Tipping around the world... do's and dont's

| February 1, 2019

If gratuity isn’t included on a bill in the UK, we tend to leave a 10-12.5% tip without thinking twice. Daniella looks into where this custom came from, which countries expect a tip and where you may inadvertently insult the locals.

The custom of gratuity is thought to have originated in 17th-century England, although this is a speculation. Guests of private houses were expected to offer vails to the host’s servants. Shortly after, urns with ‘to insure promptitude’ were placed in coffee houses and pubs. When customers entered, they would put change into pots to ensure efficient service. The word ‘tip’ is an acronym that derived from this practice.

Americans that visited England after the Civil War then enforced it in their own society in the mid to late 1800s. At first, the custom was not well received. Some considered it to be creating a servant class; others thought it encouraged fawning in hope of favours. States such as Washington, Iowa and Mississippi even passed anti-tipping laws in the 1900s. However, they didn’t last long and tipping is now a common practice across America.

Tipping is customary in many western countries, especially in restaurants. In France, a 15% service charge is added to restaurant bills by law. The universal phrase servis compris is French for ‘service included’, and can often be spotted on your bill. In Denmark and Belgium, restaurants include service so there is no need to leave an additional tip. While it isn’t expected to tip your taxi drivers in Europe, it is customary to tip 10-15% of the fare in the US. Although tipping is common in Russia, it wasn’t well received initially. In the Soviet era, paying gratuity was considered as an insult to the working class.

In Latin America, tipping tends to be an appreciation of good service. However, in popular tourist destinations like Peru and Mexico, a 10% service charge is expected and may already be included. In Bolivia and Brazil tipping is not expected, but 10% is always appreciated.

We recommend being discreet when tipping in Asia, as overtly offering tips is considered bad manners. In Japan for example, good service is expected as standard and staff are told to politely refuse tips. Tipping here implies that the employer undervalues the staff’s work. However, if you’re staying in a ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn – you may leave a tip behind in an envelope. Never give tips or payments directly in Japan, as passing money directly from hand to hand is considered improper. In mainland China, many establishments have a strict no-tipping policy. While in Vietnam, tipping is more openly accepted and appreciated.

If you’re unsure about the customs of any of the destinations mentioned in this article or have questions about your next trip, please speak to one of our travel experts.

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