International Tipping Customs

Michael Lynn, an associate professor of market and consumer behavior at Center for Hospitality at Cornell University, researched the variations of tipping in different countries. Comparing the types of services that were tipped in each country with personality tests that had been given to people in those countries, he came to the conclusion that countries with more "extroverted" and "neurotic" people gave tips to the greatest number of services and also tipped the largest amounts. (The U.S. was at the top of both of those categories, by the way.)

His theory is that "extroverts are outgoing, dominating, social people" and see tipping as an incentive for the waiter to give them extra attention. Neurotics are more prone to guilt and general anxiety, making them tip more because of their perceived difference in status between themselves and the server [Source: Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University].

Aside from these facts, other cultures definitely see tipping differently. For example, in many European restaurants, 10 to 15 percent has already been added to the restaurant bill. You can leave extra money or round up to the next currency amount (going from 27 to 30 euros, for example) if the service was especially good, but it isn't usually necessary. In South Africa and Mexico, you'll be expected to tip almost everyone [Source:BBC News]. In Australia, a 10 percent gratuity is usually only added to checks at fine dining establishments, but in New Zealand, tipping is virtually nonexistent in restaurants. And in Vietnam and Argentina, tipping is illegal in restaurants [Source­:­CCRA International].

International Tipping Tips

Each country places a different value on service. Following these few simple rules from the Washington Post should keep you in servers' good graces and prevent any international faux pas:

  • Familiarize yourself - Guidebooks and many country- and city-specific Web sites list tipping protocol for regular services. Jot down a few you think you might use, like restaurant, taxi and hotel services. If you're uncertain whether a gratuity was added to a bill, ask.
  • Know the value of the currency - Not understanding a country's monetary system can lead to over- or under-tipping.
  • Don't use U.S. currency - Although it's convenient to provide tips with U.S. bills and coins, it forces the service provider to go out of his or her way to exchange the currency -- not to mention the cost associated with changing money.
  • Be nice - Even if the service isn't great -- or even good. Customs and language barriers are just a few of the circumstances that may prevent you from seeing the situation in its entirety.

[Source: ­Washington Post­]

For more information on tipping and related topics, check out the links on the next page.