European differences

Germany – Translating the Customer Experience


Travelling to other countries is always interesting. Whether it’s the new experiences, the different cultures or just trying to figure out the currencies, it always makes me think about home and the international differences.

Especially customer service and the customer experience. And, Germany was no exception.

And it wasn’t good.

My first experience was at a community restaurant in Frankfurt, called the Salzkammer, where my friend and I seated ourselves after approaching the server to ask for an “english menu”. Always appreciate a little tourist pity. And you know what, it was pretty good to start with. Friendly enough, took our orders, got them in a timely way… it was when we wanted to order a 2nd round of drinks that it “broke bad”. And when we tried to leave. The problem: we were ignored. The server walked by, talked to other tables, but seemed blissfully unaware of the fact we were in need of some help.

Well, it’s gotta just be a “that restaurant thing”, right?

Next night, another Frankfurt restaurant. This one, same problem. The only thing done right was the act of seating us. After that, we barely were on the server’s radar. Thankfully my friend was a regular and knew the other waiter (the one not in our section) which helped with stuff, like, you know…ordering our food and drinks and paying!?

Well, it’s gotta just be “Frankfurt restaurant thing”, right?

Oh I did some travelling to find out. From Frankfurt to Eltville, Munich to Nuremburg, Berlin to Hamburg, it was all the same: ignored, ignored, ignored. Whether I was with other Canadians, or Germans, the effort to get the attention of our servers was consistently a chore.

When you did get to speak to a server, it wasn’t anything special. Germany seems to be a nation of order-takers and delivery people rather than service providers.

Well, it’s gotta just be a “we don’t work for tips so we don’t give great service thing”, right?

Not the case either. Though tipping is certainly not as established as it is in the U.S. and Canada, the German service industry expects bills to be rounded up for service. Your bill is $13.50, you would give $15. From my experience, I don’t know why I would.

The restaurant customer service was uniform, however, when it came to either hotels (I stayed mainly at Motel One) or non-sitdown establishments (gelato, vendors, etc.), the service was friendly, responsive, courteous and available. Less interaction with the customer but still pretty good for what was needed.

So in conclusion, if you’re going to Germany for the customer experience? Stay home. If you’re going to Germany for the culture, people and food…get your ass on a plane, now.

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