Tipping around the world: How much is enough?
By Megan Cross
A tip, or gratuity, is defined as a gift of money given to someone for performing a service or menial task, over and above the payment due for the service.
Tipping, which is not required in all countries, is expected in some denomination for good service from those in the industries where tipping is expected.
In discussions with my family, friends, and teachers I brought up the topic of tipping to get an idea about what they thought the standard procedure should be.
I asked women in a range of ages from 19-60 and got two different views. From the younger, non-working population, the consensus was that restaurant servers should get a maximum of 20%.
I can imagine why they would think that servers should only receive pennies for their hard work since they are not aware of the minimum wage of $2.13 that they make.
The older, and, yes, wiser females were quite aware of the low minimum wage and stated that 20% should be the minimum, that is unless the service was terrible, and in that case, the tip could be lower.
In terms of hair salons, the older females again said that 20% of the bill should be the tip.
The younger females who had previous experience in the industry were like the older females, saying, “Don’t be stingy!”
For males, I found that my personal notion that they would be stingy actually proved to be untrue — just the opposite. I did come across a good handful, however, who were.
Among the younger generation, the consensus was a dollar per drink at pubs and bars, 20% at a very nice restaurant, and 18% at a mediocre place. I guess they do know how to tip!
Hairdressers should only get a few bucks. Taxi drivers should not be tipped.
The older males I interviewed felt that when they were younger, people weren’t tipped as much. People now are not making a lot so they’re willing to give a better tip.
For a haircut, a few dollars as a tip is mandatory. Taxi drivers should certainly be tipped; crummy or not they should get something.
A Guide to Tipping Around
For the scope of this guide, I will be giving a brief overview of the proper (and improper) amounts to tip in countries across the globe.
The United States
In the United States, tipping people in the service industry is a given. Whether in a restaurant, taking a taxi, receiving a haircut, or having bags delivered to a hotel room, it is required to show appreciation for a job well done. However, this also means that if service is awful, a tip might be less or nothing at all.
Of course, there may be the “misfortune” of going to a restaurant where a 15% gratuity is already included in the check, but as the BBC website put it, “for all those US males out there who pull out their little calculators every time they receive the bill, having the tip already indicated for them can save a lot of embarrassment.”
In the U.S. it is expected that both locals and tourists offer a tip of 15 to 20 percent of the final bill to wait staff, taxi drivers, porters, tour guides, and others offering a service.
Our good friends to the north have a very similar tipping procedure as the United States. Most service people expect a 15-20% tip depending of course on what part of Canada, which city, and the level of service.
In restaurants, 15% is considered to be a good tip but of course, if the meal is great and the service is too, feel free to tip more! Make sure to tip in many of the same establishments as well – restaurants, bars, barbershops, taxis, etc.
To the south there is a different tipping procedure; the difference is that tipping is expected for almost everything. Remember, however, that you are not just dishing out your money; you are helping to compensate people who receive nothing for their work except tips. Go ahead, go a little wild, and tip freely to everyone.
It’s not like our money isn’t worth something there. We actually get back about 10 pesos to every one US dollar!
In restaurants, it is expected to give a 15% tip for good service.
BBC again said it perfectly: “Generosity is appreciated, stinginess or no tip for bad service is understood or grudgingly accepted; it might be that your waiter believes in Karma — just make sure that if you go back again, return a favor.”
If you need to take a taxi in Mexico City, the taxis are required by law to be metered. Take note as you enter the cab and if the meter seems to be broken, feel free to exit and find another ride.
A cabbie who gets the job done with little or no hassles should be tipped the metered amount.
In French restaurants, the service is already included in the price (it is a law to do it this way) and the average gratuity is 15% or so, but it is customary to round out your bill with some small change unless you’re dissatisfied.
Taxi drivers generally don’t expect to be tipped.
Museum guides should get one to three Euros after a guided tour. It is standard practice to tip bus drivers about two Euros after an excursion.
In restaurants, the common tip is 10% of the total bill. The waiters and waitresses, however, receive a monthly salary that is considerably higher than the U.S. minimum wage. If the restaurant bill is very high (including, for example, very expensive wines), the tip is usually no more than 5-6 %.
Taxi drivers usually get about 10% of the fare shown on the meter. German airports are full of baggage carts that are free of charge and can be taken everywhere within the airport and to the parking areas.
At hotels, if you were happy with the service, it is common to leave a tip for the maid in the room when you leave. Also, you pay about two to three Euros for help with the luggage each time and the same amount for the doorman. You also tip the people who have been of special assistance to you.
At the hairdresser, you give a one- to two-Euro tip to the person cutting your hair and one Euro to the person washing your hair.
In Italy, the tipping procedure is kept to a minimum. No tips are expected, but, again, if you feel as though the person did a great job, feel free to round up to the next highest amount. Also, remember too that you are being charged a coperto (‘cover charge’) or possibly for pane (‘bread’) as well.
Taxi drivers usually expect to receive 5-10% of the bill.
Tipping in this country was abolished and instead an automatic 15% “service charge” is tagged to all hotels, restaurants, and taxi bills. Tipping is still appropriate for railway and hotel porters, wash- and cloakroom attendants, and gas station attendants.
Also, in hair and beauty salons a service charge is included, but one often gives extra tipping (but seldom to the owner of the salon). Yet, again, feel free to show your appreciation and leave a bit extra if you feel appropriate.
The United Kingdom
In England, there is a service charge of 12.5% in some restaurants, and some sources say you should not tip cash at the bar in a pub. Instead, you can show appreciation by offering the barkeep a drink.
I did read elsewhere that not all bartenders are able to take a drink on the spot, so a monetary tip is also accepted. Either offer will be genuinely appreciated.
It is also common for people to leave a small tip of one or two Pounds as a tip to hairdressers. In taxis, it is common to add 10% to the fare.
The rule in Egypt is that you are expected to tip. For the people there it is the way of life. So if you go on a cruise or a guided tour make sure to tip the crew and the guide and anyone else involved.
As the author of the Eclectic Rebel Blog and Travel Guide stated, “Tipping the guide is at your discretion, but a good guide is worth a good tip!”
Similarly, if you go somewhere like Luxor or Aswan and use a caleche (horse-drawn ‘buggy’) to get about, the driver will expect a tip on top of the agreed fare. It’s up to you whether you pay it, but the man will look aggrieved if you don’t!
Taxi drivers don’t get tipped.
In Brazil, the rules are not as strict. Like the feel of most of the country, if you like what you see, tip, and if you don’t, well then don’t tip! There are no set guidelines and the amount is entirely at a person’s discretion. At hotels, a 10% to 15% service charge is included in the bill.
At a restaurant, there is a 10% service charge included in the bill. At bars and cafes, a 10% tip is good if it has not been added to the bill.
For taxis, a tip is not expected, yet drivers might be permitted to keep some change. Frequently, hotels will negotiate the fare in advance with the driver and pass the amount on to the guest as a flat rate (tip included).
However, tips in Brazil should be left in a discreet manner. Brazilians prefer to be subtle when it comes to the exchange of money.
Tipping is generally not encouraged by the Singapore government. The government has worked hard to implement measures that make Singapore a safe destination where visitors will find modern facilities, better service, technology-aided efficiency, cleanliness, and no confusion.
Taxicabs run by a meter with receipts issued upon request and tips are not required to taxi drivers.
$2.00 is the amount of tip that applies to hotel service staff, although guests are often notified of a “No tipping required” policy.
Proper dining restaurants levy a 10% service charge and tipping is therefore not required. However, it is often practiced by hosts who are entertaining special guests, in which case an additional 10% of the bill is given as a tip to the headwaiter who is supposed to share the tip with the other service staff.
You’ll never have to tip anywhere in China. It’s the one consolation for the fact that foreigners are charged more as a matter of government policy.
Hong Kong taxi drivers do not expect tips unless they are taking you to the airport or the station which connects with the airport.
In Japan, no tip is required and it may cause embarrassment and offense to those tipped. No matter what, no tipping in Japan!
Workers in Japan will often politely refuse and might even consider tipping to be insulting at times. Japanese cultural expectations state that good service is not something to be rewarded as it should be the norm.
In India, tipping is viewed as optional and would never be expected. However, servers will always be grateful for a small ten percent ti when no service fee is charged.
Don’t tip. Ever. You don’t have to; people will generally be nice to you as long as you don’t treat them like your personal slave. Service is almost always included, as is the sales tax, so the price you see is the price you get. The only exceptions are:
*exceptionally good service,
*when the menu says ‘Service not Included’ (rare), and
*telling the taxi driver to keep the change (so he doesn’t have to fumble around for 35 cents).
Megan Cross has taught English in Spain and traveled to Europe, Australia, and throughout the USA.