Top tips on tipping etiquette

Date Posted: 28/10/2015

Alyssa Bantle, an expert in cross cultural training, has recently put together a guide for travellers facing the ‘to tip or not tip’? conundrum that we all face at some point in our lives.

Here’s her advice on tipping etiquette and why leaving a tip is significant across the world, from Hong Kong to the USA.

Japan

Don’t tip. It simply isn’t part of the culture and can even cause offence. If you are satisfied with the food or drink at a sushi bar or drinking establishment, consider buying the chef a sake (a Japanese rice wine) or a beer to show your appreciation.

The Japanese are eager to provide a great service – especially to foreigners. Saying “arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you very much) or giving a sincere compliment goes a long way in any service situation.

United States of America

Definitely tip. In US restaurants, waiters depend on tips since they are paid generally low wages. Service has to be quite poor in order not to tip. 18 to 20 per cent is normal for good service, however, if you are somewhere popular with tourists, double-check your bill. There might be a gratuity already added on; this is also normal for larger groups.

Since tips are so critical to US waiters, do not be surprised to get warm greetings, friendly interactions and be checked on often. Americans value both friendliness and speed in customer service. Also, Americans tend to leave quite soon after the meal is done so waiters might bring you the bill as soon as you say you do not want anything else.

India

Yes, but the amount is up to you. India is a great example of tipping practices reflecting culture. Tipping here tends to be less about a "thank you" for a completed service (as in the US) and more of an investment in an ongoing series of services.

This is not a question of ‘bribing’ waiters to provide good service, it’s about the value Indian culture places on relationship building. So understanding this can help you get great service staying in a hotel or eating out while also providing an insight into the importance of building up relationships in India.

Hong Kong

A tip is often added already. A ten per cent service charge is usually added to the bill in restaurants, hotels, and bars where drinks are delivered to the table. This may not go to the staff, so consider rounding up the bill to acknowledge good service. Tips are not expected in Hong Kong but will be graciously accepted, a different cultural scenario than in nearby Japan.

France

You may not have a choice. In Paris, a 15 per cent service charge is always included in the price of food and drinks. It is also common to leave an extra five to ten per cent at places you frequent, or to recognise good food and service. Additionally, if you’re seated by an usher at the theatre, you should tip a euro for each person in your group.

There are no rules about tipping in France, partly because government – influenced by a history of support for workers – has taken care of it. By law since 2008 the service charge must be passed on to staff and be in addition to their salary. But there’s another reason for less focus on tipping waiters – because they aren’t the star of the show. In France the star is always the chef, so sending a message to the chef that you enjoyed his or her cooking is a better way to show appreciation.

Germany

Round up the bill. It’s up to you, but in Germany it is very common to round up the restaurant bill.

For example if your lunch bill come to 18 euros, you can round it up to 20 euros. If you pay by credit card you can just tell the waiter “20 euros” and they will do the transaction for that amount. If you are paying cash you can give 20 euros and just say: “Stimmt so” (that's fine) when you hand over the money. Expect a professional “Danke” (thank you) as a reply.

Don’t wait until after the waiter has gone and leave change on the table as you may do in England. It’s seen as far more discreet and classy to tell the waiter how much to add to the bill.

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