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Dec. 11th, 2012

How to Tip in Europe

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Woman Paying bill
Photos: Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock

Tipping in the U.S. is a huge deal—you are considered a pompous jerk if you tip too little, and look rather silly if you tip someone who doesn’t work for tips, like say your cardiologist. When traveling, the concept of tipping is a difficult one to grasp, especially in Europe, where each country has different gratuity protocol; and if you tip too much, you will look like a foolish American; too little in some cases however, and your service provider may feel slighted. The L.A. Times recently reported that Mark Zuckerberg's Italian servers were surprised that the young millionaire didn't tip during his Italian honeymoon. Should he have? Would you have? Read on to find out just what is expected in a few of the most traveled countries in Europe.

Contiki Vacations, a worldwide leader in tours for 18-35 year olds, informs that Hungary and Egypt are places where it’s appropriate to tip everyone, including the family doctor; whereas in Switzerland, tipping is not common practice at all. At many European restaurants, Italy and Finland in particular, the service charge is included in the price of the meal, and nothing extra is expected, however in France and Germany a small tip is considered polite in addition to the already tacked on service charge.

According to Forbes, 5-10% is a substantial tip, and CN Traveller states that 10% is considered an above and beyond tip in most European restaurants. Rounding up to the nearest Euro is considered adequate for a taxi driver is most countries. Gratuities, however difficult it may be to grasp, are considerably less compulsory in Europe than they are in the U.S., and the tip is often included in the bill.

 English Pub
Photo Courtesy of Digital Vision/Thinkstock

England: If you are being charged for a personal service, then it is likely you need not offer them more. However, if you are hiring a company, 10% is suggested, and 15% is generous for whatever service you are receiving.

  • Restaurants: Gratuity is usually included, but if not 10-15% is standard. You may get an "optional" charge that you can approve or adjust according to the service you received, rounding to the nearest pound, up or down.
  • Hairdressers and manicurists: Usually round up to the nearest ten, such as if the charge is £38, say “just keep the two”
  • Pubs: Do not tip
  • Taxis: 10% or less
  • Hotels: 10-15%

British people don’t like big shows, and it may be considered obnoxious to directly hand gratuity to a service provider. Either leave it on the table, or with the receptionist, or say “keep the change,” or “I only need this much back.”

(Photo Courtesy of Digital Vision/Thinkstock)

hailing a cab in france

France

  • Restaurant: By law, it is always included, but it is not uncommon to add 10-15% for service above average. Esquire however, asserts that travelers should never leave more than €11, no matter how high the bill is.
  • Hair Dresser: About €2 for the cut, €1 for shampoo, handed directly to the person
  • Taxi: Round up to the nearest Euro
  • Hotels: Tip €1 per bag carried by bellman; €1–2 for the housekeeper; €10–15 per restaurant reservation made by a concierge, giving them half upon arrival and the other half when you check out
 Hairdresser

Germany

  • Restaurants: Add 10-15% to the bill for the server or bartender
  • Taxis: Round up to the nearest Euro, or more, depending on the length of the ride
  • Hair Dresser: A couple Euros
  • Hotels: €3 per bag carried by bellman; €5 per day for the housekeeper; €20 to the concierge if he went above and beyond
italian restaurant

Italy

  • Restaurant: Waiters are well paid in Italy, so tipping is unnecessary; but if you are feeling very generous, 10% is a great tip, but no more.
  • Taxis: €1-2 if they are extremely helpful
  • Hotel: €5 to the bellman; €1-2 per day for housekeeping, or more for additional services
  • Hairdresser: about 5-10%
  • Bar: maximum of €2
  • Tip: If your gratuity is refused, the recipient is just being polite (a common practice in Italy), so do insist if you wish for them to take it.
tip jar with money

Spain: Tipping isn’t obligatory, or very common, but if you do, coins should suffice for most services

  • Restaurants: Leave the small change, or 5-10% for higher end restaurants
  • Taxis or haircuts: Leave the small change
  • Hotels: If the hotel is upscale, a few Euros to the helpful staff is probably expected
  • Bars: Don’t tip, as often the bar owner doesn’t even allow the tender to keep them. Keep an eye out for tip jars written only in English, as you are likely being hoodwinked

Now you know that tipping is not really a common practice in Italy, which is most likely why Zuckerberg did not feel the need to exercise the practice during his trip earlier this year. Perhaps his servers' surprise was due to a combination of the Facebook creator's known wealth, and the European understanding that American tourists are usually big tippers. Should he have tipped the staff regardless of local custom? Or was this a case of When in Rome?
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