On Tipping In Other Countries

I don’t get it! I thought tipping waitrons was customary in all countries, especially taking into consideration that they’re not exactly getting paid six-figure salaries.

Whether you pay via cash or a card transaction, tips should be easy to give. The problem is not when paying with cash – it’s when paying with a card that it becomes interesting.

Some countries make it easy to tip waitrons and others don’t. Take South Africa for example. Tips are expected, normally 10% of the bill. The bill has an extra field to put in the tip amount and the point of sales machines are configured to add this to the bill amount. The whole lot then goes off your card and then it’s up to the waitron and the restaurant to square up at the end of their shift.

Well, in Europe there’s no such thing! At least in the countries that I’ve visited. Imagine my dismay on not finding the extra line for the tip on the bill. I wanted to tip the waitron but couldn’t, because you see I don’t always carry cash. So when I see no field at the bottom of the invoice I think there is no tip expected. And this could be a totally erroneous assumption.

The one time I asked the waiter where I could write in the tip amount and he looked at me as if I had two heads. Perhaps I misunderstood and tips are always given in cash to the waiter.

Another time I gave the waiter some coins (that’s all I had in the local currency) and they were almost reluctant to take it. I don’t know if it was because they didn’t expect it or the amount was too small to accept.

I’m usually a good tipper, but I don’t always carry cash with me and adding it to the bill makes it much easier.

At Heathrow airport the other day (I was practically asleep at the table due to the long layover) the waiter asked me if everything was ok with the food. I said yes, it was. Then he half-asked half-stated the amount on the invoice. Confused as to why he’d do that because I could see the amount on the invoice for myself, I said yes again.

So he put that amount through my card. After he walked off I realised that he was probably giving me the opportunity to add a tip. Unfortunately all of this was lost in translation (and I was practically asleep at the table) and he didn’t gain one from me. So he probably thought that I was just another broke or scroogy tourist passing through his airport.

It would be much easier if all point of sale machines had an extra line on the bill for the tip amount.

It’ll prevent us temporary nomads  from offending the local watiers. Don’t you think so?

Oh oh oh! I’ve just realised – perhaps the reason why restaurants don’t do that is because it adds to much overhead to their cashing up at the end of the day.

Do you think it could be that?


2 thoughts on “On Tipping In Other Countries”

  1. It’s the norm here in the U.S. There is almost always a tip line, or in the case of fast foods or Starbucks, a tip jar. Have to say, however, that the usual tip is around 15-20% depending on the service. At least that’s what we offer. In some higher end restaurants, they automatically add an 18% tip to the bill. I had a massage a few weeks ago (very nice one, too!) and they added that much. I could understand. A good masseuse is worth her/his weight in gold if you want to keep them.

    1. 20% is much higher than the norm here in SA. I usually tip about 20%, but that is a personal choice, if the service is really good, I may even go beyond 20%.

      One thing that I’m unsure about is tipping hairdressers. Some have tip jars and others don’t. I feel a bit weird tipping my hairdresser after we’ve had a personal conversation and told each other about our families and work – it feels like tipping a friend or acquaintance.

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