As Travel Opens Up, a Reminder of Tipping Protocol

By Steve Dinnen

I just had a great meal in Albufeira, Portugal—grilled sea bream caught just this morning in the ocean, tasty white wine, and a salad with tomatoes that tasted like real tomatoes. Total bill, 30 euros. Total tip, 1 euro. The waiter thanked me for my 3% gratuity.

Odd as it may seem to Americans, tipping is not an integral part of the protocol at a restaurant. At least not in Portugal, which has seen a surge in American tourists who are discovering its great weather, great food and great wine. Good prices, too, and at a restaurant you don’t have to worry about a tip unless you want to reward a waiter for exceptional service.

Protocols vary a bit across Europe, but in general, travelers will find that tipping is not expected in France, Portugal, Spain, Germany or Switzerland. It’s more common to either skip it or just round up the tab, leaving 1 or 2 euros on the table for good service. And in some places they already take care of it— on your bill, look for “Servicio Incluido” or a version thereof—which means that it’s already built it into the bill. That’s especially common for larger parties (same as the States). Waiters in Europe tend to be paid better on an hourly basis than their American counterparts, and tips just aren’t part of their compensation. It’s common for them to see waiting as a career, as opposed to a steppingstone in the U.S.

Asians and Australians more or less frown on tips. And in Japan, it’s considered rude. Back in Europe, I once had a waiter in Barcelona practically throw a tip back at me. But by the same token, a very good waiter in Naples took time to remind me—twice—that a tip would be welcomed. He gave me great service, and I obliged.

Mexico and Canada also have tipping. Maybe 10%.

Bellmen and taxi drivers typically earn a small tip—a euro, maybe 2. You’ll be able to figure out the protocol as you travel around now that the world is reopening.

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