Food is a necessity. That’s obvious – without it, you simply die. But food is also a part of culture and over centuries we’ve surrounded it with norms, habits, customs, superstitions. We’ve even associated religious doctrines with it. One such custom that is associated with food and service is obviously tipping. This custom also relies heavily on one of the strongest social mechanisms we humans have in common – reciprocity. We give to get… more. In this case we give to get better service, expecting – quite naturally that that’s the way it works. The service on the other hand tries harder to get tipped. Tipping is maybe not as natural as food itself and there are some people who strongly advocate against it. There have even been political movements against it. You can learn about it and other interesting facts checking out our decks on Slideshare dedicated to all things tipping.
General rules for tipping in Europe
No matter where you are, tip extra if the service has been exquisite. That is a general piece of advice, but there are differences in tipping culture dependant on where you are. If you one of the patrons who don’t tip at all, then you might wanna travel to China as tipping there will rather raise few eyebrows than make you a great customer. If you are on the generous side, then USA is the place for you. Tipping in Europe isn’t as obvious and generous as it is in the United States, but in many countries, tips are appreciated, if not expected. Of course all over the world there are big tippers and there are misers – it all depends on the resources you have and the philosophy you share. Tipping may vary widely by country, but some general guidelines apply. In this post we will tackle both the general and specific.
Restaurant tips are more modest in Europe than in America. It’s always important to check the menu to see if service charges are included – and that happens vey often. If it isn’t, a tip of 5 to 10 percent is considered normal. In most places, 10 percent is a big tip, so don’t worry if you only can spare less. If you ask me, it is always better to spend your money on travel than showing off with a Donald Trump kind of tip. Tipping 15 or 20 percent in Europe is unnecessary and some may even consider it culturally insensitive. And remember if you eat at MacDonalds (which we advocate against in this post) or order your food at a counter (in a pub, for example), you generally don’t tip. Tipping is an issue only at restaurants that have waiters and waitresses. At table-service restaurants, the tipping etiquette and procedure vary slightly from country to country.
How to tip in the Mediterranean countries
In the Mediterranean countries, the “service charge” (servizio in Italian, service in French, servicio in Spanish) — usually lies at 10 or 15 percent of your total bill — can be handled in different ways. Sometimes the menu will note that the service is included (“servizio incluso”), meaning that the prices listed on the menu already have this charge accounted for. When the service is not included (“servizio non incluso”), the service charge might show up as a separate item at the end of your bill.
How to tip in Northern and Eastern Europe
While in the south of Europe the service is very often included and you do not have to wonder how much you should tip, it isn’t so everywhere on this continent. In northern and eastern Europe, the menu or bill is less likely to address the “service charge,” and you can actually assume that it’s included in the prices. Meaning, that if you are satisfied, you have to figure out for yourself how much you actually want to pay on top of your bill. If you are not very keen on doing the math and calculating the 5 or 10 percent you can do as they do virtually anywhere in Europe. Add a euro or two for each person at your party. Or simply round up the amount on the bill. Trust me any tip is appreciated, the stakes are low, and it’s no big deal if you choose the “wrong” amount.
Tipping in UK and Ireland
The general rules in Great Britain and Ireland apply and though it may seem that the rules are closer to American tipping rituals, the gratuities are lower. You can feel free to tip between 10% and 15% for restaurant service, but be sure to check your bill carefully. Why? Because in London, more and more restaurants are adding in a discretionary service charge of about 12.5 percent. Then, you do not have to tip at all.
Tipping in Eastern Europe
After the fall of communism the customs and habits of the western world very quickly found their way in the countries that were very long oblivious to the act of tipping. The service is still rarely included so you might want to tip, by just adding the amount you choose proper. However, again it is not necessary to overtip like some Americans do. Keep in mind however that the wages of waiters in Eastern Europe are lower than their colleagues in the West and South. Having said that I would advise you to consider maybe a tip of 10-15% than a tip of 5-10%. Especially, since prices are relatively low in most places meaning it won’t be much of a sacrifice for your budget. To avoid the dreaded uncertainty of tipping while dining out in Europe you might want to even learn more specific facts on local tipping customs so you know how to make a graceful exit from the table.
Tipping in Austria
Almost all restaurants include a 10% service charge, but still tipping 5%-7% is customary. You can tip a little more if you’ve received a truly exceptional service.
Tipping in Belgium
Check the bill as the tip may be included. If not, it is customary for people to often round up a bit when paying, but it isn’t offensive to pay the exact amount.
Tipping in Czech Republic
In this former communist block country service is usually not included in restaurant bills. You should then leave a tip of around 10%, which is considered appropriate in all but the most expensive places.
Tipping in England
Some restaurants add a service charge of 10-15% to the bill. You will see it clearly stated as service included. In this case, you are not obliged to tip extra. If no you can add 10%-15% to your total bill.
Tipping in France
Bills in bars and restaurants include 15% service and again it should be stated as service inclusive. In France however it is still customary to round out your bill with some small change unless you’re totally dissatisfied.
Tipping in Germany
Service is included in the price of your bill, but it is customary to leave a 10% tip. Remember to pay the waiter directly rather than leave any money or a tip on the table. If service is poor, just round the bill up to the next euro and you are still generous.
Tipping in Greece
Tipping in Greece can be extremely confusing as by law a 13% service charge is figured into the price of a meal but during the Christmas and Greek Easter holiday periods, restaurants tack on an obligatory 18% holiday bonus to your bill for the waiters. With all those rules it is still customary to leave an 8%-10% tip if the service was satisfactory.
Tipping in Hungary
As in Czech Republic the service is not included so when the waiter arrives with the bill, you should immediately add a 10% to 15% tip to the amount. Give it directly to the service as it is not customary to leave the tip on the table.
Tipping in Italy
A service charge of 10% to 15% usually appears on the check. If it happens so, you do not necessary have to leave an additional tip. If service is not included, just leave a tip of up to 10%.
Tipping The Netherlands
The Dutch tip smaller amounts in smaller cities and towns. But in Amsterdam and other major cities, restaurants normally include a service charge of 5%. Tip 10% extra if you’ve found the service and food excellent.
Tipping in Portugal
Service is included, but waiters are poorly paid, so any added tip will be appreciated highly. An acceptable tip of 5%-10% of the total bill.
Tipping in Scandinavia
Further north the tipping culture is kept modest. Tipping is kept to a minimum in the countries of Scandinavia. Service charges, which one finds on most restaurant bills, suffice for good service.
Tipping in Slovakia
If you have enjoyed your meal and are satisfied with the service, it is customary to leave a 10% to 15% tip. The service will be very rarely included in the bill, so give directly to the waiter.
Tipping in Slovenia
Service charges are not normally included. A 10% tip is customary; tip 15% if the service is especially good.
Tipping in Spain
Although the restaurant checks do not list a service charge on the bill, you should consider the tip included. If you want to leave a small tip in addition to the bill, do not tip more than 10% of the bill, as it should be well enough.
Tipping in Switzerland
Despite all protests to the contrary and menus marked service compris, the Swiss do tip at restaurants, giving quantities anywhere from the change from the nearest franc to 10 SF or more for a world-class meal that has been exquisitely served.