Tips on Tipping

According 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.
Tipping Etiquette on your Europe Travel

In Europe, tipping isn’t automatic or as generous as in the United States. In restaurants, 5- 10 percent is the norm but of course if someone was particularly attentive, you can give more. Check the restaurant bill. Often the gratuity (15 percent) is figured with the total and it will be stated at the bottom of the menu. A couple of extra Euros is appreciated if the service has been outstanding. In France gratuity is often not included (service non compris or s.n.c.), tip 5-10 percent by rounding up or leave the change from your bill.

It’s best to hand the tip directly to the waiter rather than leaving it on the table, especially in busy restaurants. Especially In Austria,Belgium, Denmark,Iceland,Germany, Liechtenstein,Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway,Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, you should be discreet and well-mannered and say the total number of Euros you’d like the waiter to keep (including his tip) when paying. For instance, if the bill is €75, you hand him €100 while saying, “€85”. You will have €10 returned and he has his tip. If you are paying by credit card, the rule of thumb is to pay the tip in cash so you can be sure the wait person receives it. If the service is bad and you have the choice what to tip, it is considered poor manners not to tip something. 5 percent is the minimum. Be sure if it has been a really bad experience that you let the manager know the trouble discreetly, not bringing attention to yourself. Loud and boisterous is not looked upon well in restaurants and is often the catalyst for the “Ugly American” moniker.

For taxis in the US the standard is 15 percent but in Europe tip 10 percent or round up the fare and you should be alright. Tour guides expect something extra. At the time of booking your tour, ask the company if gratuities are additional. If they are, plan on a euro or two. At hotels, a Euro or two per bag is generous for the porter. For the room maid, a couple of Euros at the end of your stay is appropriate if your room was kept clean. I have found that if you give the tip on the first day, the service you receive is friendlier the rest of your stay.

Hairdressers in France and Britain are generally tipped 15 percent. In Denmark and Sweden tips are not usual. When I gave a tip of the equivalent of $5 US to my shampoo attendant in Paris, she told me that she is often forgotten when it comes to tips, especially from foreigners. She said my gesture changed her thinking about Americans as being cheap. For the accepted standards where you are, the hotel concierge knows best what is considered apropos when it comes to personal attendants.

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.

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