For many travelers, one of the central sources of angst and confusion is how to tip in a manner that is neither miserly, nor extravagant. Travelers run into far more situations where tipping is a concern than they would in their everyday life at home. And it’s made more uncomfortable due to the fact that when visiting abroad, the customs are foreign and easily misunderstood. Taxi drivers, porters, valets, waiters, and barbers/hairstylists are just some of the people you will encounter who will provide you with a service, and may or may not expect or require a gratuity.
The first key to understanding tipping is realizing the situation at hand. Starting with restaurants, the general rule is between 10-20% of the bill before taxes. Some people choose to tip extra if they feel the service is outstanding, while many will leave a small tip or not tip at all if they feel the service is terrible. However, not leaving a tip because the service did not meet expectations can often lead to a confrontation. It is often better to leave some kind of a tip; but be sure address the situation with the manager. It is also vital to know the local customs when it comes to tipping. In America, tipping is expected, and we are known to be some of the most generous tippers around. Many people in the service industry depend on tips to supplement their wages, which are often set artificially low in expectation of the tips they will receive. The key thing to remember is that tipping is a personal decision, but it affects others. So the idea of treating others as you would want to be treated clearly resonates. Be wary of restaurants that add a tip to the bill automatically: no one should pay two tips for the same meal.
In Europe, workers in the service industries are generally paid higher wages than in America, and therefore tipping is not always customary. When people do tip they generally tip less than in the states. However, it varies from country to country. Central European countries like Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Holland tip between 5-10% as a common practice, although it is not always required to tip. Countries like Spain and Italy are not advocates of tipping. In France and the Scandinavian countries, a service charge is included in the bill, while Ireland and the U.K. generally adhere to an optional tipping policy. When traveling in Europe, unless you are in Spain or Italy, it is generally a good idea to leave a tip close to 10% unless the charge is included, or the service was not satisfactory.
Traveling in Asia is often a culture shock, and this is magnified when it comes to tipping. While most of the globe follows the thinking that gratuities are required, or at the very least expected, many countries in Asia strictly forbid it, and many service workers will be offended if you attempt to tip them. Tipping is not the custom in India, China, Korea, Taiwan, and especially Japan. Likewise, in Australia and New Zealand, tipping has not historically been a custom and it is not expected, although the practice is growing, and has become especially common in the tourist areas.
Other parts of the globe also have some guidelines for tipping. Canada is very similar to the U.S., as is Mexico. The key thing to keep in mind when traveling is to be respectful of the customs in the country you are visiting. It is also better to lean towards generosity rather than stinginess when in doubt. Also, keep in mind that many restaurants and hotels add on a charge for gratuity, so carefully inspect the bill before leaving a tip. Furthermore, if you are traveling on business it is especially important that you represent yourself well. Always be sure to tip well when it is called for, and give your client the impression that you are interested in seeing others succeed. Tipping is definitely a touchy subject for many, but if you can master it, then you will enjoy yourself far more, and also ensure the happiness of those around you.