Tipping & Gratuity Guidelines For International Travel

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Americans can sometimes be loud, boorish, and extroverted. We’re the class clowns of the world. But we’re also the biggest tippers. We know that clowns are laughing on the outside, but crying on the inside, right? According to Michael Lynn, associate professor of market and consumer behavior at the Center for Hospitality at Cornell University, countries with more “extroverted” and “neurotic” people gave tips to the greatest number of services and also tipped the largest amounts – with the U.S. topping both categories.

Based on this reasoning, it makes sense that in countries where decorum, group-thinking and introversion are king, tipping would be low. You’d be right in countries like Japan, where if you tip, it could be seen as a mistake on your part (the waiter may chase you down to tell you that you left money on the table). But how do you explain the lack of tipping in Australia or New Zealand, whose big-mouthed, extroverted drinking culture rivals our own? Answer: Aussies in the service industry don’t depend on tips for their income.

So what’s tipping like in the rest of the world?

Germany: When I traveled to Germany a year ago, I remember being told it was not necessary to tip as much as in the U.S. I assumed it was because the Germans were too proud to take tips or something stoic like that (being from hardy German and Polish stock myself). Turns out the waitresses in Germany actually make a livable wage—a monthly salary considerably higher than U.S. minimum wage. So if they get tips from clueless Americans, they get to keep them! Tips are generally less than 10%. Taxi drivers get 10%.

England: A service charge of 12.5% is usually included at restaurants. For taxis, a 10% tip is generally expected. The exception is at that British institution, the local pub. If you are impressed with the barkeep’s service, do not tip cash at the bar in a pub. Offer to buy them a drink, like a half pint of beer, or small spirit.

Italy: No tip is expected in restaurants throughout Italy. This is because you are being charged a coperto (cover charge) or possibly for pane (bread), as well. If you’re feeling guilty, you can leave some coins on the table.

From Eclectic Rebel Blog reader Ale:

Actually there is nothing wrong in tipping in Italy, ok, you reach 10% at max and when you are really satisfied, but you can leave round up to the next big figure, if your dinner was 45€ you leave a couple of euros, if it is 160 -we were 7 of us last wednesday- we rounded it up to 170€.

Also, the service charge is actually going to the owner, being the “service” the manteinance service for the table – wshing for linens and cutlery, general mantainance, everybody pais it, Italian included- the bread is the cost of bread.

A waiter makes about 800€ per month, not really enough to make a living.

France, a service charge is usually included in the bill at the end of your meal; if not, 15% is pretty standard. Taxi drivers generally don’t expect to be tipped.

Switzerland: Apparently tipping has been ABOLISHED in Switzerland, and a 15% “service charge” has been included in all hotel, restaurant and taxi bills. However, if you had a jolly time and wish to show your appreciation, they are not going to call the cops on you if you leave an extra 10%.

Spain: From Eclectic Rebel Blog reader Chris: “In Spain or at least southern Spain no tip is expected and you might get an odd look, even if you are in a nice restaurant. I spent some time in Granada Espana where a good friend had a flat. As far as tipping goes: for Tapas no tip is expected (it’s free, just pay for your beer), for dinner (just get tapas ;-) ) at a nice restaurant you may tip if you’re feeling generous but they will often ask you if you’ve made a mistake, taxis it is a good idea to tip if they get you somewhere fast, driving is not for the faint hearted over there.

Japan: Tipping is not required and in fact may cause embarrassment or offense to those tipped. If the bellboy stands an extra moment in your hotel room, he’s not waiting for a tip, he’s likely waiting to make sure you get settled in properly. Customer service (*gasp*)!

Singapore: In Singapore, tipping is a way of elevating one’s status. However, the Singapore government does not encourage such tipping-officially.

Traditional after-meal tipping is not usually required as good establishments levy a 10% service charge with the meal. If one wishes to ensure good service when entertaining special guests, one can give an extra 10% of the bill amount to the headwaiter who will share the tip with the other service staff.

China: Don’t tip anywhere. Try not to think about how you’re generally charged more for everything because you’re a foreigner – by your friendly neighborhood Chinese government.

Hong Kong: Taxi drivers don’t expect tips unless they are taking you to the airport or the MTR station which connects with the airport, when the cost of carrying luggage increases.

Brazil: Tipping, like the lifestyle in Brazil, is flexible. If you feel like tipping, do. If you don’t, then don’t! Nobody cares! Then have a drink, dahling, you look tired.

Ethiopia: Tipping is not required, unless you want to show your enjoyment of a dancer, in which case you are to stick a paper bill on their forehead. Which you should only do if the dancer in question has a light film of sweat on their forehead.

Mexico: Tip everyone, if only for karma points because the wages there are dismally low. Figure on 15% for good service at a restaurant. If you’re taking a taxi and speak Spanish, you can negotiate up front for a fare that will include the tip. Oh, and don’t expect that the driver will know where to go better than you. If you find one that knows where he’s going, it’s worth a good tip.

Canada: It’s probably because of its proximity to the U.S. but most service staff in Canada expect something in the 10-20% tip range, depending on what city and the level of service. Tipping differs however depending on whether you are in French or English Canada. Tipping is expected for restaurants, bars, food delivery and taxis In Montreal, tips for a good meal at a good restaurant with good service should be tipped more.

For more geek-level data: check here for a thoroughly anal listing of the dos and don’ts of world tipping.

In general, tip like a Rockefeller in Canada, Chile, Ireland and Egypt (except taxis), and tip like a hobo everywhere else!

Tipping Stories: For some fun tipping stories check out:

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Comments

  1. Ed Says:

    I live in London and would like to add that there is nothing wrong with offering a barman or woman a cash tip in England.

    In fact, while drinks are sometimes offered as a thanks for good service, staff are often not allowed to accept them.

    I used to work in a bar and was always very grateful for a couple of extra quid.

    Also, in case you were wondering, bar staff in the UK earn the equivalent of about 10-20 dollars per hour, with the average being about $13.

  2. Lars Says:

    very cool post .
    I’m actually in Germany right now (my old home b4 I moved to the US 4 years ago) .. and I ONLY tip when I am satisfied w/ the service. over here Tip still is a measure for quality…
    the better the service, the more you tip and it’s all up to you .

  3. Kylie Says:

    I read this whole thing to hear you explain the lack of tipping in Australia- but you didn’t!

  4. DG Says:

    What about Scotland? Northern Ireland? Wales? The British Isles are offended at the expectation that tourists would visit and tip in England and not those other three countries.

  5. Ale Says:

    Actually there is nothing wrong in tipping in Italy, ok, you reach 10% at max and when you are really satisfied, but you can leave round up to the next big figure, if your dinner was 45€ you leave a couple of euros, if it is 160 -we were 7 of us last wednesday- we rounded it up to 170€.

    Also, the service charge is actually going to the owner, being the “service” the manteinance service for the table – wshing for linens and cutlery, general mantainance, everybody pais it, Italian included- the bread is the cost of bread.

    A waiter makes about 800€ per month, not really enough to make a living.

  6. slade Says:

    i’m still trying to figure out if there was a dig against “english” canada in that. gotta be a yank.

  7. Chris Says:

    In Spain or at least southern Spain no tip is expected and you might get an odd look, even if you are in a nice restaurant. I spent some time in Granada Espana where a good friend had a flat. As far as tipping goes: for Tapas no tip is expected (it’s free, just pay for your beer), for dinner (just get tapas ;-) ) at a nice restaurant you may tip if you’re feeling generous but they will often ask you if you’ve made a mistake, taxis it is a good idea to tip if they get you somewhere fast, driving is not for the faint hearted over there.

  8. Dave Says:

    slade: I was thrown by that too. Are there not restaurants in the other 70% of Canada with good food or good service? o_0

  9. Charlotte Says:

    In my native England only tourists ever tipped the bar staff – I had two pubs one in Bath and one in Plymouth.

    The Plymouth pub locals would offer a drink to bar staff which if they didn’t want I encouraged them to say “I’ll have that drink at the end of the shift” and then mark up what had been paid for – I would cash back the employee at the end of the shift.

    In Bath tons of tourists tipped for fast service the locals once again offered a drink.

  10. Charlene Jaszewski Says:

    @Kylie: d’oh!! You’re right! I added the info about Aussies!

  11. Charlene Jaszewski Says:

    @slade & Dave: another d’oh! I had put in that info about Canada from a traveling friend’s comments and forgot to remove that little snark! No offense intended! Can you tell me your experience about tipping in English Canada?

  12. Canadian Traveller Says:

    I think Canadians are generally good tippers. But being a Canadian I have heard when I am abroad that we generally have a poor reputation for being kind of cheap. Not sure its true though.

  13. Richard Pitwood Says:

    I’m worried now. I’m off to Toronto in 2 days, my first time in North America.

    I’m 40 years old, I’ve been drinking in pubs for 24 years (or more), mostly in the UK, but I’ve been to most countries in Europe, from Lithuania to Portugal.

    I have never ever in all those years and all those places felt the need to give money to a barman whan all they have done is pour me a beer, yet you lot are saying I should, and my Canadian colleagues tell me they will spit in my drink if I don’t leave them some money.

    I find this entire concept completely incomprehensible and need help so I don’t

    1. offend people and
    2. spend more than I should.

  14. Scott Says:

    I manage a restaurant on the Seacoast in Maine. We are a summertime destination for folks throughout New England and Canada. My servers complain bitterly about their Canadian patrons’ tipping behavior. It is not uncommon for $1.00 to be left on a $50.00 check. $2.00 on an $80.00 check. (Both are actual figures from last night.) $.01 on a $20.00 bill! (This morning!)

    I was making the assumption that gratuities were included in the bill in Canada and perhaps that’s why tips are so low. But after researching several websites, it seems that tipping is voluntary in Canada and expected at the 15 to 20% level.

    I’ve done some traveling abroad and grimace when I see loud, ugly Americans misbehaving in other countries, so I know we are not saints. But can any Canadian readers out there help me understand why some Canadians lose their tipping manners when they cross the border into the U.S.? Is it just that they’ll never see us again, so they feel they can do what they will?

    I’m on the verge of automatically including a gratuity for all International customers. I don’t want to do that, but several restaurants in the area have adopted that policy.

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