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Jul 10, 2014 07:40 PM

Tipping in Europe

I'm going to Germany/France/Czech republic soon, and I would like to know the general tipping customs there.No tip? Tips for some services? I have no idea, I haven't been to any foreign countries except Mexico, and any help would be appreciated.

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  1. We have no common practice in Europe. Different countries have their own ways of doing things. For example, in France, service is already covered by the menu price and nothing further is required by way of a tip - although you may wish to "round up" the bill by leaving the change or a € or two. It's a while since I visited Germany but recall that there's a greater "rounding up", if you will - more like 5% than a few coins. I've no idea about the custom in the Czech Republic.

    You'll find that most countries fall into one of three categories for tipping. The French & German ways, of course. And a third way, where more traditional tipping is common (usually at around 10%) - although an increasing number of places in those countries, such as Ireland and the UK, now add a discretionary service charge to the bill, rather than old-fashioned cash tips.

    I suspect European servers generally love North American visitors. Unlike you, many will not ask advice as to local customs and just tip at their normal (20% ?) rate regardless.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      You will also see some european restaurants (especially in tourist destinations) try to take advantge of this. In france a few weeks ago, we received a bill in a cafe with a "suggested tip" on it.

      When i went back with a few french colleagues, we received an entirely different bill with no such message

      1. re: DukeFan

        I've had similar "taking advantage of" in New York. Bills coming with the "large party" percentage tip already included; others with unreadable scribbles at the bottom adding a %. I haven't worked out exactly what they were up to - either ensuring they get a tip from a tourist by adding the percentage or, on the other hand, hoping that we'd tip as well. Sneaky. And only ever experienced that in NYC - we're hoping to revisit Florida next year and will be interested to see what happens there, bearing in mind it's also a destination for non-American tourists.

        1. re: Harters

          In Miami Beach, which has a huge percentage of international visitors, it's quite common. I always assumed it was to protect the servers from getting stiffed by European tourists.

          1. re: nocharge

            I wonder if they only do it to foreigners or to all customers.

            1. re: Harters

              Don't know for sure, but I have a sense they do it for all customers. The credit card slip would have an entry that showed the surcharge plus a note that it took care of service and that no additional tip was needed.

              1. re: nocharge

                Good to know that they probably don't discriminate against foreigners. Sounds like the system is pretty much how it would operate in the UK - our places that don't have old-fashioned tipping will state on the menu that they add a discretionary service of x% (usually 12.5% in central London, 10% rest of the country) and it appears on the bill as a separate line.

          2. re: Harters

            I was in Miami and Key West last year and they calculate a 18% tip on all bills. It's not added as a service charge but as a pre-calculated amount you "choose" to pay. It seemed standard for all "tourists" even those from other US states.

            1. re: Harters

              I live in Los Angeles and often see the "suggested tip amount" for various percentages printed at the bottom of the check. I've also received checks where a tip of 16-17% has already been added in, especially for large parties. I always chuckle at that one because, left to my own devices, I'd tip closer to 20% (assuming the service was good), but hey, whatever...

              1. re: medrite

                I think the "suggested tip amount" is quite common in my experience - certainly not confined to touristy places (although I've never holidayed further west than TN)

              2. re: Harters

                Then there's that Portuguese trick where they put a plate of appetizers on the table as soon as you sit down, without a word, then charge you for every piece you eat.

              3. re: DukeFan

                In Rome at a rather well known restaurant, the waiter also mentioned, "the tip is not included", I amswered in Italian. "Do you want me to tell the table there that the tip is not included?", He abruptly left the check and walked away, the table I was refering to was an local Roman family.

                On another occasion, I overheard a tourist,(USA), say to a guide "Should I tip in a restaurant?" the answer "Oh, of course we are just like the States now", I guess the guide was trying to help bring Italy out of her financial crisis!!!

                1. re: DukeFan

                  And not for the first time in a restaurant in Provence this year, we ate last night at one of our favorites and noted on the bill something like " tips appreciated" - in English, with no equivalent printed out in French. This saddened me, since it seems directed at American tourists. (I say 'American' since many Americans are so unsure of what to do.)

              4. If you google "international tipping guide" or "global tipping guide", you'll find lots of free resources on the internet, like this one.

                12 Replies
                1. re: nocharge

                  I always question the quality of this type of advice. The link you give for example has Australia down at 10 to 15% but it's generally a no tipping country (staff get paid union negotiated wages by law). In France people leave a few coins or round up to the value of notes and not ten percent. Other countries on the list I am very familiar with have very different guidance to the. Orms I have seen my local colleagues apply.

                  To be frank I see a lot of these guides written to salve the conscience of the American traveller who feels uncomfortable tipping less than 20%. Many, many countries don't have tipping cultures, many have set service charges embedded in the bill, and many gave unionised or legislated pay have overtime rates (with paid holidays and pensions) so there is no need to add to the waiters pay as there is in the US.

                  Excessive tipping is a American cultural export that a lot of us living on other countries really don't want. Please follow the local norms, and please take advice from good sources - American travel agents based in America (which seemed to be who compiled the advice in the link) may not have the best perspective or even the expertise they profess to have.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    "please take advice from good sources"

                    Good idea! Now, where can I find those sources?

                    As for your assertion about Australia being "generally a no-tipping country", even the locals seem to believe that things are a little bit more complicated than that.

                      1. re: Harters

                        And other locals seem to have different opinions, so why should we take Phil's word as gospel? Most others seem to recognize that this is an issue of some complexity.

                        1. re: nocharge

                          Well, even the article you link to suggests that Australia is generally regarded as a no/low tipping culture but that is under pressure from American cultural import.

                          There's also the interesting comment that, whilst tipping is growing, the level of tip is decreasing. In my own country, the "going rate" for a restaurant tip used to be 10% but I have sense that many people now leave less than that, if they tip at all.

                          1. re: Harters

                            One factor that can influence tip levels is dining trends. If substantial tipping is normally associated with expensive fine dining at fancy restaurants and the trend is that that people increasingly prefer more casual places, that could have an impact.

                            1. re: nocharge

                              I think you have a point with that. That may also be linked to economic pressure in society with folk thinking "why should I be tipping someone who is probably already earning a higher hourly rate than me". When my brother in law started to drive a taxi, perhaps 10 years back, he reckoned most people would tip. Now, he reckons he's lucky if he gets a couple of tips in a shift with many customers waiting even for very small change.

                              That said, I think Phil has a point about many of the guides being written with American consciences in mind. For example, in the linked article section about Spain, there's a suggestion of rounding up by 7 - 13%. Whereas my Spanish relatives would actually only ever leave the loose change.

                              1. re: nocharge

                                Maybe in other countries but the egalitarian Australian culture had never really held the two differently. And in this translates into the fine dining culture which is generally very casual. So, based on my experience no real difference between the two.

                        2. re: nocharge

                          "GoodFood" seems to have a bit of a campaign going at the moment to increase tipping in Australia. I suspect it's a publication staffed by industry insiders who are simply pushing tipping here, I note all the comments are from waiters and restaurant owners not the great unwashed public.

                          They recently had another tread about the problems pin on credit cards would bring when they replaced signature cards (by law in August). The article covered all the ways people could still tip. Interesting the avalanche of comments that followed appeared to indicate that the customers thought this was all BS and they saw no reason to was almost un-Australian to do so.

                          Then again this week they publish another article that says some restaurants may introduce 10% service charges to make up for the inability to tip with the new cards....!

                          Restaurants in Australia have become very expensive, in part as a result of the previous labour governments changes to employment legislation. These increased set wage rates in industry awards, prescribed overtime rates upto triple time, and increased shift premiums for "anti social" hours - like weekends. Bottom line is a waiter working a public holiday is paid pretty well...!

                          So firstly no need to add a tip, secondly many can't afford to. Many main corse dishes now hit $50 with starters in the $20 to $30 range. Add 10% as a tip and it's getting crazy.

                          In early part of this century restaurant prices increased dramatically. The result was a long long list of closures as diners voted with their wallets and stopped eating out. My instinct says we are about to see the same market adjustment.....and don't get me started on $9 for half a pint of craft beer.

                          Phil - enjoying a wonderfully sunny Sunday morning in Sydney.

                      2. re: nocharge

                        Wow - that site is fantastically wrong regarding Israel. At restaurants tip is 10% and you HAVE to have shekels on you to provide it (if you pay with a credit card, there is very very rarely a chance to add it onto the credit card - very expensive hotels/restaurants are the only exception and still not universal). And, I've also had experience where we had particularly poor service, could only come up with like a 9.5% tip - and were chased out of the restaurant by staff being "reminded" that a tip is actually 10%.

                        Also - never tip your cab driver. Instead you should always always always negotiate the price of the ride prior to getting into the cab. Otherwise be prepared for the world's slowest route ever.

                        1. re: cresyd

                          You were chased so someone could get another 0.5%? That's a buck on a $200 meal.

                          1. re: hal2010


                            Service in Israel ranks - at best - at moderate to the worst. But it is customary to tip 10%. It's just the cost of eating out.