Mapped: The countries that expect the biggest tips – and those that don’t tip at all

The global guide to tipping
Tipping can be a minefield. Here's how to navigate it

Holidaymakers in St Tropez have been stung this summer – for being far too stingy with their tips. The French newspaper Var-Matin has reported that some restaurants along the Riviera have been banned, or condemned to terrible tables, after adding insufficient gratuity to their bills. Of course, this has been met with some consternation. Local mayor, Sylvie Siri, has declared the practice “akin to racketeering”. But unfortunately this sort of practice is increasingly common.

In fact, whether tourists are weighing down notes on a restaurant table to fumbling around for change in a cab, tipping can be a minefield.

Holidaymakers certainly don’t want to feel embarrassed for leaving too little, or worse, causing offence. But then there are those countries – particularly the US – where a large amount feels essentially obligatory.

Never fear: we have created a series of worldwide tipping maps that should calm all concerns about the amount of change you should leave behind. Using data collated from tourism agencies and operators, we have detailed the recommended gratuity amounts for hotel staff, restaurants and taxis.

Taxi tipping

Let us start with the latter. Northern Europe follows a similar pattern to the UK when it comes to taxi-driver tips – there’s no obligation anywhere, apart from in Sweden, where the done thing is to round up.

Other popular destinations such as Italy and France (and cheaper spots like the Czech Republic and Slovenia) don’t expect anything. But in Germany, Bulgaria and Hungary, you’d better cough up 10 per cent, lest it’s seen as a snub.

The most expensive place for the discerning cab-taker is – inevitably – the US, where a 15 per cent top up on fares is required (prepare for a pattern to emerge). Canada, Saudi Arabia and South Africa all expect 10 per cent, too, so hunting around in your pocket for loose coins probably won’t cut it.

Restaurant tipping

When it comes to restaurants, Britain’s once-customary 10 per cent (although 15 per cent is often now automatically added) is largely mirrored across Europe, with the exceptions being Belgium (around 15 per cent) and Monaco (the same amount, on what is likely to be an expensive bill to start with.)

As in the UK, service charges are increasingly added onto the bill itself, regardless of the quality of the meal, the graciousness of the waitressing, or how disruptive the music being piped through the speakers is.

There’s a wider argument to be had for not simply assuming the guest enjoyed the service; inevitably, there’s going to be a forgotten side dish or a shaky table in even the smoothest of restaurants.

In France, however, you needn’t worry. By law, waiting staff must be paid a fair wage that isn’t reliant on a culture of tipping. The bill should list a service charge of 15 percent, which essentially means their salary needn’t be topped up by the customer.

Of course, you could leave a few extra euros – a pourboire, or “for a drink” – but there really is no expectation. From this year, those tips are no longer taxed, either, so staff will keep every centime.

Respecting customs

That all sounds charmingly straightforward. Compare that to the US,  with its eye-watering standard of a 20 per cent gratuity. Here, the extra dollars given to staff are not really a reward for an experience, but rather a top up for meagre wages. Waiters and hotel staff are paid less in anticipation of tips, which are then taxed.

It may not seem natural to the British traveller, but, etiquette expert Laura Windsor says, there’s a sense that tipping in North America should be seen as an acquiescence to the culture you’re travelling in – essentially, practice in being polite (or not being outwardly begrudging).

“In the US, tipping is almost compulsory. The word may be an acronym for ‘to ensure prompt service’, but forget about that if you’re a visitor,” she says.

“It’s just one of those things – when travelling, you have to respect the culture, rules and customs of the country you’re in.” That means leaving behind a wedge of dollars for that rather unimpressive burger, unfortunately.

Contrasting cultures

The contrast in New Zealand, Australia, China and Japan is stark. Here, it’s essentially frowned upon to include anything extra.

0402 Worldwide tipping
0402 Worldwide tipping

In Japan, in fact, you really don’t want to add anything more. Vanessa Villalobos, who runs a Japanese tutoring agency, thinks that this essentially makes travel easier for the British tourist. “Tipping is not part of the culture at all, which means you just don’t need to think about it,” she says.

“In Japan, there is a feeling that money is dirty or vulgar. If you tried to leave a tip, staff would just think that you’d forgotten your change and would call you back to get it. If you were to press it on them it would be offensive.”

Showing gratitude

There are, however, other ways of showing gratitude. “Omotenashi, or hospitality culture, means that guests will typically have exceptional service. Even in McDonald’s you’ll get a bow.”

Instead of feeling a bit uncomfortable, Villalobos recommends meeting that politeness with an equal amount of sincerity. “Learn a few words of thanks, don’t make a mess, and be openly grateful.” Good old-fashioned gift-giving doesn’t go amiss, either: tiny souvenirs, like a postcard or a badge, would be valued.

Caution in other parts of Asia is advised, too. “Tips were once seen as a bribe in China, so if you’re staying at a hotel there, you might want to write a thank you note to the hotel manager instead.” A rather quaint way to avoid claims of impropriety, but valuable to know nonetheless.

Hotel tipping

That custom of tipping hotel staff is often embarrassing for the British traveller – the performance of it feels like rather patrician. Again, you’ll be spared the ordeal in Northern Europe and Oceania. In Croatia, slide your bellboy something equating to £2. Slightly more will do in Cyprus and North America.

Finally, don’t overthink it. It’s all, essentially, a bonus, and staff in most destinations will largely be appreciative. “You’re making someone a little happier than they would otherwise be, by recognising their service,” says Windsor.

“It may seem as if you’re saying they are lower in status, but really they are just doing a job. And if you look at it like that, then you shouldn’t really feel awkward,” says Windsor.

As for an alternative to a monetary donation? Windsor is brief. “A smile and a few words of appreciation are fine. I wouldn’t go over the top.”

Do you follow ‘tipping-etiquette’ depending on location or do you do your own thing? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below

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