Visitors to the USA are often surprised by how many types of workers it is customary to tip, and how much of a tip is considered appropriate. It can also work the other way, with American travelers over tipping almost to the point of causing confusion or offense in other countries. It is always a good idea to research the etiquette for things like tipping in countries you plan to visit, so you can avoid any social embarrassment. However, you may also be wondering why standard tipping protocols tend to be different in other countries. Are people just less generous? Are the workers in service roles just less appreciated in those countries?
Here, we look at some of the ways tipping differs around the world, and in some cases, why that is.
In the UK, most Americans feel pretty at home in terms of culture and social norms, however when it comes to tipping, things are a little different. British people do tip as standard, and when they do, the American standard of tipping 20% is usually considered appropriate, but they don’t tip for as many things as Americans do.
In the UK, you almost always tip in a restaurant with table service, and if you do not, this usually indicates that you feel the service was poor – just as in the USA. Service charges are also sometimes added to your bill already, especially when you have a large party of people, and in this case, it is up to you whether you want to leave an additional tip on top of paying that – if you don’t it is not considered rude as the service charge is essentially a pre-added tip.
Tipping is not, however, common in pubs, bars or clubs, even if you have a meal there (especially if you order at the bar). You can leave a tip if you really want to (for instance, if you have had great service), but it is uncommon. What you may see happen more often in pubs is customers buying the bartender a drink too when they buy a round. The bartender can keep the cost of the drink as a tip, or have a drink (normally when their shift finishes if they are choosing an alcoholic beverage!).
In other circumstances tipping is common, but not expected. For instance, you may tip a taxi driver, but this is normally in a very casual form, such as rounding up the cost of your journey to the nearest pound (‘keep the change’ is a more common way of tipping in general outside of restaurants than adding 20%). If you don’t tip at all, nobody minds. You may also tip delivery staff, hairdressers, and hotel workers, but again, this is very much a matter of choice rather than something that is expected.
Essentially, wherever you see a tip jar (in coffee shops, salons, and other such places), tipping is reasonably common, but not by any means customary. Apart from in restaurants, tipping is something you do to express genuine gratitude for good service. Equally, outside of restaurants, staff does not expect tips (though they welcome them), and their payment model is not designed with a certain level of tipping factor in.
Italy is an interesting country when it comes to tipping. While it is famous for having the best waiting staff in the world and unbeatable service in restaurants, Italians have almost no culture of tipping at all – even for the things you would tip for in the UK like special meals. You can tip, but it is not customary, and you will never see Italians using a tip calculator online on their phones after a meal to figure out how much to leave. Rounding up the bill is often done as a gesture of generosity and convenience, but there isn’t really anyone you are expected to tip.
It is thought that the reason why Italy has never developed a tipping culture in its service industry is that being a waiter is considered a profession there, and a well respected job with good pay. As waiters tend to be professionals rather than casual workers, they know how to give great service, but don’t have to work for tips.
India, at least in its major cities, has changed a lot over the past couple of decades as it has grown into a place with a lot of business. As an emerging market, it has seen a big rise in the number of people visiting from Europe and the USA on business, and also a rise in its own middle class, with more and more people doing things like eating out regularly. As this has happened, the culture has begun to shift from one where tipping was not considered customary, to one where tips are very common. However, unlike in the USA, when you tip in India it is only when the service was very good, and the tip is typically between 5 and 10 percent, rather than our usual 20 percent tip given regardless of service level or quality.
In Japan, tipping isn’t common at all, though people do tend to be very respectful and thankful to the people who serve them if they are pleased with the service – gratitude is expressed with manners rather than money on the whole in Japan. In places like Tokyo and Kyoto, the people have had a lot of exposure to Western tourists and business travelers, however, and will not take offense or be confused when tips are offered.
In most South American countries, including Peru, Costa Rica and Brazil, if a tip is expected then it will be added to your bill in restaurants and some other places. The tip is usually 15%, but may be as low as 10% in some places.
As you can see, tipping does differ around the world, and even in places like Europe where in general the culture is not too different from the US, there can be a big difference when it comes to tipping.