International Tipping Etiquette


The bright yellow cab is waiting for me outside and right on time. It’s 5:30 AM on the dot. Part of my Monday morning ritual to head off to the airport to catch a plane to wherever I’m going. We cruise up the Kennedy and I get dropped off at Terminal 1 within a quick 20 minutes. The meter hits $34.00 and I give him $40. Keep the change. And I stroll into the terminal, through security, and straight to Starbucks. Grande Caramel Macchiato, please. Oh a tip jar… here’s a buck.

… later in the day…

I roll into the hotel drop-off and the valet is eagerly waiting to take my keys. He hands me a stub and I give him a couple bucks. And while this exchange is going on, behind my back I notice the bell hop already has his filthy hands all over my bag and sitting on the curb for me waiting. Thanks… I couldn’t handle that myself. I’ll take that inside myself, but here’s a dollar for your service. I get to my room, unpack, iron my shirts, and tidy up before dinner. We hit up a sushi joint down the road and end up splitting the bill evenly. My part comes to $40.00 and I scribble in another $8.00 for the tip. And of course we stop by the hotel bar for a night cap. My 9 dollar gin and tonic definitely deserves a 2 dollar tip. I’ll charge it to the room.

Throughout one single day, I shelled out 20 bucks on tips. And that’s not unusual. In fact, according to one study, the US has the highest prevalence of service professions that require tips (i.e. 31 service professions were counted for the U.S., 26 in Canada, 23 in Germany and the U.K., 13 in Australia, 9 in Norway, 4 in Japan, 3 in New Zealand, and 0 in Iceland to name a few).

As a side note, Freakonomics just had an interesting podcast on tipping which some of this info is referenced. Check it out here.

So what that comes down to is if I keep up my tipping habits while we travel, I’m going to be out a lot of extra cash that I could keep lining my pockets instead. I learned this a few years ago when I tried to leave 20% for a server after a great meal in Thailand. She took a look at that cash and said ‘Too much, too much’. So I split the amount in half and she begrudgingly took it. Of course, most people would have taken the cash with a smile on their face knowing full well that this American schmuck doesn’t know any better.

But that won’t happen again, because now I have references.

For the Detailed Reference

I’ve downloaded an iPhone app called GlobeTipping. This specific application seems to be the best of the bunch as I was left unimpressed after trying others (i.e. Global Tipping and Tipping Abroad). GlobeTipping, however, has a long list of countries with information, etiquette for restaurants, hotels, and taxis, as well as a basic tip calculator. And most importantly of all, it works offline just fine.

For the Quick Reference

Global Tipping Etiquette


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