Insights from working in gastronomy in Leipzig


If you were to ask me if I like my gastronomy job, I’d probably say no. If you were to ask me why I don’t quit, I’d say it’s because I don’t hate it as much as the last one. And although I wouldn’t call it luxurious, it does pay the bills, and it feels like a luxury to be able to do just that.

I should be honest and say I do have a lot fewer skills than most people. I don’t have a degree and I’m not a native German speaker. I’d never worked in gastronomy and I’m not the most comfortable person in stressful environments.

I think what scared me the most in the beginning was the language barrier – even though I speak well enough to get by, and can quite flawlessly ask people what they want to drink and make small talk about the weather.

I do often find myself smiling and nodding at jokes I don’t understand. Why don’t they teach us German sense of humor in German class anyway?

local gastronomy
Photo by Liam McKay on Unsplash

Despite my mediocre language skills, I try really, really hard to be a friendly waitress. I’m not quite sure why it’s so important to me to make a good impression. I suppose it comes naturally to some people, but some days it does take a lot out of me, and it really isn’t the most rewarding job. The pay is only okay, the tips could definitely be better, and all in all I think the industry could use a lot of improvement.

Why do companies care so much about customer satisfaction, and so little about their employees?

I didn’t often picture myself working in service, but when I did, I think I romanticized it far too much.

It’s really not as graceful as I’d imagined it to be. I haven’t worked everywhere, so it’s possible I’m making an unfair generalization, but I’ve worked in a lot of different places.

local gastronomy
Photo by Jonathan Nguyen on Unsplash

I got my first job here on a whim, just to avoid the trouble of thoroughly looking for one I’d actually like.

There were already a bunch of red flags the first few weeks. It was exhausting – both physically and emotionally. For months I was never home before midnight. All my body constantly hurt. I felt like I never had any time for myself. The last few weeks were kind of a whirlwind. I’m pretty sure they wanted me out of there just as much as I wanted to leave. But they wouldn’t fire me, and I wouldn’t quit.

One day it just hit me in the face how unhealthy the entire experience had been.

I couldn’t quite pinpoint the reason I disliked my job so much. It took me a really long time to realize how the small things made me feel. Let’s just say my employers had completely different values than I did, and at the end of the day I didn’t want to invest time and effort into a company I wouldn’t want to be associated with.

Most days I still have to remind myself to not associate myself entirely with my job anyway.

Especially in a city like Leipzig, where everyone else seems to be living out their dreams, I really didn’t want to be “just a waitress.” I will say that no one seemed to mind it as much as I did. I feel like I have the freedom here to be something outside of my job.

Working in gastronomy/hospitality is pretty straightforward.

It’s often uncomplicated and can even be enjoyable. As long as employers are understanding and don’t just consider their employees as a cog in their machine, it can be quite a nice time in the end.

On second thought, my gastronomy job right now is kind of exciting. It challenges me, I learn something new everyday, and I’ve become quite confident doing what I do. And even though I can’t imagine doing this forever, it’s probably exactly what I’m meant to be doing right now.

By Maya Mahroum

Maya is a soon-to-be computer science student who, in the meantime, has been working as a waitress at many different places in Leipzig. Besides clumsily serving people drinks, she spends most of her time painting, taking care of her plants, and learning Spanish.

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