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Going to Germany? Learn How to Order From a Menu

written by: allychevalier • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/5/2012

If you're planning on going to Germany anytime soon, you're probably going to want to eat. Learning how to order food at a restaurant is prerequisite to this. This article provides a basic guide and vocabulary on eating out, as well as an idea for a lesson and links to more resources.

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    Restaurant Vocabulary

    There are many bits of vocabulary that are specific to restaurants. Here are a few basic ones to get you started:

    Restaurants are typically referred to as, well, das Restaurant. Occasionally, you might also see one called a Gaststätte.

    Eine Speisekarte. A menu.

    Die Rechtung. The bill.

    Bestellung. The order, from bestellen, to order.

    Biergarten. Beer garden, just what it sounds like. This typically just entails outdoor seating, unless there's a rowdy event going on. You may be asked if you'd like to be seated here.


    Vorspeisen. Appetizers.

    Die Suppe. Soup.

    Die Hauptspeisen. Main courses.

    Beilagen. Side dishes.

    Nachspeisen. Desert.

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    Asking Questions

    You might be confused by the menu, so knowing how to ask some basic questions of the waiter, der Kellner, or the waiter, die Kellnerin, is important Some examples:

    Was ist das? What is that? If you're not sure what a dish is, feel free to ask what it entails.

    Was kostet...? How much is...?

    Wie viel kostet es? How much does it cost?

    Wie bitte? This can be loosely translated as “Pardon?" It can be difficult to understand fast-talking wait staff a lot of the time, so don't be afraid of asking them to repeat themselves.

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    After a while, you'll be asked if you're ready to order: Haben Sie gewählt? If so, then carry on:

    When one orders food in German, the formal form Sie is used whenever possible to be extra polite. Don't forget your dankes and bittes either!

    You don't have to use any complicated constructs if you don't want. Simply saying the name of the food followed by a bitte (please) will suffice. Otherwise, here are some other ways to order:

    Ich möchte... I would like... This uses the conditional.

    Haben Sie... Do you have... This just uses the polite “you" form, inverted to form a question.

    Ich nehme... I'll take... This is more appropriate in a somewhat more casual context than a nice sit down restaurant, such as ordering from a street vendor, but it's not really considered impolite either.

    Ich hätte gern... I would like to have... This also uses the conditional. Literally, it translates as “I would have gladly..."

    All of these may be inverted by the waiter or waitress to ask you what you would like to order, for example Was möchten Sie? from Ich möchte, so be familiar with inversion and how to adjust conjugation according to changing the subject.

    When you're done ordering, you'll probably be asked if you want anything else. Either continue on, or maybe just end it with a nein, danke.

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    The Food

    You probably won't be ordering too many raw ingredients if you're eating out, though knowing food basics like vegetables, fruits and meats is useful. Mostly, you'll probably be ordering more complex dishes. Here are a few popular examples:

    Goulasch. These are fried beef and/or pork cubes with onions, peppers, potatoes and other ingredients in a thick stew.

    Wiener Schnitzel. A veal fillet that is crumbed and fried. Typically served with French fries (pommes) and a salad.

    Sauerbraten mit Rotkohl. Beef pickled in buttermilk, served with red cabbage.

    Erbsensuppe. More than just a pea soup, also containing beef, onion and potato.

    Schweinebraten. Pork and gravy, usually with potatoes on the side.

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    Eventually, the meal will be over and it'll be time to go. The waiting staff will likely ask you how your meal went and if it was delicious: Hat es Ihnen geschmeckt? They might also ask for permission to take your dishes away, especially if you haven't managed to finish: Darf ich Ihren Teller mitnehmen?

    You'll have to ask for the bill when you're done: Die Rechnung, bitte. Sometimes they will bring out the receipt and let you do it privately, otherwise they will simply tell you the amount and wait for payment. Tips are included in the bill in Germany, so you don't have to worry about that.

    As you leave, don't forget to thank them and say goodbye: Auf Wiedersehen!

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    Lesson Plan: Restaurant Roleplay

    A great way to learn this vocabulary and the basic interaction is just by playing pretend with a friend. Alternate taking the places of the waiter/waitress and the customer. Go through all meal courses, and try out a variety of food vocabulary.

    For the vocabulary download for this article, go to this page and download away!