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I eat pizza in Germany every day as it is pretty cheap yet so delicious! However, I found that most Germans, likely 80% or more, use knives and forks to eat pizza.

I got pretty surprised to see how many locals here use these utensils to eat pizza. But I am wondering if it is not appropriate or even rude to eat pizza here with one's hands.

Do people around here mind it or are simply very tolerant? How about a chef?

I usually eat about a 6 to 10 euro pizza alone at cheap restaurants or eating establishments. The pizza is usually served cut but in one case it was not, which was at slighly more "classy" restaurant (e.g. has a tablecloth and a waiter comes with menu) but still incredibly cheap (5.9 euro).

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    @AndrewGrimm I'm from Japan so use chopsticks, spoons, and forks but never knives. ("Never" might be a bit exaggeration but at least I have not used it even once for the last 10 years before coming to Europe recently; but it's almost close to "never") – Blaszard Jul 29 '17 at 23:57
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    Why is this a "primarily opinion-based"? There are many similar questions on the cuisine etiquette and most of them are equally "opinion-based". – Blaszard Jul 29 '17 at 23:59
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    If a fifth of customers in the restaurant are eating with their hands, it can be taken to be acceptable surely? – Calchas Jul 30 '17 at 0:06
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    @Calchas BTW that "20% of people are doing it so it can be taken to be acceptable" is not correct. Relating to my country, around 20% people ordinarily use a smartphone while walking in Tokyo but it is highly disliked by many. Likely over 20% women do a makeup on trains but it is also not considered "acceptable" by many. – Blaszard Jul 30 '17 at 0:33
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    I am italian, but I travelled often to Germany and lived 5 years in Austria. I never saw a single pizzeria run by locals, normally pizzeria are run by other ethnics. All is ok, but that's never a "restaurants" in the sense you know from the cut of your question. The etiquette is basically not existing (except basic education, of course). In case of places run by italians, might be more common to see the use of fork and knive, but nobody care. Your question is basically not related to pizza but perhaps your host. He/she can be a director ceo but If you end in pizzeria feel like in a beergarten – Alchimista Jul 30 '17 at 0:38
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Germans in general prefer to eat food, including pizza, using a fork and knife. But while it is maybe less common compared to other countries, it is not a faux pas to eat pizza with your hands, unless you are in a very formal setting like a business lunch with new customers, say in the financial sector. New friends or colleagues on the other hand might be even thankful, if you break the ice by starting to eat with your hands.

I can think of three reasons why Germans use cutlery:

  1. Hygiene: They are too lazy or short on time to go look for a bathroom to wash their hands, so they just use cutlery to not touch the pizza directly.

  2. Habit: They don't like to make their hands dirty and are in general used to eat everything with cutlery. This is more prevalent in Germany, so your observations are correct.

But the most important reason is:

  1. Social Pressure: Everyone uses cutlery, so people feel that it is not appropriate to use their hands. In my opinion this is mere social pressure. I grew up in Germany and I like to eat with my hands, after I washed them. What I noticed is that when I go out to eat in a group, most people initially use cutlery. Then I cut my pizza in slices and start using my hands to eat each slice. As soon as my friends/colleagues see that, they smile relieved and many start using their hands, too. They just waited for someone to make it "OK". This has happened over and over.

    Among good friends they feel comfortable doing it from the start. I also asked some of them about this and was told that they don't mind others using their hands, it is just that they don't want to be seen as uncivilized or judged by other people in the restaurant.

    Again the only time where I would not use your hands, is maybe in a very formal business settings with customers or colleagues that you don't know. But even here I would not be surprised if they weren't thankful to you if you broke the ice.

    One thing I personally do and would recommend, is washing your hands again after you are done eating. To make sure that you don't shake hands with tomato sauce on them.

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    This answer also applies also in the Netherlands. – Jan Doggen Jul 30 '17 at 8:53
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    For me (the Netherlands as well) the temperature of the pizza is the reason to start with tools. As soon as it is cool enough I am willing to pick it up in my hands, but might not do so in company. – Willeke Jul 30 '17 at 9:50
  • Thanks and goot to hear that. I usually don't wash the hands after eating, though... (it's usually fine for me to just use a paper, and maybe sniff at my hands) – Blaszard Jul 31 '17 at 18:11
  • BTW is this specific to Germany or also true in neighboring countries including Austria, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerlands, etc...? – Blaszard Jul 31 '17 at 18:12
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    @Blaszard, just a heads up, sniffing your hands at the table after a meal with others might appear weird to them, and will likely be viewed as a lot more inappropriate than eating pizza with your hands. – LAP Aug 3 '17 at 13:01
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I would correct problemofficer's answer that once you are eating in a real dignified "restaurant" (better style, cutlery, soft drinks costing over 2,50 €, whole meal is > 20 €), use of cutlery is obligatory. You do not eat with hands anymore.

German good conduct books are always dismissive about eating with hands, so if you are in company which sees this as important, abstain from eating with hands.

Use of cutlery has also an interesting side effect: German pizzas are very rarely already sliced (and if they are sliced, it is sloppily done), even if they are intended to be eaten at home.

Another reason to wash the hands: You get easily grease spots from the oil on paper.

  • I very much doubt "good conduct books" are normative in today's society and perceive them more as entertainment. Also your use of "obligatory" sounds exaggerated. Maybe you have to be much older or part of social circles that I am not, but I can't think of any except the one described in my answer where "obligatory" would express the right amount of necessity for cutlery. – problemofficer Jul 31 '17 at 18:23
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    Actually the bread in an Italian restaurant has to be eaten with your hands. Goes for all white bread in all kinds restaurants. You are not allowed to take bites of the bread. Instead, you use your hands to rip a small piece of. You then either clean your plate with it, or eat it directly. In a fancy high-end restaurant that provides sliced bread, a butter-knife and a tiny plate (on the left), you are allowed to butter the bread, then hold the bread in your hand and take bites off it, like you would with pizza. These are official Knigge behavior rules. – simbabque Aug 3 '17 at 12:47
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    "allowed", "official rules", this is just ridiculous. I hope you are joking. – problemofficer Aug 3 '17 at 14:12
  • The "Knigge", easily the best known good conduct book in Germany, says it's absolutely okay to use hands in a pizzeria. – npst Dec 20 '18 at 10:34

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