Florida joke: What’s the difference between a canoe and a Canadian?
Answer: "A canoe tips!"
Are Canadians really that bad? Or are we just confused? Do you tip to buy your way to the front of the line, or should it be a reward for good service? If you get poor service, should you withhold the tip? A tip that would be considered average in the USA would be excessive in Portugal or even refused in Japan. In Iceland, tipping is considered to be downright rude. So how do you know what is appropriate?
Roger Axtell, former vice-president of the Parker Pen Company, has written three books on international customs and protocol. He gives these guidelines for avoiding embarrassment when it comes to tipping in frequently visited countries.
Western Europe: A service charge ranging from 10 to 20 percent is automatically added to your hotel and dining bill. In France, it is not always applied so ask to be sure. In Spain, the money is rarely given to the employees even though it is included in the bill, so tip individually. In Scandinavia, it is included in the bill even for taxi rides.
The Middle East: An automatic 15% is now added to the bill in Israel and cash tipping has become more common. In Turkey and Greece, the proprietors take a share of the pooled 15% so a small tip given directly to the employee is appreciated. It is the custom to tip taxi drivers.
Latin America: There is a huge variation in tipping practices in Central and South America. Ask your hotel concierge about the local customs. In Argentina, tip waiters 10 to 15 percent, porters US$0.50 per bag, taxi drivers 15 percent, and theatre ushers 5 percent. In Brazil, tip waiters 5% in cash over the 10% added to the bill, taxi drivers 10%, and at the airport tip the last porter who handles your bags – he will share the money with the others. In Chile and Colombia, the cab drivers own their cars so tipping is not required, but remember to give theatre ushers small tips. In Venezuela, 10 percent is added to the bill in restaurants and hotels. Don’t tip the taxi drivers unless they have carried your bags or give extra service, but do give porters the equivalent of US$1.00 for carrying a few bags.
Down Under: There is general resistance to tipping in Australia, but service people in tourist areas have come to expect small tips. In New Zealand, tipping is not the custom unless exceptional service has been provided.
Asia: Tipping is not common in Asia and may even be considered insulting. Hotels and restaurants usually add a service fee to the bill. When in doubt, don’t tip! You could present a small gift to people who have extended special service. Exceptions are Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, and South Korea. Ask about current practices.
A final word of caution – When you park your car in a public area or along the street in Mexico and young watchacaros suddenly appear with open palms and a promise to watch your car, it is wise to accept their offer!
Books by Roger Axtell: Around the World; Of International Trade; and Of Hosting International Visitors (All published by John Wiley & Sons).
Recommended Reading: The International Guide to Tipping, by Nancy Star, Berkley Publishing The Art of Tipping: Customs and Controversies, by Barbara Wohlfahrt, Edwin Jablonsk, and John E. Schein, published by Tippers International Limited Traveler’s Handbook on Tipping, Vol. 1, by David Stroman, published by AuthorHouse
Online: Ever wondered what to tip a tattoo artist or a piercing technician? For an excellent summary of this important question and some good guidelines for more mainstream tipping issues, go to: http://azaz.essortment.com/tipping_rdef.htm .
But what about pizza, you ask? Well don’t panic, for the proper tipping etiquette for pizza delivery, see: http://tipthepizzaguy.com/general/ Lots of people have found a way to make money on the issue; my favourite is a web site totally devoted to tipping, http://www.tipping.org, which sells a handle little wallet-sized tipping chart (15% and 20%).