In the United States, tipping is part of our society. Often times when receiving a service, we feel obligated to tip an extra few dollars for a job well done.
In a country built on competition and capitalism, it's no surprise that tipping has been embedded in our social contract since the 1800’s. However, the same cannot be said for other countries around the globe. There’s a stereotype in the restaurant industry that servers never want a table of foreigners because they’re unfamiliar with tipping norms.
While that’s not entirely true, tipping customs are different depending on what country you’re in. The following is a guide for tipping to use as basic reference, keeping in mind that specific countries and cities may have slightly different expectations.
Service charges are generally not added to a bill unless there is a large party involved. Therefore, tips are expected. If you’re out at a restaurant, anywhere from 15-25% is considered average. If you’re at a bar, $1 per drink is a good rule of thumb. For any other service, such as a hotel bellhop, a golf caddy, a hair stylist, a taxi driver, etc; tipping is expected for all these professions, but the amount varies widely. When in doubt, go with 15-20%.
Service charges are used more often here and tips are less common at establishments that utilize these charges. If the tip is included in the bill already, then adding an additional tip is not expected (although greatly appreciated). For anywhere else that does not utilize a service charge, a tip of 10% or 15% will do just fine, but be sure to use local currency and try not to use credit cards or checks.
Unlike the Americas, “across the pond,” tips are often expected in addition to service charges in several European countries. Many establishments in Europe have an “eat-in fee” and a further tip of 10% is common. Another option that’s used a lot in the United Kingdom is an “optional charge.” If you see this on a bill and check it, further tips are not expected. When tipping in Europe, Euros are the currency of preference as they are accepted almost everywhere even if they are not the primary currency.
Africa & the Middle East
It’s customary in the Middle East to tip on top of service charges already included in the bill. The key here is to tip with cash and local currency. Many places will not accept tips on even the most elite credit cards. Tipping in Africa is almost always appreciated, but almost never compulsory. Service charges are very rare across most of the continent. A tip of 10% is a sign of gratitude in service industries, but the course of action would be to use your best judgment if the service warrants a tip or ask others familiar with particular venues.
This is the only continent on Earth where tipping plays almost no role in society. Even for the most luxurious services, it is best not to tip in most countries throughout Asia. For example, tipping is considered by some in Japan to be a cultural offense as it means an employee is undervalued; it’s seen as a gesture of pity. In China, many establishments forbid tips.
The land down under had traditionally been influenced by its Asian neighbors, but times have changed and tipping has become common throughout Australia. The expectations are similar to the Americas; tip around 15% unless a service charge is already included in the bill. No matter where you travel, don’t be intimidated by not knowing local tipping norms. Now that you have a general idea of what to expect, do some more research and talk to people who have visited or lived in the area you’re looking to travel to.
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