Looking for work as a waiter in the European Union? In that case, your hourly rate will very much depend on the country you will be working in since there are quite significant differences in minimum hourly rates, especially between the western and the eastern part of the EU.
That being said, the differences in prices are also significant, so do a comparison of those too if you’re an outsider looking to get a clear picture of what kind of life you can expect from a waiter’s salary.
Minimum Hourly Rate of Waiters in European Union
Unlike waiters in the US, who depend mostly on tips to make a living, waiters in the EU can count on a minimum wage that is prescribed by law. This is usually expressed as a minimum monthly wage, and the amount varies quite significantly from country to country.
There is no prescribed minimum wage for the position of the waiter as such, but this minimum wage requirement is applied universally, even if you have no experience at all. It’s worth noting that not all countries have this law in place: Italy, Denmark, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, and Sweden are member states with no minimum wage law.
Still, you can expect around 10 euros per hour in Austria, 12 euros in Sweden, 8 in Italy, 14 in Denmark, 11 in Finland, and about 4.5 euros in Cyprus.
Mind you, tips are still perfectly acceptable, although the emphasis on them is usually not as heavy as in the US. There are even countries in which tips are not customary – it all depends on the culture.
Which country has the cheapest hourly wage for waiters in the EU?
If you’re working as a waiter in the EU, you can usually count on your wage to be somewhere close to, if not equal to the prescribed minimum.
Statistics suggest that Bulgaria and Romania would be the places where waiters could expect the lowest hourly wage in the EU because, according to data from 2018, median gross hourly wages were 2.4 and 3.7 euros respectively. The two also have the lowest minimum wages guaranteed by law in the EU.
Other than those two, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia, Poland and Slovakia all have minimum wages below 750 euros and median gross hourly wages not higher than 5.6 euros. Therefore, apart from Bulgaria and Romania, these are the countries in which you can expect to have the lowest hourly wage as a waiter (expressed in euros) in the EU.
However, it’s a good idea to take a look at the percentage in which median earnings are covered by the minimum wage. In other words, how close the lowest possible wage is to the median wage. In Poland, that’s 57%, Hungary 58%, Bulgaria 59%, while Romania is at 61% (Romania is one of only four EU countries to have this percentage over 60%).
On the other end of the spectrum in this group of countries are Croatia and Latvia with 49%, while Slovakia is at 51%.
Which country has the highest hourly wage for waiters in the EU?
When it comes to the highest hourly wages for waiters in the EU, the place for that, on paper at least, would probably be the tiny country of Luxembourg. This place has the highest minimum wage in the EU – 2202 euros per month – and the waiters there earn around 13 euros per hour.
Next, you should seriously consider Ireland, a country that has been experiencing quite an economic boom over the last few years. There, the minimum wage is set to around 1650 euros, and waiters and waitresses earn on average somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 euros.
In Germany, the average waiter pay is 12 euros per hour, Sweden is also around that level, while in France you can count on approximately 10 euros per hour. Don’t forget, you can also expect tips, although it’s very different from the US.
Denmark may also be attractive to people looking for work because its median gross hourly wage is by far the highest in the EU – 27.2 euros compared to second-place Luxembourg’s 19.6 euros. However, remember that Denmark does not have a minimum wage law, and you should keep in mind that the prices here are actually pretty high.
Nevertheless, Denmark has a very high standard of living, so it’s reasonable to expect you will have a fairly decent salary as a waiter there.