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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.

              1. I'd like to know the country where this happened....As an Aussie who eats out regularly and has worked as a waitress, I find it hard to believe that someone wouldn't know what to do with a tip...

                PeterL's 1st and 3rd example, here in OZ, that would be considered unusual, tipping someone just because they helped you or performed for you, but in a resto, a tip is no big deal... certainly nothing to get excited about (unless, of course, it was an unusually large one)

                In OZ, there is not requirement to tip... and no fixed amount. You just usually leave a couple of coins (maybe the change from the bill) if it's average service, or a note for good service... up to $10, maybe.

                For a total bill of more than $250 (ball park figure), if the service was really REALLY good, you might leave a 20.

                It's not expected but it is certainly not heard of!!! And while many Americans consider OZ a cultural and cusinal backwater, I assure you that no-one would need to ask their manager what to do with it!! (unless they were absolutely brand spanking new to waiting, putting on the "backwater rube" act for a tourist, maybe??)

                4 Replies
                1. re: purple goddess

                  This was in China. In the big cities such as Shanghai, and in more westernized restaurants, it would not be an issue. But even in Shanghai in many restaurants catering to locals, a tip would be very unusual and totally unexpected.

                  1. re: PeterL

                    PeterL, do you feel that people are getting used to--and indeed--are expecting to be tipped nowadays in China, esp. in such cities as Shanghai and Beijing that are home to so many expats and visitors?

                    That's the impression I got during my trip in those two cities earlier this year. It was almost like they stood around expecting it. I've seen non-Chinese tipping in restaurants, and I think it's not as unusual as it used to be.

                    1. re: gloriousfood

                      Our experiences at both Beijing and Shanghai were that still not many expects a tip. Taxi drivers certainly don't. We tipped one driver who helped us with our luggage at the airport, but that's the only time we tipped. We noticed many restaurants would hand you the change directly, rather than put it on a tray. And I have not noticed any waiter actually waiting around for a tip.

                  2. re: purple goddess

                    We were at the Kingfisher Resort on Fraser Island - I promise you, it really happened - I could probably figure out the exact date, but let's say August 12 or so. And I didn't consider the waitstaff to be 'backwater rubes' at all, the service was professional and excellant.... We left $30 on an excellant meal for two that ran us $150 - the 'standard US 20%'.

                  3. Call me jaded, but I have the feeling that in the land of no tipping the prices of the entrees (or services) are higher to compensate.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      they are. because the base wages are generally higher. tipping in the US is a way to provide "performance based" wages where the user pays.

                      here in Australia, tipping is fairly commonplace now, but it is not an expectation - a reward for good service - 10% of the bill or a few gold coins...

                      it's also a bit of a game. give a lousy tip anmd it's the equivalent of a slap in the face (e.g. 5c or a quarter)

                      what you end up with tho', which IS different to the USA is a culture of apathy to service in lower end restaurants, attitude in middle establishments, and then top end restaurants will pay more than award wages for good staff at times to ensure that they get what they want... then again the higher end restaurant the higher the tip as a raw dollar figure owing to % of the bill. right?

                      1. re: kmh

                        We find apathy and/or attitude in the USA, too -- often whether you tip well or not. Which is why I would rather have staff paid adequately instead of tipping.

                      2. re: ipsedixit

                        Higher than what? It's impossible to compare because it's a totally different country.

                        1. re: PeterL

                          Higher than if tipping were allowed in that country.

                          It's a counterfactual.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            There is no way to confirm that because tipping has never been a standard practice. There is nothing that says it's "allowed" or not "allowed".

                      3. Sounds heavenly! I doubt there's a person on this board who wouldn't be thrilled to have restaurants compensate their servers adequately, raise prices as needed to cover the cost, and free us all from the nonsense of tipping.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MommaJ

                          But waitstaff generally love tipping, since it's easy to declare less (or none) of the tips on one's tax.

                        2. It took a long time for me to get over my urge to tip bartenders when I moved to England. It's just not done here. Very strange.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Kagey

                            My boyfriend is a huge tipper and just can't get into the habit of not tipping when we're in English pubs. I think it is charming to tip even if it is not expected.

                            1. re: bronwen

                              I thought "buying one for the bartender" was code for tipping. Or have I been watching too much British TV?

                              1. re: bronwen

                                Unfortunately, it seems that the Brits don't find it charming (see Phil W post below). In my own experience, they tend to look at you like you're an idiot!

                                Edited to add: Ok, I know they also don't like being referred to as Brits!

                              2. re: Kagey

                                I tried to tip a bartender in scotland a few years ago and was seriously reprimanded. He was insulted. I tried to explain that its the custom in states to which his response was along the lines of "why don't you go back there then".

                                  1. re: Phil W

                                    He was rude and unappreciative. If he didn't want your money, he should have simply said "Thank you. I always donate my tips to my favorite charity' and he should have done so...

                                1. I was in a beer joint in Germany and one of my companions left a modest tip for the serving girl who absolutely could not believe it. Twice she said "For me, all for me, I keep??" I have never seen anybody more excited over a 5 Euro tip. I thought she was going to cry.

                                  1. as I read this, it occurred to me that we could get better service in the U.S. by switching to higher wages instead of "gratuity"=wage. here's why:
                                    the server makes $2.79/hr (or close to that), so tips are earned through hustling. if a server does his job well, the customer may or may not compensate for that. the person may be cheap and tip less than 18% even for excellent service. in order for someone to work the "tip system" efficiently they have to in essence be a hustler (at below high-end places), often being obsequious to earn a higher tip. if the server were giving good service in the interest of doin their job well, and they were paid accordingly by the management (for their consistent level of service), the server would be more relaxed and the service would be less fake friendliness, less hovering, more appropriate(!) in terms of when to come to the customers. yes some people do this anyway as servers, but that is not where the incentives lie.