Emyr Thomas, founder of Bon Vivant, a concierge and lifestyle management company in London, shares his thoughts on navigating the minefield of tipping in some of the world’s hottest cities.
Tipping can be socially awkward, cause endless embarrassment and be highly inconsistent and irrational, especially since it is based on the amount of a transaction instead of the quality of service.
It is imperative to remember that tipping is a gesture of appreciation for services rendered – if the service is impressive, then it deserves to be acknowledged and rewarded. More important, perhaps, is to remember to tip generously if you are a regular, as this will go a long way to ensure consistently good service and additional perks.
Deciding whether or not to tip is the easy part; the real problem lies in deciding how much to tip. Tipping is inherently linked to social custom and, as such, can vary between different cultures and countries. An inadequate tip could be considered an infringement on etiquette or an insult to a lifetime’s work.
In a country where a tip is considered a supplement to an income and not a constituent part of a wage, do not be afraid to not leave a tip if the service was not up to scratch – an important lesson for obliging Brits, perhaps.
In restaurants, particularly the high-end establishments, 12.5% is usually already included on the bill, with anything between 10% and 15% being customary. In bars, it is normally at your discretion, although no tip is expected in a pub, but cocktail bars will normally add 12.5% for table service.
For hairstylists, anything between 5% and 10%, given in cash, is acceptable. In London taxis, political and economical musings come at a price, with rounding up to the nearest whole pound or up to 10% of the fare being standard. For hotel staff, a couple of pound is acceptable for maid service and for assistance with luggage.
In the United States, many service sector employers pay their workers on the assumption that tips will contribute to an acceptable wage, therefore the custom of tipping is of paramount importance. Tipping is a big issue in the US in general, especially during the holiday season, with almost everyone receiving a monetary tip, including personal trainers, dry cleaners and teachers!
In restaurants, between 15% and 20% is expected, which is higher than most places, but this is more likely to go directly to the staff. Continuing with this trend, around 15% is considered standard in bars and pubs, with at least $1 per transaction. If using a taxi in New York, be prepared to add between 10% and 15% to the final bill, but don’t be afraid to dispute ill-judged journeys, as you shouldn’t have to pay for a driver’s error.
If you have a haircut, you might have to forgo the blow dry, as you’ll need an extra 15% or 20% to pay for the tip. For hotel staff, a couple of dollars is acceptable for maid service and bellboys.
Parisians will tell you that there is no standard for tipping in Paris, and that the French will only tip if they deem a service to be worthy. Service is normally ‘compris’, or already included, in restaurants, but excellent service can be rewarded with a further 5% left in cash.
Tips are not normally given to taxi drivers, but generally used to make giving change easier. With hairstylists, a 5 Euro tip is standard, whether the haircut costs 20 or 80 Euros.
For hotel staff, it is completely at your discretion, with a few Euros being more than sufficient. When it comes to bars, it is not customary to tip in Paris, unless, as one friend put it, you are feeling particularly guilty.
Tipping is not generally mandatory in Spain, but tends to vary with the type of venue – an upscale establishment, for example, will be more likely to expect a tip. In restaurants, service is sometimes included in the prices, but this may not make its way to the waiters, so it is acceptable to leave a further 5% to 10% in cash. When looking at a menu, be careful to note whether tax at 7% is included in the prices, or this will also be added to your bill, by law. In a casual tapas bar, tipping is not normally expected, but leave a few Euros if the service was worth it.
Tipping taxi drivers is by no means obligatory, although between 5% and 10% is considered good etiquette. The same can be applied for hair stylists, especially if you visit the same one regularly. In hotels, a few Euros for staff is more than acceptable.
Tipping is not generally a large part of Hong Kong’s culture, except in hotels, where tipping is considered mandatory. HK$10 to HK$20 should be given to bellboys and maids, and remember to tip your concierge if you make use of the service.
In restaurants and bars, 10% is usually automatically added to the bill, but you should still leave a further 5% to 10% in cash for the waiters. Hairstylists will usually expect between 5% and 10%, and although taxi drivers don’t expect a tip, it is widely accepted that you should round up to the nearest dollar, or leave an additional dollar, at least.
Unlike many European countries, tipping is not generally expected in Italy, but it is, of course, always appreciated. In restaurants, a cover charge is normally already included and they tend to charge extra for bread, both of which are considered to replace the usual ‘tip’ or service charge. However, if you think that the service was worthy of reward, a tip of between 5% and 10% is gratefully received.
It’s not obligatory to tip a taxi driver, but rounding up to the nearest Euro is considered good etiquette. For hotel staff, a couple of Euros is acceptable for maid service and for assistance with luggage.
Tipping is not generally a large part of Turkey’s culture, with modest tips being perfectly acceptable.
In restaurants and bars, you should leave 5% to 10% in cash for the waiters, and although taxi drivers don’t expect a tip, it is widely accepted that you should round up to the nearest Lira. For services that are used on a regular basis, such as hair stylists, a tip of 10% is advisable as this usually helps to ensure consistently good service.
In Portugal, tipping is usually considered as a supplement to an income at a restaurant, therefore a tip of 10% would be greatly appreciated, although a fine dining restaurant may include up to 15% on the bill.
Taxi drivers normally expect a 10% tip on top of the fare, in hotels a few Euros should be given to bellboys and maids, and remember to tip your concierge if you make use of the service.
For further information on Bon Vivant, visit their website at http://www.bonvivant.co.uk or their blog at http://bonvivantliving.wordpress.com/. You can also follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BonVivantLiving