Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Feb 7, 2011 02:35 PM

Tipping in Europe [Split from Spain/Portugal board]

A few years back, we were in Italy and across the street from our hotel was a place that served GREAT gelato. We were in there a lot and always left a little change as a tip. Then, there was a huge soccer victory, the streets were mobbed with people and almost no where to eat. We went to the gelato place which WAS open and MOBBED. When the clerk saw us, she made people get out of our way so we could get to the counter and get our gelato!

If I am staying in a city for more than a few days and will be making a return visit to a cafe/restaurant/bar, it is always to MY advantage to leave a tip....

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. But it is not to other people's advantage to leave tips - European culture and employment rights are different to those of the US, and visitors to other countries have a responsibility to "play by the rules" where possible. The law in many countries in Europe dictates that service is included in the bill, and people working in restaurants earn a liveable wage, so there is no need to compensate for poor wages as there is in the States. When I am in the US or Canada, I respect the tipping culture that exists there, so I think visitors to Europe should do the same.

    In the immediate and short term, individuals may think it is beneficial both to the waiters and to them as customers to leave tips. However, in the medium to long term, leaving tips over and above what is common practice and what has already been advised by people on this thread (and elsewhere) will have a negative impact on waiting staff and their wages. If receiving large tips becomes widespread, there is a very real possibility that this will lead to a reduction in wages and employment rights for restaurant staff.

    This topic has to be one of the most discussed and controversial topics on travel and food websites. What amazes me is that so many people - generally from North America - frequently decide that they will ignore advice from European people on this aspect of European life when they are travelling. Please - take the age-old advice: "when in Rome ..." - the impact of what you do has wider consequences.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Theresa

      Therese, I think you miss the point. I am French, and I don't tip by obligation but as a thank you for a job well done; this is common practice and has been for centuries. There is a subtile difference between "service" (compulsory and included in the bill by law in most European countries) and "pourboire" (gratification, which brings a smile on your waiter/waitress face).
      I like to see this smile, so I tip as I please, when I am pleased. And no, I really don't think this affects the wages of -French in particular- waiters which are negotiated by their unions.

      1. re: monchique

        I think there is a big difference between a pourboire and a tip. A pourboire is usually just a small amount - effectively rounding up the bill, as Delucacheesemonger mentions below - rather than the 15 or 20 % most North Americans would call a tip.

    2. " I am staying in a city for more than a few days and will be making a return visit to a cafe/restaurant/bar, it is always to MY advantage to leave a tip..." - and when I am in the US I rarely visit the same place twice so I never leave a tip ;-0

      5 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        Haha, Phil, I knew you would view tipping as a shakedown...
        Kidding aside, my European friends always leave a tip. The percentage of the tip is different from what is customary in the US, but a tip, for my friends in Spain, France, Italy, etc., , is much like a tip anywhere else. It is a personal expression to the staff of one's appreciation. Therefore, among my friends, tipping is not only "playing by the rules" but also an extra gracious expression. Again, much like everywhere else.

        1. re: Parigi

          I'm pretty much with Theresa's well argued post. The fact that there is so much discussion about tipping is one of the reasons why European countries have more or less done away with it. It will almost always be included either in the price or automatically on the bill. Not having to tip - as a matter of routine - is beneficial to all concerned and makes life simpler. It's not a question of meanness or rudeness, just that the change to not tipping introduces a stress free routine to life. Of course, if something exceptional is provided, the context changes, but often in such cases the person prefers not to be tipped, as it makes their kindness and exceptional behavious look as if it was motivated by the expectation of a tip rather than from the person's good nature. If your car salesperson provides excellent service, do you add 10% to the cost of the car?

          1. re: Parigi

            My first comment was tongue in cheek, but there is a grain of truth. I probably find adding 15 to 20% to the bill in the US as alien (although I do - honest) as a US traveller finds it odd to simply round up or leave a few coins. But as others say it is important to fit into the local culture; whilst big tips may secure tables at Gelato Bars, I am certain they don't really enamour tourists to the locals who are priced out.

            I wonder if there is a generational shift happening in non-tipping countries. In Australia (a non-tipping culture) I have noticed the Gen Y's tip much more freely than the old boomers. Could this be Gen Y's are intrinsically more generous or is it a result of much greater access to travel with time spent in the UK/US which are tipping cultures. Is the same true in Europe?

            1. re: PhilD

              You may be right, Phil. I've just returned from holiday in Spain - a bit of winter sun in one of the resorts focussed on we North Europeans. I periodically contribute to a mainly-Brit orientated forum in the area (ex-pats and visitors) and the subject of tipping was recently discussed. The general consensus seemed to be to tip according to one's own national custom ( i.e. the Brit 10%) rather than the more usual Spanish custom. Whether that shift is an age thing or simply that folk can't be bothered to adapt their usual practice, I don't know. But it will certainly impact badly on local society if restaurant staff become accustomed to being tipped by the mainly foreign customers , but don't get tipped by their own nationals. It may already have happened, of course.

              1. re: PhilD

                I think it's a generational thing in North America as well. I tip based on service quality with 15% being the mid point. If service is poor then I've been known to say, the tip meter is counting down. My children believe that's deplorable, I believe that's what a gratuity is, a sign of gratatude for excellent service.

                When in Europe I try to follow the traditions of the country, but sometimes, you're just compelled to acknowledge exceptional service with a gratuity. When in Venice we ate at a small out of the way restaurant and the waiter brought over appatizers we didn't order, then he brought over some giant sized glasses for a photo opp with the house wine. We had a great time, he went out of his way to make us feel welcome and we included a gratuity. Hopefully, that's not going to distroy the culture, or maybe he just reccognized us as Amerigons and knew we wold leave a tip?

          2. I'd also be pretty much on the same bus as Theresa. Europe is not a single place with a single tipping culture. When I travel, I try to establish what is the appropriate culture and work to that.

            So, here in the UK, many restaurants add the service charge, while other still rely on the old-fashioned tip, in France I know service is included so would only leave the "pourboire" and similarly in Spain, in some other European countries I know the "going rate" will be around 10% as here, etc.

            On a personal level, I detest the restaurant tipping culture. I think it does no good for the business - either owners, staff or customers. Let us encourage places to include service in their menu price and be done with it - like one of my favourite places in Wales which clearly states on its menu "Our tariffs are fully inclusive of service".

            1. Not a European, but one who spends a lot of time in Europe, my handle on this is not to tip as a routine. l almost always round up to the next multiple, eg: 58 becomes 60, 1.8 becomes 2, as l really hate change. Rarely, very rarely will l add 10% onto a tab, but then that time it will have been memorable.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                "my handle on this is not to tip as a routine. l almost always round up to the next multiple, eg: 58 becomes 60, 1.8 becomes 2."

                I call this tipping, duh.

                1. re: Parigi

                  No this is as a pourboire as stated by Theresa. Translated as a 'tip' but compared to American parlance, a far smaller amount.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    Deluca, I have found this to be as you describe in Europe. Rounding up is a VERY common practice and does not correlate to the US tipping practice.

              2. I live in Los Angeles and have spent a lot of time in Europe. I always ask if service is included and if service is great, I'll tip a bit, as well. One thing I've noticed over the years is that service in inexpensive to moderate restaurants with service included, the service itself is frequently poor, often taking a back seat to a cigarette break or phone call.