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To give or not to give: How tips work in other countries 

Feb 27, 2024

In South Africa everyone is accustomed to include a tip of 10% for the waiter or even to give the petrol attendants a few coins when they clean your windscreen. However, not all countries are the same. In Turkey, for example, tips are only accepted in cash and in other countries it is regarded as disrespectful to give an extra tip.

Similar to South Africa

The USA, Canada and Colombia are similar to South Africa, except that most service personnel will expect a tip of 15% to 20%. The assumption in the USA is that the better the service, the higher the tip must be and the better the service will be the next time you pay a visit. It is also acceptable in Morocco and India to give no tip should you receive poor service, and like South Africa a tip of 10% is regarded as generous.

Tips that are already included

Many other countries already include a tip in their restaurant bills and therefore you don’t need to include an additional 10% to 15%. Countries like Spain, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Chile, Greece, Hungary and the Czech Republic mostly already include the tip in the bill.

The word in Germany indicating a tip is Trinkgeld, which can be translated as “drinking money”, and in France it is called pourboire which also has the same meaning as in Germany.

Countries such as Austria, Italy, Russia, Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom don’t have a strong tipping culture even though people still leave a tip of 5% to 10% if it is not included in the bill. Drivers and barmen in these countries do not expect an additional tip for their service.

In countries like India, Dubai and Egypt the tip included in the bill will not go to the waiter, but to the restaurant. In Russia you need to ensure that you give the tip directly to the waiter, because if you leave the tip on the table the management of the restaurant will presume that it belongs to them!

Middle East and Asia

The Middle East and Asia do things completely different. In Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates waiters expect a tip of 15% to 20% and in Dubai waiters can in certain instances expect a tip of 15% to 20% over and above the tip of 10% that is included in the bill. In the Iranian culture gifts mean much more than a financial contribution and tourists are encouraged to rather give a small gift to hotel personnel to thank them for their service.

Countries with no tipping culture

There are fortunately also countries where there is no obligation to give tips, among which the

following:

  • China
  • Singapore
  • French Polynesia
  • Japan
  • Nepal
  • Korea
  • Hong Kong
  • Switzerland
  • Denmark
  • Estonia

In Japan and Hong Kong, it can even be regarded as an insult when you leave a tip because good service is considered to be customary. If you feel strongly about tipping, place it in an envelope and give it directly to the waiter. Israel also has an interesting custom; in addition to a tip of 12% that is usually included, you also need to give one shekel for every person sitting at the table.

Countries where tips were not a common custom, like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, are also increasingly becoming accustomed to tips due to the large number of tourists that they receive. Australia and New Zealand historically also don’t have a tipping culture, but it is nowadays more and more becoming the norm.

If you are unsure you can always simply round off the amount on your bill, or otherwise you can merely ask what percentage is acceptable. And remember, even if you give a tip, friendliness is sometimes the best contribution that you can make to someone’s day!

Photo: Unsplach +

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