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Jan 23, 2012 06:43 PM

Tipping [moved from China/Southeast Asia]

What is the tipping policy in China, Hong Kong and Tokyo????

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    1. re: Cheeryvisage

      i have to disagree with cheeryvisage. i'm born and raised in hk and i can assure you that it's customary to tip in restaurants in hk even though there is a 10% service charge. of course, even in the states, there are the occasional customers who try not to pay tip, just that it's not as "essential" in hk as in the states (at least the wait staff would never yell at you if you don't tip in hk.) general rule in hk is that for restaurants which you pay at the cashier such as cha chan teng and noodle places, you don't tip. for those that brings the receipt to your table in a tray, you are supposed to tip. just remember one thing, the wait staff usually don't receive any part of the 10% service charge you pay, it's the restaurant owners who gets the money. so imagine how you would feel if you are the waiter and the customers don't tip. as for amount to tip, for cheaper meals around a couple of hundreds, just leave the odd change. for meals over that, should leave at least 20-50 depending on service. for meals over 2000, should leave at least 100. but even for meals over 20000, max tip in hk i ever gave was 300. all in hkd.

      in japan, you don't tip at all.

      in china, not necessary to tip in cheap restaurants but in nicer restaurants, should leave the loose change or up to 10/20 if the service is really nice.

      1. re: japanesefoodlover

        "i have to disagree with cheeryvisage. i'm born and raised in hk and i can assure you that it's customary to tip in restaurants in hk even though there is a 10% service charge."

        This is surprising. Because I wasn't familiar with HK customs, after finishing a nice meal, at a 5 star hotel restaurant, I inquired about tipping, by asking the restaurant manager. He said that tipping isn't customary.

        1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

          it's probably due to the modest nature of chinese. if he said it was customary, it would be as if he was asking for tips. that's why he said it's not required. instead of arguing over here, next time you go, you can watch what other local people at the next table do. i bet you 19 out of 20 would pay tips.

          1. re: japanesefoodlover

            Both in China and in HK I have never seen a Chinese giving a real tip to the waiter. Maybe leaving behind the odd change, but even that very seldom.

            Also, every travel book about HK that I have read in the past years stated clearly not to tip, as it is not customary.

            1. re: NilesCable

              i've always wondered why in all these travel books and forums, all these foreigners claim that they know it's not customary to tip in hk because it's just not true. the only places you don't leave tips are the fast food type places where you pay the bill up at the cashier. no one will yell at you or anything, just that if you are a foreigner and you don't pay tip, the wait staff would think you just don't know the custom and don't mind you. if you are a chinese and you don't pay tip, it means you are either very unhappy about the service or you are ultra cheap. of course the amount we tip in hk is nowhere as high as american standards, but we do tip. that's why say, for a meal of hkd44x.00, we would expect change in 10's and 20's, instead of 1 50 and loose change. because then we can use the 10/20 dollar bill to decide how much to tip. if the change comes back to be 1 50 dollar bill and loose change, we would be taken by surprise and usually ask ourselves: are they expecting us to pay 50 or are they not expecting a tip... if we don't tip in hk at all, why would this mind set be so common amongst local in hk?

              hospitality is very important in our culture, so we tend to be very friendly towards visitors and don't mind if they don't follow our customs. like i said before, if you ask the restaurant staff what to pay as tips, they will say you don't need to just because saying yes would be like asking for tips. some early authors of travel books probably taken that answer as literal and started spreading the word. chinese people are just not as direct as other cultures. i just ate out in hk and i paid attention to every table around me, everyone left some tip in bills. if you insist on not paying tip, fine. but do open your eyes next time you go to a non cha chen tang and non noodle place in hk and look at those local who pay cash. we do tip, a little.

              1. re: japanesefoodlover

                Seriously, no need to get defensive as if there's something shameful about not having a tipping custom. Tipping is not expected and does not happen the majority of the time. If you really want to tip, fine. But it is not customarily expected for the majority of Asia.

                Edited to add: This came out grumpier than I intended. I apologize. I'll concede that HK may be different in your experience. But, I think "tipping is not customary" holds true for most of Asia.

                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                  well for other parts of asia, i can't argue with you. but in hk we do tip. and yes there is nothing shameful about not having a tip culture but there is something seriously wrong when all these foreigners and abc's are trying to tell me what my customs are. any real local hk person reading this thread would be thinking the same thing as me -- if you don't know our customs and you don't tip, that's one thing. after explaining all our mindset and you still insist on what you want to believe, it means only one thing... some cheap foreigners will try to find any excuse not to pay those extra few bucks. no one will ever tell it to your face but that's what we are actually thinking.

                  1. re: japanesefoodlover

                    Sorry, I seem to have hit a sensitive topic. Thanks for all the responses and I now know what to do... Japanesefoodlover I will follow your direction in HK and Cheeryvisage I will follow your direction in the rest of Asia. Thanks all for the information.

                    1. re: stevec418

                      "after explaining all our mindset and you still insist on what you want to believe, it means only one thing... some cheap foreigners will try to find any excuse not to pay those extra few bucks. no one will ever tell it to your face but that's what we are actually thinking."

                      It appears that we only have one sensitive person, possibly an current or ex-waitperson.

                      As an American, and a former waiter, I am well rooted in the tipping culture. Hell, back in the 60's, I used to drop a buck for a 25¢ cup of coffee.

                      But now, living in Bangkok, I have become sensitive to the effect that rich foreigners can have on local socioeconomic standards. Thais are often ignored in favor of "rich" tourists.

                      That's why I asked the manager. I don't want to go against local customs, whatever might be customary for me.

                      Rather that try to put down those who might question the policy, maybe you should educated the staffs at the restaurants.

                2. re: japanesefoodlover

                  I am out for lunch later today (in HK) so I will also observe the practices in restaurants, but not certain how easy it is going to be as just about everybody pays by credit card, even for bills under US$10 in coffee shops.

                  I have lived here for three years and never really tipped, so I need to check if I have missed something. I am going to ask my team when I get to work - all locals - and they won't get their 红包 (Lei See packets) until they answer...!

                  I always leave any coins if I pay in cash which is generally only in taxis, but this is because I don't want pockets full of heavy (low value) loose change. I also often use my Octopus (a stored value card) for small transaction, so more and more often there isn'y even loose change to give. However, it is common practice just about everywhere to get a credit card slip with a blank space for a tip so maybe I should. That said the automatic 10% service charge that is added to every bill tends to put me off.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    So Phil, what did your team say, or do you still hold back their Lei See packets? :)

                    1. re: NilesCable

                      Niles, I am happy to say Lei See has been fully distributed....I was hoping for leftovers!

                      The tipping answers were a bit mixed. Often the answer was a straight 10%, i followed up with "is that on top of the 10% service charge" and the the answer was "no that is the 10%", so the next question was do you add any extra. Generally the answer was "yes if it is very good". I asked how much: "maybe up to 5% or maybe a few notes if it is a expensive meal" (i.e. less than 5% as our notes start at HK$10). All said they would round up if paying in cash, but this often to the nearest note so HK$622 becomes $HK630.

                      So I take that as generally no extra tip but do round up, and if the service is very good add a bit more.

                      One, who has lived in the US, said i should remember that the Chinese culture isn't really a tipping culture so the concept of tipping is quite new and her parents and grandparents din't generally tip. Now my sample size isn't large only about eight, but the age range is early twenties to late forties so covers a few generations from Y to near boomer (not that the western labels make sense in Asia as the influences are different) and all are HK born and bred locals.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        I should also share another observation. I have noticed over the week and especially yesterday that the regular diners (in HK) distribute Lei See to the restaurant waiters and captains. I wonder if this is how the "real" tipping occurs: a generous amount of cash in the packet leads to great service over the forthcoming year.

                        1. re: PhilD

                          Thanks for your insights, very interesting!

                          Regarding the Lei See to waiters and captains, also interesting to read and a good concept if you visit the same restaurant more often. This way, the waiter will remember you as the guy who gave a "big" amount at New Year rather than the guy who gives a little every time. I can see how this could improve the service one receives. (here in Austria it would now be conisdered a bribe and would endanger the job of the waiter and could produce big problems with the government)

                          1. re: NilesCable

                            reply to curt the soi hound,

                            "It appears that we only have one sensitive person, possibly an current or ex-waitperson.... in Bangkok, I have become sensitive to the effect that rich foreigners can have on local socioeconomic standards. Thais are often ignored in favor of "rich" tourists...Rather that try to put down those who might question the policy, maybe you should educated the staffs at the restaurants"

                            reasonabe guess but wrong. i have never been a wait staff nor do i even know anyone in this line of work. just that i've been eating out in hk most of my life: 10-12 times a week, i would say somewhere between 10000-15000 times in non fastfood type establishments in hk, so i think i have more experience than most people on this board. you have no idea how ridiculous you sounded when you said "Rather that try to put down those who might question the policy, maybe you should educated the staffs at the restaurantss". i have already mentioned many times that wait staff will not say it's customary to tip because it's indirectly asking for tips and asking for tips is just not the social acceptable thing to do. can people "train" the staff at restaurants in the states to tell the customers to eat with their mouths closed? or that they have bad breathe? of course not, coz that would be extremelty rude. so sorry, even though we are very accommodating to visitors, you just cannot ask us to train staff to be rude.

                            as for the "rich tourist" part, it makes perfect sense for bangkok but then in hong kong, i don't think you have to worry about that. especially in places that are mentioned on this board, the tourists are usually not the "rich" ones. as long as you don't tip in american standards, you are fine. somewhere between 2-8% depending on food and service in addition to the 10% service charge. usually cheaper meals higher percentage, more expensive ones lower %age.

                            1. re: japanesefoodlover

                              thanks philD for your efforts to try to clear up the situation. the reason i replied to this thread in the first place was for the benefit of the tourists. nobody likes to be called cheap but "being cheap" has a worse connotation in hong kong than probably most other places. i used to smile at all the "expert comments" that claims that there is no tipping in hk and thought to myself -- "these silly people" but i think it's really wrong to let the impression sit like this and all these tourists would unknowingly act cheap. surely enough, there are plenty of cheap people here too and the fact that they can get away with it (again waiters won't chase you down for tip) makes it seem justified. i'm sure even in the states, if the waiter will definitely not chase you down for tips, there would be plenty of people who would try to get away with it too. as for hong kong, you've asked your staff about tips but asking won't really help because it's not like a fixed percentage and people would be reluctant to explain the structure of how much to tip. plus, i would guess most people who work for you probably haven't paid for a dinner in any of the places frequently mentioned on this board. sorry it came out really bad, but i just can't imagine anyone going to lei garden or fook lam moon and not tip at all. in some situations, small or no tip is expected: when the bill is to be split by colleagues or ex-schoolmates, etc. as there is no standard amount to tip, it'd be rude to force other people to pay the amount you want. so generally in these cases, there would be no tip or at most a round up to the divisible number of people at the table. other than these "gathering" types of meals, locals usually take turns to pay, not splitting the bill of a particular meal and they would tip. next time a local buys you dinner in a half way decent place. see if he/she tip, then you will see what i mean.

                              as for the 10% service charge, it's basically part of the cost of the meal. if a dish is 100, just pretend it's really 110. coz the 10% service charge has nothing to do with service at all. just like you pay the 8%+ tax in new york when you eat out, will you feel bad about paying another 15%+ for tip? same thing really, tax goes to the govt and 10% service charge in hk goes to the owner.

                              as for the lack of coins, i wouldn't worry about it at all. i haven't tipped with coins since the early nineties. if a meal was say hkd176, i would pay by credit card and leave either a 10 dollar bill or a twenty dollar bill. tipping with only coins is actually quite embarassing (at least for me) if dining at a half way decent place.

                              if paying by credit card, adding tips to the total amount is actually quite pointless because in many restaurants, the server wouldn't get any part of it. (many locals don't even know this and i've been paying tip with credit card for many years until i found out a few years back that the waiters may not get any part of it.) i usually put additional tip in cash from 20-100 depending on food/service and whether i'm a regular. if you don't have change, you can ask them to split a hundred dollar bill into 20's 50's etc.

                              more important than tipping for meals is the tipping for the staff at the bathroom and the person who wash your hair at the salon. in some places, there would be a bathroom staff turning on the tap and handing towels to you to dry your hands. unless there is a sign specifically saying no tip is accepted, not tipping "bathroom lady/man" is very tabooed, almost half as tabooed as wearing shoes into a japanese home. usually there is a tray near the sink and you leave the tip there. it's quite fun to watch some cheap people avoiding eye contact with the bathroom staff and keeping their heads up when washing their hands to avoid seeing the tray for tips. of course, if the staff is only cleaning the bathroom, not serving, you don't have to tip. as for how much to tip, usually min 5 dollars, maybe 10. but if you are going in with your friends (i guess more often for ladies), only 1 person have to pay. for the junior in the salon who wash your hair, usually 5-20. (5 is if the place is really really cheap) if you've your hair colored or permed, the tips for the technician and maybe the stylist would be more. (my little sister is very stingy and even she paid at least 50 to the technician when she was still in high school)

                              all these are just for your benefit. if you don't want to take my advice, i have absolutely no problem with it.

                              1. re: japanesefoodlover

                                japanesefoodlover has stepped into a culture that I would say expatriates or tourists are not familiar with. I don't live in Hong Kong but have been there more than 100 times and still a regular visitor now. And I would say I am quite familiar with the dining scene there. For tourists and non-regulars, I would say tips is not a must. But the waiters would always appreciate some though they may not verbally admit it. But for serious local foodies like "japanesefoodlover" who dined 10-12 times a week in good restaurants, yes, they have habit to tip, and the result is they get better treatment, they will be more respected, better rapport with the waiters, they will be recommended seasonal dishes that are not in the menu and receive more serious attention. These are intangibles that non-locals (even those expats who have lived there for many years) will not understand and appreciate.

      2. In Tokyo, there's flat-out no tipping in restaurants.