Sunday Seven – Tipping: Not Just for Cows

I have to admit, prior to globe-trotting I did no research whatsoever on tipping and just continued my normal routine of tipping 15-20% EVERYWHERE. Which in retrospect explains why some people reacted the way they did – confused expressions, helping me put my bag back on (this may have just been out of pity), hugs goodbye, etc. But tipping around the world is not a clear-cut practice, and it can get downright confusing the more places you visit. So, in no particular order, seven countries where tipping is not just about cows.

7. New Zealand
Don’t tip. People will be genuinely nice to you regardless of the possibility of a tip, and will think it’s strange if you give them one. Just as tax is included in prices of goods (which makes things so much easier), the price you see on a menu is what you can expect to pay. It’s courteous to tell someone to keep the change, but again, not expected. A pleasant change from neighbour Australia, where tipping is also not expected but still welcome despite the surly levels of service you’ll likely encounter.

6. Canada and US
Gratuities aren’t included in the price, so expect to add another 15-20%. If you’re in a large group, you’ll generally be charged automatically. Tipping extends beyond a restaurant and covers most of the service industry – haircuts, taxis, and hotel porters are just a few examples where you’re going to need to throw down some more change. Personally I find the act of tipping at home a bit confusing, and can’t imagine that it makes sense for visitors. It’s not uncommon to tip a bartender who takes a cap off a beer bottle, but we don’t tip a barista who spends five minutes creating art on the top of our lattes. Even when service is bad I still tip, out of concern that perhaps the server is having a “bad day”. How Canadian of me.

5. United Kingdom
Tipping in a pub is not customary (that’s a nice change), but you can offer the barkeep a drink out of appreciation. Having never done this nor seen it in practice, I wonder how quickly the enjoyment of this would wear off. If you’re dining out, 10-15% is a good rule of thumb, and it’s common to add 10% to a cab fare.

4. Switzerland
Always efficient, Switzerland got rid of tipping and added an automatic 15% service charge to all restaurants, taxis and hotels. Service charges are also added to hair and beauty salon bills, but you can still tip if you feel the service was excellent. Same goes for the porter who lugged your hefty bag into your room or onto a train.

3. Japan
No tip! It may cause embarrassment and offend the person you’re tipping, which is the exact opposite impact you were hoping to have. Graciously thank the person for the service they have given you, but don’t leave any change behind. A service charge added to your bill will ensure that your server gets a cut.

2. Brazil
Not surprisingly, the policy of tipping in Brazil is as easy-going as the country. If you like what you get, tip, and if you don’t, well don’t! The amount to tip is generally up to you. Restaurants add a service charge of 10% to bills, and if you’re at a café check your receipt to see if it’s been added already before leaving something extra. Taxi drivers don’t expect a tip, but generally can keep the change.

1. Iceland
Given that everything in Iceland costs a small fortune, tourists and locals alike aren’t expected to leave anything. That being said, leave a little something if the service and food was good. It will be appreciated.

So, a tad confusing, yes? Something to keep in mind, particularly when in Europe, is to leave change rather than tipping with your credit card. Servers may not get it if you go that route. Also, check what the preferred currency to tip with is by politely asking someone in the service industry there. If you’d like to see what some customs are for other countries, check out this handy guide, because everyone loves infographics (just me?).

How much do you like to tip when you travel? Do you try to follow the customs of the country you’re in, or go with what you’re used to? Leave a comment below!

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2 thoughts on “Sunday Seven – Tipping: Not Just for Cows

  1. Love this post! I think we tend to over-tip as Canadians. I find myself tipping the people at Tim Horton’s and Dairy Queen (not that they don’t deserve it). As a server I definitely don’t expect a tip if I make one drink or open one bottle of beer but for large and/or complicated orders I expect more than a buck or two. Most people think it’s okay to tip $1 no matter how large the order is :s

    But what really gets my goat is when someone from another country doesn’t tip because they “don’t tip in their country”. NEWSFLASH! We’re not in your country right now! Even though it would feel strange not to tip a server if I was in Japan I wouldn’t do it because that’s the custom! Anyway, tipping should reflect quality of service and custom of the country.

    1. I was hoping you’d respond! When I was writing it I thought of how you always tip people, and also your experience bartending. I generally tip a toonie for a drink but if I do order something more complicated (some kind of martini with multiple ingredients and shaking involved), I add more.

      While it does drive me a bit bonkers to see some refuse to tip if they don’t “believe” in it (or if they don’t do it at home), I think we would find it a strange practice if we were accustomed to not doing it! All the more reason why it’s important to be fully aware of the culture and customs of places you visit!

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