One of the things I had to get used to when living in Berlin was that everyone assumed that every meal was a Dutch treat.
That every meal — even proper dates — were split. I wondered where “Dutch treat” and “going Dutch” came from and here’s what Wikipedia suggests:
The phrase “going Dutch” probably originates from Dutch etiquette. In the Netherlands, it is not unusual to pay separately when going out as a group.
However, in modern Berlin, Wikipedia again gets it perfectly:
In most of northern and central Europe the practice of splitting the bill is common … Some women object to this or even find it offensive so it is a judgment call. Younger urban women especially tend not to accept men paying for them; or will in turn insist to pay for the next dinner or drink.
I wasn’t aware of this at first. There were objections when I offered to pay and sometimes insisted — until I learned a very essential phrase:
Ich möchte dich einladen
This means, literally, “I would like to invite you.” You use this phrase well in advance of actually grabbing the meal, drinks, snacks, or anything together; though it can also be just before. This is not just a formality or magic words, it is important to get the answer as well.
But please do not wait until just before the check. This is something you need to do in advance so that the person you’re to dine out can consider the invitation and decide whether you’re being a sexist pig, controlling, manipulative, or honestly generous.
If your friend, your paramour, your sweetie, or even your work friends accept, then you’re to pay the entire ticket quietly and without boasting about it.
By the way, “ich möchte dich einladen” is not a romantic phrase, it can — and often is — said between business associates and friends — though I guess you could play is romantically with a wink if you intend the get together to include steamy adoring looks across the red-checkered tablecloth.
Anyway, I hope this is helpful.
PS: In Germany, the tip is negotiated with the waiter or waitress (der Kellner, die Kellnerin) at point of sale, not left on the table after. So, let’s say the bill is 27 Euros and you liked the service — you would tell the waiter to keep 30 Euros out of your 50 Euro note, or just ask for 20 Euros back — there is no sneaking away with a low tip in German, you need to look the waiter in her or his eyes.
PPS: In Germany, 10% is the customary maximum tip, with much less being commonplace. German wait staff are paid professionals in Germany and the tip you leave is actually a gratuity and not the mandatory US 20%
PPPS: Also, when you are a waiter in the US and you complain about how cheap German are when they eat at your restaurant — please consider the fact that Germans don’t assume that you’re actually on spec at the restaurant and that all your profit comes from undeclared and un-taxed cash tips and that they only tap a maximum of 10% to their wait staff, and generally closer to 5% or so.