Tipping: To do or not to do – that is the question!

ByAndrea Thompson

April 2, 2024

For many Brits, tipping in a restaurant happens when the meal and service have met their expectations. However, navigating tipping customs abroad can indeed be a puzzling and expensive experience.

As with many who choose to leave a tip as a courteous gesture, the guidelines regarding the appropriate amount and whether it’s obligatory can be unclear.

We all know that in the US, gratuity is widely anticipated, especially in places like New York, where waiting staff are often dependant upon tips to supplement their wages. However, in the UK tipping remains largely at the discretion of the diner, and it should be that no one will frown upon a person/party that chooses to pay the bill without adding a penny more unless a service charge has been included.

Travellers planning their business trips/holidays will be relieved to discover that this potential awkward situation is not universal and in some countries, it is frowned upon and considered an insult if you leave extra money on the table.

Here are some common myths related to tipping:

Tipping everywhere is the same:

Tipping varies significantly from one country to another.  It is essential to research when and whom to tip so as not to insult.

Tipping is always mandatory:

It is not obligatory everywhere and some cultures do not expect to be tipped,

Tipping is based on percentage only:

A fixed amount or rounding up is more appropriate.

Tipping for bad service is mandatory:

Tipping should reflect the quality of the service and you should not feel obligated to tip if the service is poor.

Tipping the owner or manager:

The misconception is that the tip always goes to the server.  Some places pool or share their tips among the staff.  It is not considered impolite to ask this question.

Tipping in all situations:

Tipping varies from country to country. The misconception is to tip everyone your encounter from taxi driver, Hotel staff and tour guides.  Try to avoid over or under tipping.  Although they will never refuse this, the idea of tipping is to reward good service.

There are countries that discourage tipping, as this may cause offence!

ASIA:

China: Tipping is not common.

Japan: Tipping is not part of Japanese culture; it’s neither expected nor necessary.

South Korea: Tipping isn’t customary, and some establishments may even refuse tips.

Singapore: Whilst you can tip if you want, it’s not obligatory, especially since many restaurants add a 10% surcharge to the bill.

Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and many other Asian countries, tipping is generally not part of the local culture.

MIDDLE EAST:

Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain: Tipping is not expected as service charge is often included in the bills.

AFRICA:

Tipping is not part of common practice on this continent.

EUROPE:

Switzerland: Judgement is advised but not customary, although appreciated.

Scandinavian countries: Tipping is not expected

Rest of Europe: Service charges are added to bills and tipping is not expected but never refused.

Remember, tipping is to reward, not for putting up with poor customer service!