If you eat the “Anstandsstück”, you shall be beheaded with a Guillotine
The Anstandstück is a tone of high-German properness-ness etiquette that you will encounter on a daily basis in Germany. If you see that last piece of cake on plate, that last piece of hard candy or bar of chocolate, the last piece of whatever… here is what you need to do. But before we talk about consequences, what is the “Anstandsstück”?
What is the Anstandsstück? German friend culture
Das Anstandstück is the last piece of cake nobody shall eat. The word: “Anstandsstück” cannot be translated into English, nor it is an English or American phenomenon. The concept can only be found in the deepest forests of Western Europe; in a country where one can only speak German. It is definitely an endangered species, or an old-fashioned concept. The last piece of whatever does not get eaten, even if you would like to cut that last piece of cake equally into six parts.
Making German friends – American in Germany
As an American, the Anstandsstück-concept was quite awkward and difficult to learn. I grew up in a household where; “You are excused from the table after you have eaten everything from your plate”. Or that last piece of cake was either eaten by the sibling who was there first or that last piece of candy was just given to the dog to avoid any problems. If you want to make German friends, I recommend not eating that last piece of cake and please don’t ask anybody to share it with you. Heck, don’t even glance at that Ansstandsstück.
The symbolic Anstandsstück – Interpretations
Now that we’ve become comfortable with this concept, there are a few deeper meanings in this socially- driven norm.
- If you are hosting a party/ get-together, the goal is to serve enough food so that at least an Anstandsstück can be found on each and every plate after the party is over. If this is the case, then you ordered/ made enough food for everybody; because nobody had to eat the last piece.
- If the host of the party/ get-together did not make enough food and you are in the middle of an Anstandsstück- negotiation; everybody will not want the last piece, but if you want it, then you should defend yourself less than the others. Does that make sense? You should say you don’t want it, but not as often/ extreme as the others “don’t want it”. Yup… weird.
The history of the Anstandsstück
After some research, the most plausible roots of the Anstandsstück lies in the medieval times. That last piece of food was usually left over for the house maid or servants who ate from the noblemen and noblewomen. Germany has become a very wealthy country over time and, as in America, many live in excess. As long as the Germans and Americans live in excess, then the Anstandsstück will exist, whether as unspoken cultural structure or due to excess itself.
Throw away the Anstandsstück? That is tabu. Lock yourself in the bathroom and stuff that last piece into your purse for later.