Tipping abroad can be a minefield – here’s how to navigate it

The global guide to tipping

The global guide to tipping

From weighing down bills on a restaurant table to searching for loose change in a taxi, tipping can be a minefield.

Vacationers certainly don’t want to be ashamed of leaving too little behind, or worse, being offensive. But then there are those countries – the US in particular – where a large amount essentially feels obligatory.

Have no fear: we’ve created a series of global tipping maps that should ease any worry about the amount of change you’ll have to leave behind. Based on data from travel agencies and operators, we’ve detailed recommended tip amounts for hotel staff, restaurants, and taxis.

Taxi tips

Let’s start with the latter. Northern Europe follows a similar pattern to the UK when it comes to tips for taxi drivers – there is no obligation anywhere, except in Sweden, where it is normal to round up.

Other popular destinations like Italy and France (and cheaper places like the Czech Republic and Slovenia) don’t expect anything. But in Germany, Bulgaria and Hungary you better cough up 10 percent, otherwise it will be seen as a disapproval.

The most expensive place for the discerning taxi driver is – inevitably – the US, where a 15 percent surcharge on fares is required (prepare for a pattern to emerge). Canada, Saudi Arabia and South Africa all expect 10 percent as well, so poking around in your pocket for loose coins probably won’t be enough.

Tipping at restaurants

When it comes to restaurants, Britain’s once-common 10 percent (although 15 percent is now often added automatically) is largely mirrored across Europe, the exceptions being Belgium (about 15 percent) and Monaco (the same amount, where is probably an expensive bill to begin with.)

As in the UK, service charges are increasingly being added to the bill itself, regardless of the quality of the meal, the courtesy of the service or how distracting the music playing through the loudspeakers is.

There is a broader argument for not simply assuming that the guest enjoyed the service; inevitably there will be a forgotten side dish or shaky table in even the smoothest of restaurants.

In France, however, you need not worry. By law, serving staff must be paid fair wages not depending on a culture of tipping. The bill should have a 15 percent service charge, which essentially means their salary doesn’t need to be topped up by the customer.

You can, of course, leave a few extra euros – a to pour, or “for a drink” – but there’s really no expectation. Those tips will also not be taxed from this year onwards, so the staff will keep every penny.

Respect customs

That all sounds charmingly simple. Compare that to the US, with its eye-watering 20 percent gratuity standard. Here, the extra dollars given to the staff are not really a reward for an experience, but rather an addition to the meager wages. Waiters and hotel staff are paid less in anticipation of tips, which are then taxed.

It may not seem obvious to the British traveller, but according to etiquette expert Laura Windsor, there’s a sense that tipping in North America should be seen as an endorsement of the culture in which you’re traveling. outwardly reluctant).

“In the US, tipping is almost mandatory. The word may be an acronym for “ensuring prompt service,” but forget that if you’re a visitor,” she says.

“It’s just one of those things — when you travel, you have to respect the culture, rules, and customs of the country you’re in.” Unfortunately, that means leaving a piece of dollars for that rather uninteresting citizen.

Contrasting cultures

The contrast in New Zealand, Australia, China and Japan is stark. Here it is essentially frowned upon to include anything extra.

In Japan you don’t really want to add anything anymore. Vanessa Villalobos, who runs a Japanese tutoring agency, thinks this essentially makes traveling easier for the British tourist. “Tipping isn’t part of the culture at all, which means you just don’t have to think about it,” she says.

“In Japan, there is a feeling that money is dirty or vulgar. If you try to leave a tip, the staff will think you forgot your change and call you back to get it. To force it on them would be insulting.”

Show gratitude

However, there are other ways to show gratitude. “Omotenashi, or hospitality culture, means that guests usually receive exceptional service. Even in McDonald’s you get a bow.”

Rather than feeling a little uncomfortable, Villalobos recommends returning that courtesy with just as much sincerity. “Learn some words of thanks, don’t make a mess, and be openly grateful.” Giving old-fashioned gifts is also not wrong: small souvenirs, such as a postcard or a badge, are appreciated.

Caution is also advised in other parts of Asia. “Tipping was once seen as a bribe in China, so if you’re staying at a hotel there, you might want to write a thank-you note to the hotel manager instead.” A rather strange way to avoid claims of impropriety, but still valuable to know.

Hotel gratuities

That practice of tipping hotel staff is often embarrassing for the British traveler – its implementation feels rather patrician. Again, you will be spared the ordeal in Northern Europe and Oceania. In Croatia, slip your errand boy something worth £2. Will do a little more in Cyprus and North America.

Finally, don’t overthink it. It’s all essentially a bonus, and staff at most destinations will largely appreciate it. “You make someone a little bit happier than they otherwise would be by acknowledging their service,” says Windsor.

“It may seem like you’re saying they have a lower status, but in reality they’re just doing their job. And when you look at it that way, you shouldn’t really feel uncomfortable,” says Windsor.

As for an alternative to a cash donation? Windsor is short. “A smile and a few words of praise are fine. I wouldn’t go over the top.”

Depending on the location, do you adhere to ‘tip etiquette’ or do your own thing? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below

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