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Travel to a land of no tipping.

Recently we traveled to a country where it is not customary to tip. Here are some of our experiences.

One young hotel bell man went out of his way to get us a taxi, eventhough we were not customers of that hotel. We gave him a tip and he was a little stunned and embarrassed.

At one restaurant where we left some tip for excellent service, the server took the tip and had a discussion with the manager as to what to do with it.

At one impromtu musical performance someone gave a tip to the performer. She asked "is this gratuity?" When told it was, she practically jump for joy to share the news with the other musician.

And then we came back to the US.

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  1. Yep, we've been there - spent 3 weeks in NZ and the land of OZ this summer, where staff were very excited when we tipped for excellant service. Similiar to your experience, one server asked his manager what to do with 'all the extra' on a good-sized bill. Kind of nice, isn't it? The difference is that NZ and AUS pay closer to a 'living' wage than the US, so gratuity is really just that, appreciation for the service.

    1. This might be changing nowadays, but I've always appreciated the level of service that restaurants (and let's face, it just about any industry) in Japan have, with no tipping being the custom. I believe that the minimum wages for these jobs are also higher than the US, but I've never had anything short of amazing customer service, at even chain/family restaurants. Still feel a bit of a culture shock whenever I fly back from Japan to the US, haha.

      2 Replies
      1. re: gyozagirl

        If you've had nothing but amazing service in Japan, then you haven't spent that much time here. I've had some pretty appalling experiences in Japanese restaurants as have some of my Japanese friends/acquaintances. The worst was being served a half chicken breast which was obviously still raw in the center (there was no question about it). When I pointed it out, they didn't apologize and were highly resistant to taking it back and finishing cooking it.

        It's also common in Japan for wait staff to deliver everyone's meals at different times so that you're all served 5-15 minutes apart and people either have to tuck in before their dinner companions or let their food get cold and they rarely make an effort to remember who has ordered what. I've also been utterly ignored by wait staff and had to ask repeatedly for water. It's especially difficult sometimes to flag down someone for the check as the waitresses seem to vanish for prolonged periods of time.

        The best service I've had in Japan has been at very small places where lots of shouting goes on and the food is prepared directly in front of you and at authentic Indian restaurants which are staffed by Indian waiters and waitresses. In any place where the food is cooked in a kitchen out of view, the staff sometimes wander off and hide or linger at the edges. Some people are utterly indifferent to serving you when no tip is at stake and no boss can see what they're up to.

        For the record, I've lived in Japan for 18 years and have a lot of experience to reach conclusions about.

        1. re: Orchid64

          Well, to each their own. I was born and raised in Japan for 5 years, and go back at least once a year for business and to visit family. I don't know if you'd consider that to be not spending much time there, but maybe I've just been lucky with the service I've experienced personally.

      2. when i first started waitressing back home (OZ) you always new the American's bc they would tip, it didn't happen often but enough that we had to figure out a way to make the pot fair for all to share. So, in many Aussie establishments (of course, this is also a good 10/15years ago) the money goes into the staff drinking/Christmas party fund. At one hotel I worked the money was divided weekly according to the % of hours you worked on the schedule, this was also a common tip-dividing practice in SE Asia.

        I still have trouble figuring out the 'working for tip' mentality here. For me, it's about taking pride in my work and doing the best that i can, every time, and not for the tip I'm hoping to bring in. And no, I don't have another job, and yes I am fully self sufficient, it's a work ethic thing for me.

        2 Replies
        1. re: aussiewonder

          I am happy to hear I may have contributed to a holiday party for a restaurant staff or two - what a great idea!!! The pride in work showed!

          1. re: aussiewonder

            I agree with you Aussiewonder, people in Australasia have a very different mentality to people here in North America. Generally speaking, Australasians have a better work ethic and tend to take more pride in their work, choosing to do things well rather than doing things because they have to. I find people here in Canada have a sense of entitlement I've not come across before, they seem to believe that they should be paid more, or they should have a better job, even though they don't do the job they do have well. I've discovered this is not unique to the hospitality industry, either. Tipping was difficult for me to get used to - how much, who to tip. Now that I'm used tipping I have trouble not doing it at home, or in England, or in whichever non-tipping country. I'm not convinced the service industry has things the right way round, but having my work ethic and serving here, the money has been very much appreciated.

          2. In Hong Kong they assumed I'd left the change by accident and ran after me to give it.

            In Paris as a student I learned quickly that bigger tip =/= better service, so I did like everyone else and left everything up to 5F (now up to 1€) as an "I can't be bothered to jingle in the Métro" ploy.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              HK restaurants typically add 10% gratuity.

              1. re: PeterL

                Fancier sit-down places do. Cha chaan teng, dai pai dong and casual things like noodleries don't.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  I have been to many a cha chaan teng that adds 10%.

                  1. re: PeterL

                    Really? In touristy areas (Central, TST, etc.)? Or everywhere?

                    It could be that I just didn't notice, because sometimes you don't get an itemised bill, but I just don't remember cha chaan teng having service charges.

                    In any case, it doesn't really matter, because you're not having to figure out what to leave for the waitstaff, which is my whole problem with tipping. Either service costs money (in which case charge me the 10% you're talking about, or the 15% pervasive in Europe), or it doesn't (in which case let's just have done with the whole discussion). This business of ticking off the dollars (or the gangbi or the euros) for slights real or imagined just makes me insane.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      I don't know about "everywhere", but mostly TST. No, you get this slip of little oily paper with some numbers on it. But usually the menu has this in fine print.

            2. I was actually told it was rude to tip when I tried to give my Tokyo barber a few hundred extra yen. It was obviously confusing since it didn't garner that sort of reception elsewhere in the city, but I had no choice but to apologize.