Hello and welcome to the series „Absolute Beginners“ here at Slow German. There will be new episodes as before, but I will include a few episodes for absolute beginners. They are meant for people who for example are travelling to Germany and who want to speak a few words in the native language… The first one of these was published some time ago, and today I want to give you all the vocabulary you need to go to a restaurant and eat something. After all, I don‘t want you to starve here in Germany!
At first if you enter the restaurant, you might be greeted by a waiter. This is not at all common in Germany – most people just seat themselves. So if you don’t see somebody steering towards you, feel free to choose yourself where you want to sit. In case a waiter welcomes you, he might ask „Haben Sie reserviert?“ or „Haben Sie eine Reservierung?“. He wants to know if you have made a reservation in advance. You can say, „Nein, tut mir leid“, meaning „No, I’m sorry“, or „Ja, auf den Namen Schmidt“. Of course you have to replace the name Schmidt with your own name.
The waiter might also ask you: „Für zwei?“, meaning „For two?“, if he sees that there are two people in your party. Or „Für vier?“ if there are four. He will then show you to a table that’s big enough for all of you.
Usually, the waiter should present you with the menu without being asked for it. If he’s having a busy day or simply forgot his duty, you might remind him with „Die Speisekarte, bitte.“ meaning „The menu, please“. You can also say: „Kann ich die Karte haben?“, „Can I have the menu?“
Most waiters are not very talkative, so don’t expect them to introduce themselves and ask things like „What would you like to drink today?“. They most simply say: „Zum Trinken?“, meaning „To drink?“. Then they wait for you to answer. Now I don’t know what you would like to order, but I have a few alternatives for you:
„Eine Apfelschorle, bitte.“. Apfelschorle is the favorite non-alcoholic drink of Germans, it is a mix of mineral water and apple juice. „Eine Apfelschorle, bitte.“
„Einen Orangensaft, bitte.“. An orange-juice, please.
„Eine Cola, bitte.“ A coca-cola, please.
„Ein Mineralwasser, bitte.“ Sparkling mineral water, please.
„Ein stilles Wasser, bitte.“
Or, of course, „Ein Bier bitte.“. I guess I don’t have to translate that.
Now let’s think about food. You pick something from the menu and say „Ich hätte gerne…“, and then you say what you would like to eat. If you can pronounce it, I am very proud of you. For example you can order a Schnitzel and say „Ich hätte gerne das Wiener Schnitzel“. If you are a little shy, just say „Ich hätte gerne das hier“, and point to what you would like to have on the menu. If you want something special that you can’t find on the menu, just ask: „Haben Sie …?“. For example: „Haben Sie ein Wiener Schnitzel?“. It simply means: Do you have a Wiener Schnitzel?
Let’s hope everything worked out fine and you’re sitting there with your drink and your food. The waiter will wish you „Guten Appetit“, literally meaning he wishes you a healthy appetite. But something is missing. Just call the waiter by establishing eye-contact, maybe raising your hand and saying „Entschuldigung“, meaning simply „Excuse me“. Then wait until he or she comes to your table. In former times people said „Herr Ober“ or „Fräulein“, but that is thought to be old-fashioned today and some waiters and waitresses even consider it to be rude.
Finally, just ask: „Könnte ich bitte Salz haben?“ if you want to have salt. I give you some more examples:
„Könnte ich bitte eine Gabel haben?“ means „Could I have a fork, please?“
„Könnte ich bitte ein Messer haben?“ means „Could I have a knife, please?“
„Könnte ich bitte einen Löffel haben?“ means „Could I have a spoon, please?“
„Könnte ich bitte einen Aschenbecher haben?“ means „Could I have an ashtray, please?“ But be careful: Most restaurants nowadays are smoke-free.