Don’t Take the Server’s Attitude Personally

Disclaimer: The words shared here are from my personal viewpoint, perspective and insights. If you wish to share your perspective, please comment below. Constructive criticism is also appreciated, but any abusive comments or spam will not be american in vienna austria

Coming from the US where the typical restaurant worker is polite and friendly,  when I first moved here I was a little taken aback by some of the attitudes I experienced being served in a restaurant Vienna.  According to foreigners/expats, servers in Vienna can be known as ”grumpy” or ”rude.”  However, I’ve had and still do encounter nice servers in Vienna all the time, but if you’re an American visiting Vienna for the first time, the attitudes of some servers may shake you up a bit. 

So one point is that I have been looking at how on a global scale, the tipping-system differs in many countries, which can have an effect on your server’s attitude.

For example: The US and Austria (and in my current understanding, all of Europe) work with different tipping systems at restaurants.  As a standard in the US, restaurant servers receive 15-20% tip from the original bill before tax considering that they serve you well.  According to Trip Adviser, In Austria/Europe, you typically round your bill to the most convenient number or Euro, while other sources say to tip it’s usually a 5-10%.

As an example, let’s just say you are eating out in the USA and had great service – the waitress was very nice to you and served your food well.  The bill before tax is 20.75 so you give the waitress a 20% tip, which is about 4 dollars. Whereas in Vienna/Europe you most likely round the bill up to 21 or 23 (from 20.75) — thus giving a 25 cent to 2 Euro tip to the server– it depends on you.  Therefore, we can conclude tipping in Europe is not as generous as tipping in the US.

I also find it important to mention that it is typical behavior for US restaurant servers to give you friendly, good service because realistically, part of their income comes from you — the diners — and their attitude depends on it. Nice attitude + service=good tips=more money.

If you’re an American visiting Vienna for first time, keep in mind the attitude may be different here.  My sister had a negative experience her very first night in Vienna when she was served gelato, and as unfortunate as that was, especially being new to Vienna, I communicated to her that this server-attitude is normal here.tea with milk american in vienna austriLike I said, if you happen to have a not-so-nice server in Vienna, don’t take their attitude personally. When another reacts or is rude to you, it’s never about you, it’s about them, and many factors are involved as to why they are like this.

So perhaps for servers, they express themselves however they want to because their income is not dependent on tips unlike US servers, who need to maintain a nice attitude in order to gain more tips/money from diners.

But look, my point through all of this, is whether being a server or even a diner, it’s best to treat another the way you want to be treated.

Rick Steves, a famous American traveler, also writes about the tipping-system in Europe here.

Trip Advisor’s Tipping & Etiquette in Austria

8 Replies to “Don’t Take the Server’s Attitude Personally

  1. The difference is waiters in Europe work for the restaurant. In the USA they work for you. Think of it like trying to get someone else’s employee to do a job for you for free. Not so easy! But you get used to it and you learn where and when to go (time of day is a big factor how fast you get service). In fact you get so used to it that it irks me when I go back Stateside and I have to pay tax and tip exorbitant amounts for someone to bug me constantly. Case point… I was in DC eating at the Old Ebbitt Grill near the Treasury & White House. They had a special on Filet Steak. Like $25 or something can’t recall exactly but it said the price right there on the menu. At the time it was cheap when I converted it to euros in my head… but I forgot I need to factor in the sales tax 10%… $27,5. The waiter was friendly enough to warrant the full 20% tip… so then calculate that the steak now costs $33 (a third more than advertised). Of course we had ordered more stuff so that was just an example of how one price costs another and the burden is on me the customer to work out my own bill. I like going into a restaurant here, one that I know, at a time that I know to go and I get the service I expect for the price advertised, usually no more and no less than needed. In the USA I feel like I am getting conned. Right up to the super-friendly snake oil salesperson waiting on me hand and foot then begging me for their pittance at the end. Sad really that system IMO. Why I like street food there now. Wait in line. Get food. Pay for food (the sales tax is included in the price) if you have a dollar or two leftover throw it in the jar if you are having a good day. What you might perceive as bad service here may sometimes be nothing more than uncomplicated human equality… just because one person is paid to serve you, they are not your servant. They are the restaurant’s employee protected by the Arbeiterkammer.

    If you (general you to anyone reading) want to secure yourself US style waiter service here, may I suggest tipping the waiter 20% right off the bat when they first bring you the menu. They might give you that bubbly faux-charm you’ve been missing. But congratulations complaining about people’s attitude is a fundamental Viennese trait so you are fitting in nicely 😉 Great blog!

    1. Chris, thanks for coming here and sharing your words. I can totally see now with what you wrote about how the waiters work for the restaurant in Europe and protected by the Arbeiterkrammer and how that possibly gives them the freedom to be more of themseleves as opposed to working the US as a restaurant worker, where we don’t have something like that. I suppose I expected to feel more welcomed in restaurants here, but then I realized I’m in a different culture and this is not like the US. To have your server be not-so-pleasent can make one not enjoy the dining experience in general. Again, thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  2. I forgot to add a few years back an Asian couple went on a rant complaining about how racist some waiter was because they seemingly helped even one else before them. Almost broke their bubble when I explained to them that can happen to anyone here!

  3. I am born and raised in Vienna, spent the first 30 years of my life there, before I immigrated to Canada, so I may add a view from the other side of the fence.
    Yes I feel that Austrians are more direct in their ways of expressing themselves. I often have to be careful here in Canada not to offend someone with what they perceive as brutal honesty.
    I would like to point out another difference between Austrians (and I think Europeans in general) and North Americans: I find that in Europe people are less wasteful than here. There is not as much of a “disposable goods” attitude, especially about food. That may be because there is an bread in memory of raging wars on the home soil just one generation ago, when food was a scarce commodity. If your server immigrated to Austria from a communist country, which many have, this would apply even more so.
    I could do just nicely without the phony pleasantries of waiters here in North America, it is annoying, I much prefer just a pleasant smile and that should be it.
    When I came here I was also surprised that I am expected to work out the tax (and tip) everywhere I go, to arrive at the real cost to me. Why taxes can not be included in the price is beyond me. They could print on the receipt X % of sales tax included, just for info sake.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Suzanne! So what I generally see in people’s comments here is that it all comes down to CULTURE: the way people express themselves and how people take another’s words/behaviors. The Viennese culture is different than the US culture in some ways, and we all have our preferences as to what we would like when we go out to a restaurant. Not all Viennese servers are rude, and not all American servers are annoying, for example. And yes it’s so much nicer to not work out the tax and tip when going out in Austria, and yet we have to do so in the US because the economy/system works differently there, and I realized that even if we were all to complain about the tipping/tax point, it’s not going to solve anything for example, things will continue to run as they do unless there is change.

  4. As an Austrian it’s so funny hearing the side of an American getting an Austrian ‘culture shock’ because I experienced it the other way. I’ve lived in Denver for a year as an au pair and for me the servers there were too friendly some even a little creepy haha because I totally wasn’t used to it but reading your side I think the Austrian really could be more friendly, funny and chatty like the Americans are. That doesn’t just make the guests day also their job is more fun when being more open minded!
    by the way your blog is great! I’m also not living in Vienna for that long (because I’m originally from a city in the south of Austria) and I love to read about new restaurants and cafes to try out! xo

    1. Hey Corinna, thanks for stopping by and sharing yourself here! Glad you are enjoying my blog. Plus, if you are on a Facebook I invite you to join Women of Vienna, a group I created for women to connect with each other in the city.

  5. Hi, there. There are some similarities regarding this point between Mexicans and Americans (I am from Mexico, that´s why I make the comparison). Mexican waiters also are expecting the client to tip them, thus, they always have a nice attitude which I still appreciate a lot. In general, employees in Vienna giving some kind of service to the public do not overall behave friendly. I don´t mind if they just do their job since I am not expecting to become friends with them, but I have had several examples of people being extremely rude to me (not only waiters, also at public offices or Uber drivers).

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