When to tip and how much

Australians have traditionally avoided tipping and like to dramatize its supposed complications. Dwelling on the misguided quirks of alien behavior is a staple of the traveler’s repertoire. But is tipping confusing? You only need a few rules of thumb, plus additional US guidelines, to fix the problem.

First, an observation. The idea that tipping isn’t Australian, boring or illogical is irrelevant; as a respectful traveler, you wouldn’t extend this argument to other cultural habits. Accept it with good grace. Withholding tips out of feigned ignorance of local customs is bad form. Budget accordingly, remember the adage when-in-Rome, and you’ll enjoy a more relaxed vacation.

The rules of thumb are uncomplicated and apply in most places, especially on the international tourist circuit, where Americans have fostered a supranational tipping culture that trumps local custom, especially at top hotels. and restaurants. Only Japan is safe: don’t even think about leaving a tip there.

If a service charge has been added to your restaurant bill (as in most European and Latin American countries), no tip is required. No service charge, tip 10-15% as a courtesy, not essential. Otherwise, or for small orders in bars and cafes, leave a few coins; the Germans call it Trinkgeld or silver drink. If paying electronically, round up the total.

Do the same when paying for taxi rides. Tip porters a dollar or two. Tip personal guides the equivalent of A$20, tour guides $5-15 depending on length and quality of visit. Hotel housekeeping staff do not expect tips, except in five-star hotels.

That’s it. Simple. OK, the rules vary. In Turkey, for example, it is customary to tip 10% in restaurants despite a service charge, while Austrians and Portuguese are more likely to leave Trinkgeld than a full tip. But as a general rule, the above rules apply in the world of international tourism.

America isn’t all that different, but in restaurants a tip of 20% of the bill before taxes has become the norm, rising to 25% in fancy establishments. Also consider tipping an obligation amounting to a service charge rather than a courtesy or reward. A confrontation could ensue if you don’t tip.

The other difference in America is the range of workers who expect tips. Taxi drivers tip 10-15% and housekeeping US$5 per day. Scatter little notes about bartenders, coach drivers, valets, and anyone who cleans your food at a buffet restaurant. You don’t need to tip servers at a fast food restaurant, food truck, bakery, or takeout, where the tip jar is discretionary.

If in doubt, ask. Many Americans are also concerned about how much and when to tip, and a series of recent articles in the US media have addressed tip fatigue after the COVID-19 pandemic saw attentive customers tipping too much. tips to service workers to help them through difficult times. But it should remind us that while we enjoy our vacation, others work hard and often for minimal pay to make it enjoyable. Be kind, and the world will be kind in return.

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