We have moved several times, and three times within Germany. Every single time we move my husband and I get into a discussion about the movers and tipping. What's appropriate, what's expected, and what can we do/are we willing to do? Also, what exactly are you doing while they are packing and moving your things? You can't help, because you really aren't supposed to, so do you randomly clean, stare at your phone, drink coffee with your spouse, watch and direct, or what? It kinda feels like when the cleaning lady comes and she's working super hard and you are just hangin out??
In the United States, movers are part of the service industry, thus, most are tipped. Typically movers are doing an extremely important job, handling your possessions which may be valuable, irreplaceable, or just simply super important to you. They are also doing an incredible physically taxing job, and can do a lot of damage to floors, walls or other elements of your home if they are not being careful. Thus, we want to treat them well and pray they do an amazing job, caring for our things as we would. The amount of the tip should not be based upon a percentage, like a restaurant bill would be. If it's a full 8 hour day, then $20 per person is appropriate and $10 per person for a half day. If you have a crazy staircase, workers are in high temps, or you have a load of heavy furniture, you might want to figure $40 per person fair. Always give the tips to the individual workers, as a lump sum can sometimes not reach all members of the team.
In Germany, the service industry works a bit differently. Typically, workers are paid a higher wage and don't expect tips such as the 15-20 percent U.S. standard on services. It's tricky though because movers in the Ktown area are used to dealing with Americans, and sometimes we are set in our tipping ways. You are NOT obligated to pay or provide anything. It's just like eating in a restaurant and getting crappy service - you may choose to leave nothing. If you like the service, leave a bit extra. It seems at a minimum, it's a good idea to provide drinks for the movers: coffee, Gatorade, or simply water. If you want to step it up, head to the bakery early and get some brotchens and pastries. Taking it to the next level, which can be expensive, is providing lunch. Ask the movers what they might like for lunch. Doners, Burger King, Pizza, sandwiches, etc. Providing lunch shouldn't ensure the safety of your possessions, but it doesn't hurt to take that extra step for a crew that is working hard. As far as cash tips, this is not common. Most Americans, and Germans, don't give a cash tip. If you feel like you want to do something, provide drinks and lunch and call it good.