On our month-long trip to Europe last year, we made stops in a lot of different countries with a lot of different tipping customs. We started in England, went to Ireland, then German, Switzerland, Italy, Scotland, and then back to England again. The United States custom of 15% for good service and 20% for great service just simply doesn’t apply abroad, as many places don’t have the antiquated wait-staff pay system we have here.
We want to fairly compensate the staff but we also don’t want to double pay! So, in the hopes that we don’t make the same mistakes, I’ve done some research and here is what I found.
The general rule seems to be that many places will add on a service charge. In the absence of a service charge, you should tip 10% unless it’s a country that frowns on tipping (like Japan). If there is a service charge, that will cover tipping and you should not tip beyond it. Some places, like Germany and France, have a custom of leaving the change. Before you go on any trip, be sure to check the tipping customs of the places you visit just in case!
In general, a tip is already included in the menu prices and you can confirm this by looking for notes like “service included,” perhaps in the native language. If you don’t see “service included” and you are confident one isn’t, something in the neighborhood of 10% is more than generous. It’s also customary, in places like France and Germany, for you to leave your change as a tip as well.
In the UK and Ireland, tipping resembles tipping in the United States, with the bar set a little lower. 10% for good service, 15% for great service, with tipping in pubs optional. Also keep on the lookout for “service included,” as you’d expect in Europe, and tipping is not necessary when they include a service charge.
Tipping in Asia is all over the place, with 3% in China and zero in Japan (it’s considered insulting). In general, look to see if a service charge was included in your bill. If not, then 10% is a good amount. Don’t tip in Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam.