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Tipping Ettiquette

Tips on Tipping

Tipping Etiquette around the World: Asia Travel Part 2

TippingAccording to all the dictionaries, tips are something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service. What we experience however is the expectation of a tip, whether or not the service has been exemplary. In the United States we are used to tipping in restaurants and taxi cabs. We tip for personal services such as deliveries, doormen, massages, manicures and hairdressing. If we live in a large city we generally tip between 15 and 20 percent. In smaller towns 10 percent is often the norm but 15 percent is especially appreciated. However, when we travel, the rules change and if we are not aware of them, our experiences may be less satisfying and more expensive than you needed to pay. Generally, if you do some research before you go, you will find your travelling spirit more confident.

Asia Travel

While for some protocols, each Asian country has their own, tipping is fairly uniform across the region -- there isn't much of it done. But as in any sweeping generalization, there are exceptions.

MANILA

Tipping is common in Manila, and anything above 10 percent will gain you a new best friend. Even if a service charge is included in restaurants, add another 5 percent-10 percent to tip. Service in high-end hotels is good and tips 20 pesos per bag are common. In lower class hotels 5pesos is common.

Most cabs are metered so round up to the next five pesos. If you don't say anything, the taxi driver will do it for you.

KOREA

Tipping is not part of Korean culture. International hotels however will add a 10 percent service charge to your room bill. During my last trip to Seoul I ate at a small neighborhood restaurant run by a family. I was tired and forgot my cultural sensitivity and left 700 won on the table as a tip. The owner of the restaurant ran after me down the street to hand back the money not knowing it was a tip for his son who waited on me. I was embarrassed and took back the money but said great things about his son's work.

If you're at a Korean barbecue restaurant, a tip is not necessary. However if you dine with white tablecloths a 10 percent tip would be expected.

If you're at a 5 star hotel, international standards apply, so expect to tip 500-1,000 won per bag.
Taxi drivers will give you quizzical looks if you hand them a tip and will probably give it back.

SINGAPORE

The government orders proper behavior from the residents and visitors alike in the Lion City and tipping is no exception. They say no tipping and so it is. It's outlawed at Changi Airport and officials encourage tourists not to add to the 10 percent service charge that many high-end hotels tack on to the bill.

In Restaurants: Singaporeans won't leave tips and it is taboo to add more. Sometimes nicer restaurants charge 10 percent to the bottom line. I have slipped a few extra Singaporean dollars in the hand of my servers at really nice restaurants and all I received in return was huge smiles and nods. I would only do that if you are sure no one from management is watching.

Porters: Hotel staffs are the one exception to the no-tipping rule. As a general guide, $1 should be adequate for baggage handling. I have also given small gifts like postcards from America to my porters if during conversation they mention they have children. I often learn the personal history of many of the people who serve me when I travel. I always take 40-50 postcards from Washington, DC (my home town) and use them as special tips. I have always been thanked most enthusiastically.

Taxi drivers are not supposed to accept tips, but they didn't refuse when I rounded up the fare to the next Singaporean dollar.

TAIPEI

Like Japan and China, Taiwan is not a tipping society.
In restaurants focused on serving locals tipping is not expected. However, that rule is changing as American-style eateries and those which cater to international tourists. I have given up to $5.00USD as a tip if warranted. US Dollars go over very well.

For your baggage handlers, you can offer NT$50, but the hotel staff won't be overly offended if you don't tip. I discretely tip by putting the money in their hand anyway. So far, I have received only smiles.
For taxis, a gratuity is not expected, although rounding up the fare to the next NT$5 helps avoid unnecessary change.

A couple of final "tips"...

  • Don't tip on the tax. Add up your bill without tax and then figure your tip.
  • If you ordered wine through the suggestion of a wine steward or sommelier, add 10 percent of the cost of the bottle as a tip just for them. Don't forget to give it to them directly if you have the cash or to mark it on the bill to go to them.
  • If you are entertaining friends or for business, try tipping before you start being served. Look at the menu, see if an automatic tip will be charged, figure out an additional per person tip based upon menu prices and give it to your waiter before you start ordering. I have done this several times in Europe and in South America and the service couldn't have been better.
  • The hotel pool is a great place to offer small tips to the staff. You will probably get a better lounge location and maybe your desired "cold drink" will be brought to you quicker.
  • Housekeeping staff should be tipped the equivalent of $2-3 per person per night's stay. I tip at the beginning of my stay so the housekeeper knows I appreciate a clean room.
  • TIP is supposed to mean "To Insure Promptness". Sometimes giving it before might actually do that in the end.

Cynthia Lett

Is an eminent etiquette and protocol expert with over 27 years teaching the subjects to professionals worldwide. She is the Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals and Director of The Lett Group. She has earned the distinctions of Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP). Learn more about business etiquette.