Tipping — one of the most despised, yet largely unspoken customs in America. We’ve talked about it extensively here at The Cheat Sheet, and even put together a guide about how to tip in different parts of the United States. It’s rather complicated, truthfully, and the amount people are generally expected to add to their bills in gratuity can vary greatly from place to place.
While conventional wisdom may say you’re expected to tip service employees at restaurants, valet stands, and hotels, things have been thrown into flux with the $15 minimum wage movement. Employers have traditionally used tipping as a way of supplementing, and effectively passing off their labor costs onto patrons, and in many places, this has more or less become codified with ‘tipped wages‘, used in most U.S. states.
Still, with $15 minimum wages making a debut in a few American cities, people have wondered what, or if, they’re expected to tip. Again, we cover this in our previous guide, and discuss living and minimum wages.
But outside of the U.S., tipping is less common. In fact, when you go abroad, tipping can be seen as an offensive action, and you may end up with some dirty or confused looks. To help ease your concerns, world travelers, we’re taking our tipping guide international. This is your Cheat Sheet to tipping around the world.
As far as the U.S. and Canada are concerned, tipping is generally a go. Once again, check out our previous guide for specifics, region to region. Canada is pretty much the same as the U.S., with slight cultural variations from place to place. So, in Canada or the U.S., use our previous tipping guide for advisement.
In Central America, including Mexico, things are a bit different. In Mexico specifically, tipping may be even more pronounced and common than it is in the U.S. — especially for travelers in touristy areas. So, plan accordingly. In Central American countries (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, and El Salvador), the people are oftentimes much more impoverished than those in the northern nations. If you’re a traveler in these countries, a simple, modest tip of 10% or so goes a very long way.
Considering how inexpensive most things are in Central America, adding a little extra on top of a bill shouldn’t present much of a problem for even the thriftiest of travelers.
In South America, things vary from region to region. There is a good deal of poverty and poorer countries, but also concentrated wealth in cities like Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Sao Paulo. Depending on where you are, gratuity may be added to the bill. Anything extra is up to you. In many South American countries locals don’t tip, so you could probably get away with simply paying what’s due. But if you do, it’s recommended that you help out the locals that, in many cases, could really use it.
Europe is rather expensive to visit. But you will get some relief in the gratuity department, because a good deal of European nations don’t have a thriving tipping culture like the U.S. While you can still tip, and service people will undoubtedly appreciate it, it’s not expected. If you opt not to drop a few euros on the table or in the taxi driver’s hand, it’s not that big of a deal.
If anyone is getting a tip in most European countries, they’re going to hotel staff, drivers, and servers in fancy restaurants in big cities like London, according to Rick Steves.
Asia, of course, is a very, very big place. And with numerous cultures and norms intact, Asian countries can present a challenge to the tip-minded traveler. So, here’s the low-down: east Asian countries like China and Japan do not have a tipping culture — with the exception of big cities that have been enveloped in western culture. It can be tricky to tell when it’s appropriate, so keep an eye out for what others are doing. It may be your only saving grace.
A good rule of thumb is to assume that you don’t need to tip, unless you’re in a ritzy location, or a place that has been ‘westernized’ to a certain extent.
As for India, tipping is rather commonplace, particularly for tourists. This site has a handy guide as to what you should give, and to whom.
Headed down under? Tipping is pretty much nonexistent. In fact, according to TripAdvisor, it’s not advised under any circumstances. And that’s because Australians have a very high minimum wage — enough that wages don’t need to be subsidized by patrons. That said, there’s been some push by service professionals to get people tipping again, and in some cases, people do leave a gratuity. But it’s definitely not expected of you.
In Africa, tips make up a considerable amount of certain people’s wages. Like Central America, many nations in Africa are at a tremendous economic disadvantage — and the citizens feel the hurt. With that in mind, expect to throw some money around, even if it’s not that much. Of course, things will vary from place to place, but as a part of your overall experience, plan to tip drivers, hotel staff, and guides. Ten percent, in most cases, should suffice.
Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger