Posted on by Peter Rettig

Calling a waiter - Herr Ober! Garçon! Cameriere! Camarero!

Street scene with waiter Calling a waiter or waitress to your table can often be done by gestures such as raising your hand or – if you want to pay – by scribbling with one finger into the other hand.

And such gestures are quite international and work in most foreign countries as well. It is useful, however, to also know how to call a waiter or waitress in the local language. We therefore teach these expressions in our four language courses (French, German, Italian, and Spanish).

The German Way

When we started developing our German course, I thought of using the form of address I had heard when growing up in Germany: "Herr Ober" (actually an abbreviation for “Oberkellner” or headwaiter).

However, our native speaker reminded me that you don't use this term any longer - except maybe in very upscale restaurants. I was aware that you no longer call a waitress to your table with "Fräulein".

So we settled on "Entschuldigung!" (Excuse me.), which seems to be used in most of the German speaking countries for calling a waiter or waitress. Then, if you want to pay, you would say, “Bitte zahlen!” or more politely: “Ich möchte bitte zahlen! (I would like to pay, please.) In more upscale restaurants where you do have an “Ober,” you might say “Die Rechnung, bitte!” (The check, please.)

With this German Quick Game you can practice:  "Bitte, ich möchte zahlen!"

The French Way

During a recent visit to Paris, we occasionally heard people asking for the waiter by calling “Garçon.” More often, though, we heard “Monsieur” or “Madame” when someone called a waiter or waitress to the table.

We're told that nowadays you'll hear the term “garçon” more likely from older customers, who may also add it to the usual call for the check: “L'addition, s'il vous plaît.”

You can practice this expression with our French Quick Game.

The Italian Way

In Italy, it is still quite common to call for the waiter simply with “Cameriere!” but we have also heard “Per favore!” (Please), as a way of getting the attention of the server. And, to call the waiter because you want to pay, you would say: “Il conto, per favore” (The check, please). A waitress would be called “cameriera,” but in Italy you'll find more male than female waiters.

You can practice "Il conto, per favore!" with our Italian Quick Game.

The Spanish Way

In Spain, we heard “¡Camarero!” quite often, but as in Italy, people also just use “¡Por favor!” (please) to call the waiter to their table. When you're ready to pay, both of the following do very nicely: “Me gustaría pagar, por favor” (I'd like to pay”) or “La cuenta, por favor” (The check, please). A waitress would be called “camarera,” and, as in Italy, male waiters seem to be in the majority in Spain.

You can practice “Me gustaría pagar, por favor” with our Spanish Quick Game.

We invite any comments and observations regarding regional differences or customs for calling a waiter or waitress in German-, French-, Italian-, and Spanish-speaking countries.