That is the question many holidaymakers will face while enjoying a week or so in the sun this summer. You’ve tried the local cuisine, enjoyed the region’s wine, then the waiter brings the bill and panic sets in…
At Which? Travel we’re often asked questions about tipping abroad. Even seasoned travellers are confused about who to tip, when to tip and how much to tip. Getting it wrong can result in restaurant staff rubbing their hands in glee, or furrowing their brow in fury. You might even be considered to be rude if you do leave a tip in a Japanese restaurant!
I recall a trip I went on a few years ago, to Gdansk in Poland, and my husband and I had enjoyed a meal in a lovely little restaurant in the city centre. It was a warm night, we were sitting outside, and we were one of the last people around. We asked for the bill and as it was our first night, we only had a 200 zloty note. I handed it over with a smile, and thinking I was being polite said ‘thank you’.
We then waited for our change, and waited. Some 20 minutes passed until I decided to pop inside to see where our waiter was. He looked at me strangely, not understanding what I was after. He appeared shocked when I said I wanted my change. Only later when browsing through my guidebook did I notice the section on ‘tipping’ – saying ‘thank you’ before receiving your change will tell waiting staff that you’re happy for them to keep it all.
Dealing with an angry waitress
A colleague, during a holiday in New England a few years’ back, treated himself and his partner to a meal in upmarket Martha’s Vineyard in Cape Cod. It was a fine meal and they left what they thought was a reasonable tip as they knew many American waiting staff relied on gratuities.
They thought a 15% tip was good amount, only to find a furious waitress marching back to the table, demanding to know what was wrong with her service. She was clearly insulted, whereas my colleague felt he was being shown up in front of the rest of the restaurant. What he hadn’t realised was that Massachusetts restaurant workers are among the lowest paid in the country and expect the highest tips as a consequence. About 20% was the going rate for good service.
So, there are certainly trials and tribulations to tipping abroad. Do you take note of different countries’ tipping traditions when you’re on holiday? Or do you stick to the same tipping ethos wherever you are?