A tipping thread - for international travellers

For those of you who travel to other countries, what’s your tipping practice? Do you try to find out the local custom and tip, or not tip, according to that. Or do you tip, or not tip, as you would in your own country?

To start this off, I’m generally a finder-out of local customs.

My “difficult place” to visit has always been Belgium (which I do visit regularly). Until recently, I’ve presumed that the French speaking area followed France with a no-tip culture, whilst Dutch speaking Flanders followed the Netherlands where tipping, whilst not a cultural necessity, is fairly common. It was only on my last trip that I learned that the whole country is pretty much a no-tip place, in the French style

^^ Correct. No tipping in BE and NL.
In Spain and Portugal I round up to the euro. (Observed how the locals did it and followed)

I’m a huge follower of “when in Rome”. I do my best to find it out ahead of time, and if I’ve forgotten what I found, I simply ask another diner. (in this day and age, looking it up on my phone is a valid option, too…)

I try to follow local custom, but I find it hard to get reliable local information, or maybe it’s that I remain uncertain even I follow the information I am given. It’s fairly straightforward in most of Italy – no tipping, service is included, politely round up to the next five/10 amount. In Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, I never seem to know who gets tipped and who doesn’t. Been a while since I was in Belgium.

Also, it seems that tipping is now a moving target, and were I to return to say, London, in the near future, I would probably need to ask all over again (as it is, I’ve forgotten!) And I suppose my fall back position is: When in doubt, I tip (I am American by birth).

However, I will add that I feel like people make too much of this – not blaming you for raising the issue and I myself like to know in advance – but there are some “small change” travel issues, like Dynamic Currency Conversion, tipping, whether or not a taxi is taking the most direct route, the cost of bottled water at the airport, that I’ve become concerned people invest too much emotional energy into. Without being blasé about the legitimate need to be cost conscious, and also showing respect for local custom as a foreigner, making the occasional mistake – especially in favor of possibly overpaying a 12-hour-a-day worker while one is on vacation-- is not worth all the hoohah some people put into it.

Did you see this article in the Guardian?

http://www.theguardian.com/business/us-money-blog/2015/oct/25/tipping-culture-america-europe

Is tipping in Canada also a big headache? I can’t remember anymore. Would like to know. My next big trip there is probably in autumn.

I try to be consistent. It depends if the waitress touches my back:

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I also believe in tipping according to local customs. I actually think it would be rather arrogant to willfully tip the same way you would in your home country.

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if the waitress touches my back, the tip drops significantly.

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South Park taught me a lot of life lessons. :smile:

I watched all the earlier episodes on Netflix. Funny thing is that after I watched this “Raisin” episode, I went on a business trip the following week, and there, my waitress touched my back a couple of times when she walked passed me. I should also say she is an attractive lady. Anyway, I chuckled because the South Park episode was fresh in my mind.

In all honesty, I won’t have understand this if I didn’t watch the South Park episode (Yes, I can be a little slow).

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From a recent holiday in Hungary: there IS a tipping culture in Hungary but it’s not cut-throat like in the US. Service charge is usually stated on the receit and/or menu, between 10-15%. If you are not sure then just ask the waiter. If service charge is included just round up the coins. If it’s not included then you work out in your head THE TOTAL amount and tell it to the waiter. If you want your change back and don’t tell him/her the total amount that means he/she can keep it all. Never ever leave cash on the table.

Waiter drops the bill and stands there waiting. You can either tell him to come back in a minute or you can do your math at great speed. Luckily, the partner is a walking CPU so I don’t have to deal with it.


Just heard this on BBC Radio 4 this morning about tipping. Click on progress bar to fastforward to 52:57 where the tipping piece begins.

Doesn’t matter how much has been discussed over the years it’s still going nowhere.

Is there a cultural reason for this, or a concern that someone might steal it before the server gets to it?

I have looked in my Food and Wine Budapest guide and online, there’s no explanation as to why. Perhaps, and I’m guessing here, it has something to do with the old days under communism? Giving money or gifts was synonymous with bribing; or flashing money around was a dead no-no.

From what I have read the government has tried to abolish tipping but met with fierce protest from waiters so they backed down.

In my early days I worked in a number of bars and restaurants.

You should always tip in cash and give this to your server personally anywhere on the planet.

Cash because that way it’s between the server and inland revenue, and sometimes the House takes a cut of what you put on a card.

Personally because you would be surprised how many tip rustlers there are out there, especially if they have been drinking. I’ve seen brokers worth millions reach over and grab a five because they were short on cash.

Any additional perspective @NotJrvedivici ?

As regards tipping in foreign countries, I usually check the menu to see if service is included.

If it is, and this is true most places in Europe, then I will round up a little for really good service.

Elsewhere on the planet, especially Asia, I tend to round up to the nearest bill amount because I don’t want to get stuck with coins.

I pretty much mirror your views, when possible I always tip in cash because of the reasons you mention. Although I do know one notorious restaurant local to us where servers must turn over all cash tips to the house. They use a pooling tip system the house then counts, divides (takes their piece) and distributes the cash to the servers at the end of the shift.

I do the exact same thing…if it says a 10%/15%/18% is included and the service was good/exceptional I will leave the difference between the service fee and 20-25% (which is what I will normally tip for good / exceptional service) in cash.

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Yep. I’ve seen ye ole tip poole before, the thin wedge of incipient socialism enforced by “entrepreneurs” who howl when you suggest they should pay more taxes.

Worse is when they take a cut off of the credit card tips for “processing” these.

It’s bad enough being a server and having your backside touched to begin with.

But messing with the tips just adds injury to insult.

I cannot recall visiting a country where I’ve observed it being the norm that a cash tip is physically handed to the server and not left on the table (hence my query to Presunto, as to why it is the norm in Hungary).

Now, there may well be countries other than Hungary that have this practice but I can only speak of those places I’ve visited (other than the UK where I live). In recent times, that’d be Ireland, America, Belgium, France, Netherlands, South Africa, Bahamas, Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy, Malta and Cyprus.

Whether at the grocery store or in restaurants I keep a running total in my head. That way you know immediately if you have been overcharged.

It’s not terribly difficult, but you have to train your self to do this. It’s a habit I picked up in business, doing the math in your head.

The thing that throws me off sometimes are state and local taxes, so I tend to look for the pre tax total.

By the way, I love love love the German and Austrian system where the waiter brings the purse to the table and adds it up in front of you.

So precise, so civilized.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold