity presents itself, I make a nice remark. Remember, the waiter cares more about his tip than about selling you table water. By the third time I go, I say "Und...." and the waiter already laughs "ein großes Wässerlein".

I think I am considered poor, but likeable, which is an assessment I can live with.


On the subject of bringing your own stuff I would second others ' assertion that it's socially unaccepted and I haven't tried it. However:

I don't want to advertise anything here, but as this is a site for travelers, it must be noted : one big American coffee chain, which is present in every major German city (last time I checked) had the policy of allowing you to bring everything- be it drink or food. It goes without saying that you won't experience the local flavour in such a place.

  • As a comment, because it's borderline off topic. Germans almost only drink sparkling water. Therefore their normal waters also tend to have a similar taste, either sourly our mouldy. As a tea affectionado, who can taste waters apart with ease, I would insult myself to pay for a water that may not taste better than tab water...
    – Ludi
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 18:50
  • But then the tab water tastes different not only in every town, but often also in different parts of towns because is comes from different regions. In Hamburg for example the water is quite soft, while in Berlin it has so much Kalk in it you can basically cut it with a knife. The taste difference is noticeable imho even if water is just water to you.
    – simbabque
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:36
  • @simbabque Yes. In cases where I know the tab water to be inferior, I pay for table water. I still remember being utterly thirsty, yet unable to drink that mud in Berlin. It was decades ago. Can't speak for the current situation. In Heidelberg, Quellenweg had drinkable water, Neuenheimer Feld had Neckarklärschlamm. I can write an essay on each of these, but I suspect we are the only ones interested.
    – Ludi
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:44
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    Haha. Also keep in mind there is a difference between Tafelwasser and Mineralwasser. The first is more or less filtered tab water, with hardly any minerals. The second one is actual source water, that often is enriched with minerals. Coca Cola's Bonaqua is an example of Tafelwasser. That's the stuff you don't want in a restaurant. Tafelwasser on a menu also implies that it might actually be from a jar or an open bottle, while a Mineralwasser has to come in a closed bottle. So if they bring you a glass of water it's almost always a rip-off.
    – simbabque
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:47

First of all: I am a German living in Germany (so please excuse potential language mistakes)

Skip this paragraph and go straight to the summary if you are interested in a quick answer.

A German restaurant visit is always connected to some "procedure":
When you go into a restaurant and sit down with your friends a waiter will come to hand out the menu and take up orders for beverages. Soft drinks, beer, (carbonated or still) water and coffee are the usual choices - you can ask for just about anything though. When asking for water you will probably get high quality water, mostly served in small bottles, not tap water).

Usually everyone orders something individual, however it is also quite common to order a large bottle of water and share it with your companions. This is probably the cheapest option and still leaves room for individual beverages.
Beverages are listed in the menu or in a separate drink menu including prices and volumes so you can choose whatever is most appropriate to your thirst and financial situation - but be quick the waiter will ask for drink orders soon after sitting down!

Then you will have some time to look at the menu while the drinks are prepared.
When the waiter comes back with your drinks he will ask something like 'Wissen Sie schon, was Sie essen wollen?' or 'Was darf ich Ihnen zum Essen bringen?' (meaning: 'have you made up your mind about the food?' / 'What can I bring for food') Then you will order food and once the waiter is gone you and your friends will raise a toast (if you are on a business dinner or in a gallant restaurant you should not have touched your drink until now - with friends this rule is not too strict but decent people will still wait until everyone has his drink).EDIT: "raising a toast" in this case does not necessarily mean holding long speeches - in fact this part usually comes down to a simple touching of glasses and saying "Prost".

You can order more beverages whenever the waiter is close and in a good restaurant you will be asked for another beverage once the waiter notices an empty glass.

When the food comes one waits a short while with the intent to wait until everyone has his food but usually someone will say 'Fang ruhig schon mal an' = 'you can start eating', and if the food is not delivered at once it is OK to ask 'stört es jemanden, wenn ich schon anfange?' = 'do you mind if I start eating?' and nobody will say anything against it.

(skipping dessert since I notice I am going off-topic)
As the end of your visit comes closer you should think about paying your bill. In larger groups it is common to call the waiter and pay your part of the bill. In smaller groups you will usually be asked if you want to pay altogether or separately, but sometimes (especially in cafes) it happens that you receive a printed bill for the table and then pay as a group.

Please understand also that restaurants usually rely on the income of beverages very much since they accommodate the prices and expect you to buy beverages. If you cheat (e.g. bring your own water and secretly refill your glass under the table -> very rude) the restaurant will not make enough profit to cover their expenses.

Having said that much about the procedure and the financial situation you can see that beverages are very important. And to directly answer the question: You should absolutely NOT bring your own beverages or food. In most restaurants this is actually forbidden by house rules and it will at least be considered very rude! You can order still water or carbonated water but you will not get water from the tap in most restaurants (and in the other restaurants you will probably be frowned at)

There are some excuses from this general agreement:

  • the canteen - here you can usually bring your own food and beverages.
  • children - having one of those little (screaming?) creatures with you allows you to do whatever is necessary to keep him/her happy (and quiet). This includes using brought food/water.
  • Beer gardens in Bavaria allow consummation of brought food, that is "the rule" here since traditionally beer gardens were not allowed to sell food
  • In good restaurants, you can often bring your own wine and they charge you a fee for handling that. This is because you may invite friends and then serve them a rare wine that is not on the menu. Do not expect this to be worth it to save money - the fee is likely high. But if you have one of the rare bottles of something worth thousands of euro.... that is the type of thinking

(Copied last two list bullets from TomTom's answer)

One more piece of advice: Since I am also not too rich I usually drink a glass of water before going to the restaurant and buy a small soft drink or a beer (beer is surprisingly cheap) instead of going there thirsty and ordering many beverages.

Most of what I said was already mentioned in other answers but I tried to sum it all up. (I wanted to make some comments first but I didn't have enough rep)

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    "you and your friends will raise a toast" - while I agree with about everything else, the toast thing is rather unusual, I think. Unless it is a very special occasion (and even a birthday dinner often doesn't count, depending on how it is organized), toasting doesn't exist in German restaurant/eating culture. And other than with drinks that are particularly meant for toasting, I have never heard of the convention to wait until everyone has their drink, and I would indeed argue the convention is the opposite, that drinking (as opposed to eating) will be started as soon as a drink is served. Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 22:11
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    "In smaller groups you will often receive a printed bill for the entire table and then you can pay as a group." - and one more remark here: I do not know what you count as "smaller" groups, but it is the standard behaviour for waiters in Germany to ask "Zusammen oder getrennt?" ("Together or separately?") when you ask for the bill even in a group of 2. With that question, the waiter wants to know whether they should produce one bill for the entire table, or one for each person (or any other partial grouping that customers can then describe to the waiter). Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 22:15
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    @O.R.Mapper: I do think it is quite common to wait until everyone got their drink, and then to clink glasses with everyone (really everyone in a smaller group, or only everyone sitting near you in a large group).
    – chirlu
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 23:16
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    @goerlibe: The entire clinking glasses thing is not done except for very special occasions in my experience, but these customs may differ across "peer groups". And one thing I would maybe add: "you receive a printed bill for the table and then pay as a group" - ... but most Germans will still assume you are going to split the bill on your own then, based on the items listed on the bill. Inviting the group is reserved for extraordinary occasions. But maybe your experience in that respect differs once again. Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 0:05
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    Waiting to drink until everyone has a glass is more common on occasions than when you just go eat out with friends. The bigger the group, the harder this gets. Clinking glasses would happen with the first round, if you're with good friends or with people you've not seen in a while. As was said above, this varies with peer groups. At a business lunch, you'd not clink glasses for example. Starting to eat before everyone has their food on the other hand is quite rude.
    – simbabque
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 12:19

Disclaimer: I am German and my parents ran various restaurants during most of my life.

The other answers already explain how this rude. I would go one step further and say it is not only rude, but indeed socially unacceptable. Most Germans will not actually dare to do that, because it feels quite shameful to us. This feeling is so strong that I will actually start to panic if an international friend on my table gets their own bottle of water out in a restaurant.

It's also common to be asked to leave drinks that you are already carrying outside the restaurant or even food stall. Restaurants have the prerogative to sell what they want to whom they want. They can easily refuse you service, not let you in or kick you out if you misbehave.

Typically if a waiter sees you drink your own drink, they will politely ask you to refrain from this behavior once. After that, they will probably charge you for the drink. This is entirely legal. It's called Korkgeld. It's meant to replace the loss the restaurant has because you're not buying something from them.

So if you bring a bottle of water, expect to be charged for a bottle of water at their usual rate.

  • Surely this is now the definitive answer. Yes, as the answer says perhaps "rude" is not even the word - it would just be "totally strange".
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:32
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    You should read the articles you link. I cite exactly: "Es beruht auf einer freien Vereinbarung zwischen dem Betreiber der Gaststätte und dem Gast, die vorab zu treffen ist" meaning that this kind of fee has to be agreed upon beforehand! That usually implies a menu like this one, which I have never seen in real life: schlossschaenke-blutenburg.de/media/menuekarte-gans.pdf
    – Ludi
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 20:20
  • @Ludi that menu is for special occasions, and it's an offer. We would do that in our restaurant too. Just the same for cake that, was brought in for parties. But when you get caught with your own water, they might offer you to either pay something or leave. In that case the agreement will be made then. Either you agree or they make you leave.
    – simbabque
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 20:27
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    @Ludi I think it really depends on the place. I don't remember that we ever did it in our place. Only for the Kegelbahn downstairs, but not in the actual restaurant. It's usually enough to threaten the very persistent ones with the charge. I think we kicked out more people for smoking in the restrooms.
    – simbabque
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 20:31
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    @Ludi The general rule for a maximum (more in cases of wine) is up to the cheapest type offered in the menu. Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 10:14

Bringing water might be somewhat rude or even forbidden but it is in any case not the done thing. If anything, asking for tap water makes more sense than bringing a bottle of water. It's not common because Germans like carbonated beverages and frequently drink sweet beverages or even coffee with food but it might still be possible, possibly for a small charge.

There is absolutely no point in bringing your own bottle of water. It's awkward and deprives the restaurant of one of their major sources of profit. If they don't like serving tap water, they won't like you bringing bottles. Besides, it's a very competitive industry and it's not uncommon for the food to be priced very tightly and beverages to have a higher margin. They are not so much “exploiting it” than just trying to break even.

If beverages are too expensive for you, you might consider eating take-away, self-catering or simply not drinking during the meal as alternatives but bringing a bottle of water is not better than requesting tap water.

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    Yes. During lunch where prices in restaurants are lower, hardly anyone orders a drink. I'd say one out of ten to twenty people in the average lunch place in Berlin gets a drink. In the Kantine where I go, they probably sell 300 meals and 20 drinks, but half of them to people who don't even eat but are simply too lazy to walk to the corner store for a coke.
    – simbabque
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 12:08
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    @O.R.Mapper I think it's more a matter of price. Typical lunch in restaurants in Germany costs around 5 or 6 Euros, which is considerably cheaper than dinner. But even then, our salaries are different from say the US, and having lunch outside every day is actually pretty expensive for most people. So they save the 1.80 Euro for a 200ml coke or the espresso and just have it at work, where it's free.
    – simbabque
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 12:55
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    "I do not see why lunch would require any less liquid than dinner" but isn't that a bit like saying "I've never been to the US, I don't see why people would eat lots of fast food there" or "It just doesn't make sense that marijuana is legal in California and Holland, surely that's not correct" or "I've heard all this talk about kids wearing long sleeve sun protection in Australia, it doesn't add up, Australia has plenty of mountains and cold areas". This QA is PACKED with actual people from Germany explaining the actual situation! :O
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:31
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    @O.R.Mapper well in the IT industry in Berlin (let's call it the startup sphere) it's universal to have even beer for free in the office. My observation thus is that people don't want to pay for drinks at lunch. The food you don't usually get at work, but the drinks you do often. I also agree that having a drink with the food is nice, and yet I also don't order them for lunch. But I can see how the Stuttgart area would be different in mentality. Your whole food culture is different too. Back in Hannover I'd order drinks outside with lunch actually.
    – simbabque
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 20:23
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    100.0% of American friends I have who have visited .DE for the first time have made two comments. They do not mention the incredible engineering, the stupendous beer, the astounding food, the amazing history, the stunning scenery in the south, the amazing Hip in the north, the epic driving, the staggeringly beautiful women, the surprising nudism, the mindboggling sausage .......... they mention two things only: "Wow, they have no ice" and secondly "isn't it funny you can't get free tap water?" :-) But, really, it's true. mfg :)
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 21:34

If you mean "rude" is a synonym for "illegal" - yes. See, restaurants in Germany do not allow you to consume brought beverages and food (with medical exceptions, like baby food or something along the line). By entering a restaurant, you agree to adhere to the rules of the place. By breaking the rules, you break the law.

There are some exceptions:

  • Beer gardens in Bavaria allow consumation of brought food, that is "the rule" here since traditionally beer gardens were not allowed to sell food
  • In good restaurants, you can often bring your own wine and they charge you a fee for handling that. This is because you may invite friends and then serve them a rare wine that is not on the menu. Do not expect this to be worth it to save money - the fee is likely high. But if you have one of the rare bottles of something worth thousands of euro.... that is the type of thinking.
  • Everything medical. Baby food and such would likely warrant special treatment.

Being stingy does not.

Want to save money? Do not go to a restaurant. From the perspective of a German, the attitude shown by the query stinks - If I can not afford to even drink a glass of water in a restaurant, I make a picknick - buy food in a supermarket and take it from there.

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    The terms illegal and braking the law do definitely NOT apply here! The rules prohibiting bringing your own food are house rules not laws (more like terms and conditions of using the establishment). So the worst case thing that could happen is that you are asked to leave.
    – PeterE
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 10:11
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    As far as I know the only relevant law in this case is the Hausrecht, which basically says that the premiss owner(?) can define under what conditions others may enter and that he has the right to throw them out if they do not comply. But then again I'm not a lawyer, so if you can point to a specific law covering this I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.
    – PeterE
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 11:06
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    The terms of service in a restaurant are a matter of civil contract between the company and the customer, not criminal law. This might be the cause for some of the confusion here.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 11:36
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    @TomTom Could you demonstrate this? In most instances, it would just be a breach of contract in which case they ask you to leave, no part of a breach of contract is illegal per se.
    – Benjamin
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 12:04
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    I'm very disturbed that this user is comfortable giving legal advice that is not only wrong, but that he persists is correct, even after other's rightfully point the flaw out to him. Downvoted (and hopefully eventually deleted) Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 16:09

So I'm half German. I live in Switzerland but I eat out in Germany as frequently as I do here since my family lives in Bavaria.

Don't bring an outside drink. DO ask for tap water. At worst you might get a dirty look from the waitron, but dirty looks from wait staff here are so common you won't know if it's because of the water or not.

Asking for tap water is not considered rude. At worst it might be considered a bit eccentric or cheap, but it's not rude. Germany has a pretty lively environmental dialog going on, and many people are aware of the following facts: 1) The energy and pollution costs of tap water are dramatically less than bottled water. 2) The tap water in German and Switzerland (and almost certainly Austria, though I haven't checked) is generally better (healthier, more free from possibly toxic or harmful pollutants) than bottled water. So there's a growing movement to drink more tap water and less bottled water. That fights against a pretty longstanding tradition of bottled mineral water, but tap water is clearly the way to go.

This issue actually made it into the papers and talk-radio a could years ago. The overall consensus was that if the restaurant doesn't want to give you tap water, that's their problem. It's not considered obligatory to give you the water free though, so don't be surprised if you get charged for you tap water (I think that's only ever happened to me once).

Generally tap water will be your cheapest option, followed by the house beer.


Yes, according to my experience (native German), bringing drinks to a restaurant is not only considered rude, you are likely to be asked to put them away, leave or pay a fee (this is not very common, but I have been to restaurants which even list that fee on their menu, basically a "bottle fee" for any drink you bring by yourself).

Asking for tap water is the much preferred option. While I hear that people think it is rude, I have never seen a waiter consider it such. Sure, they might prefer the nice profit they have on drinks, but I've seen tap water ordered many times in german restaurants, and it has always been provided without trouble.

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    If anything they are more likely to be surprised since tap water rarely tastes well with a meal. Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 9:49

As others have said, do not bring you own.

You can order tap water and they can charge you for it. I don't think it's wrong for them to charge: after all, there is a cost associated with the location, staff, and other business costs. An alternative would be to subsidise the cost associated with serving tap water with other purchases. Although normally, the cost charged by a restaurant may be around 3× the cost of the product if you were to consume it otherwise, that doesn't apply to tap water, where the cost is around 0.2 cent/litre. See a recent article:

Darf Leitungswasser im Restaurant etwas kosten?

In a 2014 sample of 30 restaurants in Vienna, Austria, 27 charged between €0.30 and €3.60 for a glass of tap water. Maybe it's similar in Germany.

  • @Fattie Which may explain the large range (€0.30–€3.60) restaurants were found to charge in Vienna. The point of my answer is: you can ask for it, but don't expect to get it for free.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 11:46
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    @Fattie the cost of raw ingredients it the main factor for restaurant food calculation in Germany. You typically calculate the raw ingredients times 3 or times 4, add VAT and round. The resulting price will be enough to include salaries, rent, insurance, utilities and costs for waste because bad planning. The margins for drinks are a bit different, with water and especially Apfelschorle (apple juice and sparkling water) having margins of up to 2000%. Beer has a considerably lesser margin, but then try to drink 5 glasses of coke versus 5 glasses of beer.
    – simbabque
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 12:11
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    @gerrit: In my home country, it's a legal obligation if they sell alcohol. There are many parts of the restaurant experience that cost them money but you do not directly pay for. I am happy that in most countries, free drinking water is part of that. I'll accept that in Germany restaurants are free not to provide water if they choose but the idea that they should (your emphasis) charge for it is unsupportable, IMO. Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:10
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    @JackAidley I have softened my statement from saying they should, to saying that I don't think it's wrong.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 16:31
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    @phoog I've seen takeaways offering a discount to people bringing their own box. The other discounts you mention are probably not worth the hassle.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 16:33

(German native)

It is not rude, and it is not inacceptable in any way, but in all likelihood (almost guaranteed) you will have no choice but to buy drinks anyway.

There are exceptions. In Bavaria, you will get free water for your dog (which, maybe to your surprise, you can bring into the restaurant), and as a native, you may get a "Schnitt" after having some beers (half-refill for free, for the way home). Also, in a typical Biergarten, you will be allowed/expected to bring your own food, but will still buy your beer there.

Other than that, you are almost certainly out of luck. You are expected to buy drinks, and buy them you will, or you will not be served.

The "justification" is that in Germany dishes are quite cheap, which is what people want, too. To compensate for this, the poor, starving innkeeper has to make drinks a bit more expensive and cannot give out drinks for free.

Now, the above is a rather obvious lie -- neither are dishes cheap (I pay the same, give or take 5 Euros here as I pay in France, only in France I do get free water), nor do "people" (who, anyway?) want cheap dishes. If anything, most people will want a dish that is worth its price (there's even a German word to distinguish between cheap and worth-the-price). Finding that may however be a challenge in some regions. Other than in some neighbouring countries where the art of opening a bottle or serving a plate is serious business (France, eh?), in Germany it is by no means certain (or even likely) that the people running the restaurant are gastronomy professionals at all ("Wer nichts wird, wird Wirt" -- Approximately: Him who didn't learn anything better, becomes innkeeper).

But, it is what it is, sadly.

Some restaurants have meanwhile adopted the "mediterranean" style where you indeed get a caraffe of tap water with a meal, but they are very, very rare. Maybe, if you are very lucky, there's one such place in a city, but don't count on it.

Alas, as the French would say: If one can't afford, one shall picnic.

  • I never got free water anywhere in Italy and France, it they count as Mediterranean countries.
    – Alchimista
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 5:54

Besides laws rules etc., it is surely considered rude. And especially so if by restaurant we refer to somehow valuable (menu quality, service, design, etc.) place. This stated, in Austria I was immediately invited to put back to my bag a beer which I put on the table just because I was reordering my stuff. The manager did not even accept my explanation in spite of me having already more items than a standard Mcdonald menu nicely displayed on the same table. There might be owners of some business who do not care but this is then very case specific. Of the European countries that I have visited, only in UK is non rude and common to bring your own WINE bottle to a restaurant. I imagine that this stop at some high niveau, tough.

Another point is that the world "restaurant" might be ambiguous, at least can leads to potentially false friends interpretation as it is very similar in many languages but not necessarily identical. For instance, given that a restaurant is an establishment serving food, in italian you do not go to restaurant every time you eat in a business. And there are not restaurant billing 3 euros (and even not pizzeria nor fast food, by the way). If your bill is below 10 euro, in practice you took a sandwich, whatever the business is called. Although a place might be technically considered a restaurant or not, residents in the countries mentioned above tell "I have been at mcdonald's / paninoteca / beergarten /... and not" at restaurant " whenever it happens to eat somewhere that is not home.

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    This answer could use some restructuring and spelling checks. Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 15:09
  • I agree and I will do that as soon as I can. I have no idea how to simply delete it. I wrote it to quickly and on mobile. I should have been more focused.
    – Alchimista
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 20:39
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    Downvoted since it doesn't provide an answer to the question. You don't provide any reference/sources for your first sentence and after that it doesn't refer to the question at all (Austria is not a part of Germany and beer is not water). The second paragraph might be a comment but definitely is not an answer either. Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 21:09
  • I said that is rude because it is, in Germany Austria Italy France Spain Belgium Romania Hungary Greece it is so. I have stated that the only exception I know of is that of UK. Concerning references, those might be required to make sure a law exists. If I would need to ask you where the train station is, I would better commence by "Excuse me Sirc. Else you could classifies me as a bad-mannered person without resorting on any reference.
    – Alchimista
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 21:31
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    Another point is that second paragraph should help the questioner(s) understanding most of the answers and comments given. It is true the page is written in English. But most of European might well answer (in English) that they are not aware of nearby restaurants even if they know of a mcdonald's or sandwich retailer just around the corner. Simply because they do not think it is a restaurant. Thanks for you explaining the downvote. If I could I would delete the answer because it is poorly written. I'm new here, and thought that it was quite informative and that sufficed.
    – Alchimista
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 21:39

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