Sunday, July 3, 2016

Differences between the US & Germany: music in restaurants

Service in restaurants in the US and Germany is a hot topic among expats, and can effect some heated discussions. There are some good cases for either side, for sure. One issue is the playing of music at restaurants: although it is not the rule, it is quite common for American restaurants to play music and it for it often to be quite loud, whereas German restaurants tend to have no music or it tends to be quieter.

I side firmly with the German restaurants on this one. Going out to eat with one's family or friends is not just a time of sustenance; instead, it is meant to be a time to relax and enjoy the company of one's dining companions.  If the music is too loud, it's hard to hear and it's also unpleasant to have to shout to be heard. Since the focus is on conversation and a relaxed evening, it's not a surprise to find that many German restaurants don't play music.

On the other hand, many American restaurants do, and it can create quite the cacophony! The music is often rather loud and patrons have to speak louder to be heard over it. As it is, Americans are considered to be loud, but who knows if this is a chicken or the egg question as it relates to noise at restaurants.

I would much rather meet my friends and dine somewhere without music. I'm there to spend time with them, not to try to yell over music to be heard. I was at a hotel restaurant in Minnesota and could barely stand to stay there. We were seated in the corner and had to listen to a staticky radio station playing country music (which I abhor) while the bar that was through the French doors was blaring rock music. Meanwhile, the kitchen was playing its own station! It was an awful, loud mix of everything. I let the waitress know that it was a bit overwhelming to be able to hear three loud radio stations in one spot and asked if she could do anything about it. She did get the kitchen to turn down their music a bit. However, it was still loud and distracting. I gave up at that point and we quickly finished dinner.

Give me the peace and (relative) quiet of a German restaurant any day over this!


  1. Ugh...I shouldn't grumble, but so much bothers me about restaurants in the US. The music that's too loud, the waitresses constantly bothering us (I get why, but still - I have considered promising a fair tip if they just leave us alone), industrial rather than personally prepared dishes, rushing (I even had a waiter put the bill on our table before I had finished my steak - and it wasn't a sign we'd overstayed our welcome. It was 5:30 pm and we were almost the only onces in the restaurant!)... I also had a family member get up from the table while I was finishing to use the WC (not a problem). The other family member, however, also got up and said he was going to pay the bill and wait outside, but I shouldn't rush. I promise you, I am not a slow eater. When I'm in the US I far prefer staying in and cooking.

  2. We also have a strict rule when family is visiting us here in Germany - WE pay when we go out to eat. This prevents anyone from laying a credit card on the table (of a restaurant that doesn't take credit cards) before we have had a chance to order an espresso. I warn them before the meal: we DINE here in Germany and enjoy the experience. We don't stuff-and-dash.

  3. It was definitely strange to have a check come out with the food at a diner. On the other hand, I also don't enjoy when it takes 30 minutes to pay at the German restaurant!