Tipping in Europe 101

Posted on October 7, 2011

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Whether it’s for dining out, taking a taxi, or even getting a haircut, in the U.S. we’ve become accustomed to shelling out a few extra dollars for tips.

Europeans, however, have different tipping standards. Americans unfamiliar with this cultural difference may find ourselves tipping where we don’t need to, and thus spending money unnecessarily.

This article will help you decipher when and where it is appropriate to tip and when it’s not needed.

By Lisa Koehler

Here’s the breakdown of tipping standards in Europe, based on location.

Restaurants

In general, European servers are well-paid (unlike their American counterparts), and tips are just a small added bonus for them.

  • If you must tip, follow the “10 percent rule” — tip 10% or less of your total bill.
  • Tipping 15 or 20 percent in Europe is unnecessary, if not culturally insensitive.
  • If you order your food at a counter don’t tip. Getting a coffee or pastry at a counter is cheaper than sitting down, and doesn’t include a “service charge.”
  • Check for that “service charge” (usually 10-15% of the bill). If there is one already added, do not tip. Normally when you sit down at a restaurant, a small service charge covers the cost of water, bread, and a waiter’s tip.
  • If you’re pleased with the service, round up a euro or two — also a good idea if you become a “local” with a favorite waiter who takes good care of you.
  • Always hand the money to the wait staff when you leave so it isn’t taken by fellow diners.

Note: Some higher-end restaurants that cater more to Americans or to tourists may have waitstaff that are accustomed to getting tips. In this case, waiters will often linger expectantly after dinner. In this case, hand them their tip directly and thank them — and if they don’t provide satisfactory service, don’t be afraid to say so (in an extremely polite way).

 

From Country to Country

Europe is vast, so tipping etiquette and procedure varies from culture to culture.

  • In Germanic countries, hand the waiter the money and discreetly state how much they should keep.
  • In Spain and Italy, hand the gratuity directly to the wait person. People may steal it off the table.
  • In France, round up the bill, unless you had unsatisfactory service, even if 10 to 15 percent was added to the tab. Again, leave a few euros on the table for exceptional service.

 

Taxis

  • Round up! For a typical ride, round up about 5–10 percent (For example: for a €4.50 fare, give €5; for a €28 fare, give €30).
  • If the cabbie hauls your bags and rushes you to the airport to help you catch your flight, you might want to tip a little more.
  • If you feel like you’re being driven in circles or being ripped off, don’t tip.

 

Other Services

  • Tour guides: Don’t feel pressured. Just 1-2 Euros for a great tour will do. If they are only operating on tips (as is the case with Free City Tours), you should tip according to quality.
  • Hotels: Tip discreetly. Leave a few euros (one per night) for the housekeeping staff at the end of your stay. Give porters a euro for each bag they carry.

Extra “Tips”

 

Have more advice for tipping in Europe? Share it with us in the comments below!

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Posted in: FOOD, LIFE ABROAD, TIPS