Our 2 cents on tipping

Here in Australia, the average punter is only likely to tip if they’ve received particularly memorable service – a bartender who’s gone above and beyond to make the perfect Screwdriver or a waitress who really knew her truffles, for example.

But did you know there are some places where tipping is practically mandatory? Worse yet, there are some countries where the act of tipping is seen as demeaning, and you can actually offend someone by trying to slip them a fiver for a good job.

It’s a bit of a minefield for the uncertain traveller, which is why we’ve put together this quick guide to tipping around the world. It’s our two cents on tipping, to help you get through your next vacation while avoiding any awkward moments at the till.

USA – Tipping Status: You better believe it!

In the USA, you’ll find tipping is as common as apple pie and monster truck shows. You’ll be expected to tip just about everyone, from your taxi driver to your concierge and especially your wait staff (unless you’re eating at a fast food joint or a particularly classy restaurant).

Before you get all up in arms, however, you should know that restaurants in the US usually don’t include service in the bill, so it’s not like you’re paying any extra. Furthermore, many waiters and waitresses in the US are paid sub-minimum wage by their employers, with the amount they earn in tips expected to make up the difference.

The rule of thumb in the US is to tip 15 per cent of the bill if you’re dining at a restaurant with table service. Even if you receive poor service, you’ll be expected to tip at least 10 per cent. Bartenders should be tipped about $1 per drink. However if you’re opening up a tab or making a particularly large order, a tip of between 15 – 20 per cent is a good idea.

Europe – Tipping Status: It depends…

Tipping etiquette in Europe will obviously vary from country to country. Most European nations, like France, Germany, Italy, the UK and Spain, treat tipping similar to how we do it here in Australia. A service charge will be included in your bill, but feel free to add a little extra if you think someone has gone above and beyond to make your evening a pleasant one.

When in doubt, check the bill or ask your wait staff about the service charge. It’s also a good idea to check your guidebook or to do some research beforehand, as some European countries have specific rules and customs regarding tipping. While you’re unlikely to cause offence, it’s always best to avoid creating confusion.

Japan – Tipping Status: Don’t you dare!

Good service is generally considered standard in Japan, so it’s best to leave the small change in your pocket if you’re planning on taking a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. The people of Japan put great emphasis on social etiquette, and tipping will often be seen as rude at restaurants, bars and hotels or when riding in a cab.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. People working in the tourism industry are used to being offered tips and will usually accept your token of appreciation. If you do choose to tip in Japan, best practice is to place your money inside a sealed envelope prior to handing it over.

Can you think of any other tipping rules Australian tourists should be aware of?