You've just had a five-star meal in Tokyo, but how do you express your appreciation for the service you received? Well, you definitely don't leave a tip! There's no tipping culture in Japan – and leaving one may even be seen as an insult.
But if you're in the USA, or France... well, that's a different matter.
Tipping in an unfamiliar location can create a lot of hidden stress for both long and short-term visitors. So knowing the do's and don'ts, and having some practical tools to manage is useful. And, although it may seem a minor detail, tipping etiquette can often mirror a country's deeper cultural differences.
Here Alyssa Bantle, a cultural expert and professional business coach at Crown World Mobility, gives her advice.
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To tip or not to tip? It's a definite 'no'. It simply isn't part of the culture and can even cause offence. If you are delighted with the food or drink at a sushi bar or drinking establishment in Tokyo, consider buying a sake (a Japanese rice wine) or beer for the chef to show your appreciation.
"Having worked and lived in Japan for four years, I learned there are other great ways to show appreciation. The Japanese are eager to provide a great service – especially to foreigners. Saying 'arigatou gozaimasu (thank you very much) and paying a sincere compliment goes a long way in any service situation."
To tip or not to tip? It's a definite 'yes'. In US restaurants, waiters depend on tips since they are paid generally low wages. Service has to be pretty poor in order not to tip - 18-20 per cent is normal for good service. If you are somewhere popular with tourists, however, double-check your bill! There might be a gratuity already added on; this is also normal for larger parties.
Since tips are so critical to US waiters, do not be surprised to get warm greetings, friendly interactions and be checked on often: "Is everything ok?". These are things Americans value in customer service: friendliness and speed. Also, Americans tend to leave quite soon after the meal is done so waiters might bring you the bill as soon as you say you do not want anything else. This is due to the American focus on moving on to the next task in their busy schedules. (If you would like to sit longer just let the waiter know).
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Top tip or not to tip? Yes, tipping is norma - but the underlying reasons may be different and the amount is up to you.
India is a great example of tipping practices reflecting culture. Tipping tends to be less about a "thank you" for a completed service (as in the US) and more of an investment in an ongoing series of services. So in India you tip the bartender or maid as a 'thanks, please continue this level of service'. This is not a question of 'bribing' waiters to provide good service, it's about the value Indian culture places on relationship-building. So understanding this 'why' can certainly help you get great service when staying in a hotel but more importantly it can give you an insight into the importance of building up relationships over time in India.
To tip or not to tip? It's your choice. Tipping in England is seen as appreciation for good service, and 10 per cent is normally sufficient. However if a service charge is included in the final bill, tipping separately is not necessary. Tipping in a taxi is optional – but passengers often round up to the nearest whole number and ask for no change.
Typically Brits only tip when goods are brought to them or they want to express appreciation for great service. Famously obsessed with politeness, Brits don't like to complain or make a fuss – so not leaving a tip can send out a powerful message.
To tip or not to tip? A 10 per cent service charge is usually added to the bill in restaurants, hotels, and bars where drinks are delivered to the table. This may not go to the staff, so consider rounding up the bill to acknowledge good service. Tips are not expected but will be graciously accepted, a different cultural scenario than in nearby Japan.
To tip or not to tip? You may not have much choice - in Paris a 15 per cent service charge is always included in the price of food and drinks. It is also common to leave an extra 5-10 per cent at places you frequent, or to recognise good food and service. If you're seated by an usher at the theatre, tip €1 for each person in your group.
There are no rules about tipping in France, partly because the government - influenced by a history of support for workers - has taken care of it. By law since 2008 the service charge must be passed on to staff and be in addition to their salary. But there's another reason for less focus on tipping waiters: they are never the star of the show. In France the star is always the chef, and he or she won't be picking up the coins off the table. Sending a message to the chef that you enjoyed his or her cooking is a better way to show appreciation.
To tip or not to tip: It's up to you, but in Germany it is very common to round up the restaurant bill. For example if your lunch bill come to 18 Euros, you can round it up to 20 Euros. If you pay by credit card you can just tell the waiter '20 Euros' and they will do the transaction for that amount. If you are paying cash you can give 20 Euros and just say: 'Stimmt so' ('that's fine') when you hand over the money. Expect a professional 'Danke' as a reply.
Don't wait until after the waiter has gone and leave change on the table as you may do in England. It's seen as far more discreet and classy to tell the waiter how much to add to the bill.