Its the Americans fault again. Not so long ago, in some countries, you’d be chased after and given your money back if you’d leave a tip. They just weren’t aware of the custom and wouldn’t understand why you’d pay more than the bill. But the American tipping habits have spoiled waiters from Iceland to Japan. Now every cafe and bar has these silly cups at the counter, informing you that “Tipping is not a place in China” or inviting you to help the barmaid save for her wedding dress.
I know its different and hard to grasp, but in Europe, tipping is optional. Waiters, taxi drivers, bartenders all over Europe are paid a salary. If you got an exceptionally good service, you may reward it with a little extra. Nobody in Europe is working just for the tips. And if they tell you otherwise, tell them to sue the boss. Wish someone would have told me back in the days, when I was foolish enough to work for tips.
So if you do want to leave a tip, how much is normal? I can’t tell you, since there are no common rules – its Europe we’re talking about. I can, however, tell you what I do, and get away with. In many countries in Europe, service is included in the bill. That means that people have actually already tipped themselves, and I don’t have to figure out how much to tip. When I have something to go, I don’t tip – after all, I didn’t get any service, did I? Same goes for self-service locations, like cafeterias and such. Who am I supposed to tip for service – myself? If I just had one drink, I rarely tip. The prices are high enough, and what am I going to tip – 10 cents? Although some Americans tip as much as 50 cents on a cup of coffee, which is way too much in any European country. In restaurants and bars, I usually round the bill up or leave a couple of Euros, but it amounts to just a couple percent and nothing like the American tips of 15-20%.
Overall, there are big differences in tipping habits between European countries. Although I have discovered one commonality. The richest people I know don’t tip all all. Gives something to think about.