Few features of eating out are as fraught with peril as a tip. Gratuity is a social minefield that can make or break any evening. Questions over how much should be left, whether the server has earned it and what will happen to your money once you hand it over are always a headache for any sensitive diner. Add to that the mystery of being in another country and you have the perfect recipe for a full on mealtime meltdown.
Fear not, anxious diners. Here at Twisted, we’ve set about creating the definitive guide to global tipping etiquette. Read, study up and say goodbye to awkward end of meal exchanges forever.
Employees in the American hospitality industry have among the smallest base salaries of anyone in full-time employment, so often rely on generous tipping to make ends meet. In most restaurants, this means that a tip of 15-20% of the bill before tax is generally considered the norm.
Italian tipping culture is as complex and intricate as its cooking. Many restaurants will include a cover charge (pane e coperto) and/or a service charge (servizio), except in the Lazio region of Rome, where the pane has been outlawed. As a rule, tipping is not expected, beyond rounding up the bill at the end of the meal.
Japan and China
Though it may seem second nature to add a little extra on the end of every dinner cheque, there are some countries where this is not only discouraged, but actively frowned upon. In Japan and China especially, tipping is considered the height of rudeness and patrons have been known to be chased down the street by servers desperately trying to hand back their cash.
While East Asia is generally a tip-free region, there are exceptions. One notable example is Hong Kong. Here, many restaurants will include a 10-15% service charge, in which case nothing more is usually expected, but where the charge is absent it’s a good idea to leave a cash tip.
As if things couldn’t get more complicated, some countries have to involve taxation with their tipping. In the UAE a 10% service is usually included, alongside a 6% tourism tax. It’s also expected that an additional 10% cash tip be added on top of this, making Arabian nights a real head spinner.
In many cases, one of the biggest arguments against tipping is not knowing whether your server will actually see any of your money. This is especially true in Egypt, where it is considered good practise to leave an additional 10% on top of the already included 10-15% service charge, since the latter just goes straight to the restaurant.
As nice at is it is to be prepared, sometimes you just have to be prepared for anything. India is a tipping culture with as many exceptions as hard and fast rules. Where one restaurant might expect a generous supplement, another next door might be insulted. In this case, it’s always best to just ask.
Noone wants to leave dinner with a bitter taste in the mouth. Unless something truly disastrous has taken place, most dinners will be happy to offer serving staff an added bonus for their night’s work. However, particularly when in unfamiliar territory, it’s always best to be prepared. You never know when you might make a tipping slip-up.