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Cultural Differences in Tipping

March 30, 2014
During my travels in Europe, one of the main cultural differences that I noticed was the
tipping system in restaurants, or lack thereof. This system was of particular interest to me
because it was something I had to deal with on a day to day basis. From what I understand,
tipping is not necessary in any of the countries we visited because the wait staff is higher
paid than our waiters in the US, and they instead choose to include a value-added tax and
“service charge" in many instances. Rick Steves recommends including a 10-15% tip in
occasions that the service charge is not included.
So the way I interpret it, you are not supposed to tip in restaurants unless the service is
absolutely extraordinary. Rick Steves article “Tipping Tips from the UK and Europe"
states “the salary is good and the tip is something exceptional" so it is really up to the guest
whether they think the server went above and beyond what they expect or not. In the
article “10 Tourist Mistakes When Visiting Italy" the author Sara Rosso only recommends
tipping for things such as an anniversary dinner, or in a situation where you pay with a 100
euro bill and the total is 98 euro (Rosso). The problem is waiters in touristy areas like
Rome have come to expect tips, due to tourists not knowing the customs. Rosso adds “It’s
a bad precedence to set for foreigners to tip in Italy for simple things like a coffee, taxi
rides, or dinner in a pizzeria." The best thing to do is stick to the exceptional service rule.
One misnomer I discovered is that the included “service charge" does not necessarily go to
the waiter. In an article on an Italian tourism site, they state “Some people think that the
service charge goes to the people who wait your table, unfortunately in the majority of
cases it goes straight to the owner." In my opinion I do not think this is right. I feel like
even though the wait staff may be better paid than it is in our country, from a tourist’s
perspective this is misleading because common sense would lead you believe that the
service charge replaces the tip. I realize owners have the right to do what they want, and if
the waiters do not have a problem with that then so be it. However, if I had my choice that

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