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  #1  
Old 05-11-2010, 12:39 AM
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Hints on tipping, restaurant etiquette, etc.

This thread is based on a suggestion in another thread from Zerbitini and the J-man. Some of these topics are controversial, and some of the "rules" are changing. Please add your advice or experiences. Label in which countries the advice holds.

Getting a table and paying the bill at a restaurant in Germany

Except in the fanciest restaurants or the fanciest hotels, the normal behavior is not to wait to be seated. Instead, take any available clean table that does not have a "reserviert" sign. If this seems like strange behavior, just remember how b-y learned to appreciate this practice--he kept saying to himself: "When entering a restaurant, take any open table and the Sudentenland, too."

When approached by a member of the restaurant staff, you will usually be greeted with "Guten Tag" or a greeting appropriate to the time of day. You are expected to respond verbally. (A smile is not sufficient.) It is always nice to know a few words of German to respond, but it is not necessary. A pleasant "hello" or "good day" will work quite well. The staff will most likely know you are an American (or whatever) from your dress, the way you walk, and especially from your shoes. Jonathan can pass himself off as a native, but it is basically hopeless for the rest of us.

At the end of the meal, ask for the check either by saying "die Rechnung bitte" or making a writing movement in the air. If you don't explicitly ask for the check, you may be sitting for a long time. If you are paying cash, expect to pay at the table as the server will probably have a special wallet for this purpose. If you saw a credit card sign on the door, you can just give the server your card. He or she may bring a portable terminal to the table.

Tipping in Germany

Two warnings. (a) I regularly over-tip and (b) my observation is the "rules are changing".
In the old days, a reasonable service charge was added to most restaurant bills, often in the 7-12% range. You would then pay the billed amount including service plus a small amount extra ("das Trinkgeld"), usually via rounding up to the nearest 1 or 5 or 10 DM, depending on the size of the bill.

Well, there are no more DM, and this practice hasn't converted well to the Euro. The more common tip is 10% of the bill, more in better places. Hand the tip directly to the server, the same person to whom you pay the bill. Do not leave the tip on the table. It is acceptable to put the tip on the credit card that you are using to pay the bill.

Tipping in Northern Italy

Ask for the check by say "Il conto, por favor". The tipping rules are basically the same as in Germany, except that many places in tourist areas (the Lakes, the fancier restaurants in Milan, Venice, etc.) seem to expect 15% from Americans.
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Old 05-11-2010, 01:22 AM
the J-Man the J-Man is offline
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Good thread - thanks for starting it.
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Old 05-11-2010, 05:35 AM
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It is very important to determine if 'service' is included in the price. Otherwise, you can wind up either tipping 30% if you are a tipper, or next to nothing if you thought service was included.
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Old 05-11-2010, 06:21 AM
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Fron my visits to Germany:
Many of the portable credit card terminals will only accept "chipped" credit cards. You should always cary enough cash to cover the bill even if you intend to pay by credit card.

If you pay by credit card, and you intend to pay the tip with the credit card, you need to negotiate the tip before they process the charge. There is usually no way to add a tip to the credit card slip after the charge is processed.

If all of the tables in the restaurant or beergarten are occupied you can ask the people already sitting at a table if it is OK for you to sit there. I have met some very interesting people this way.

If you see a stammtisch sign on or above the table, don't sit there unless you ask first. The table is reserved for regulars or a club. I have joined groups at these tables and had a great time.
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Old 05-11-2010, 06:53 AM
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Would someone post their recommendations on proper etiquette in France? We are going to spend some time in Normandy and Paris in July and I know the French are normally not as "American tourist friendly" as the Germans.
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Old 05-11-2010, 07:44 AM
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Originally Posted by mgthompson View Post
Fron my visits to Germany:
Many of the portable credit card terminals will only accept "chipped" credit cards. You should always cary enough cash to cover the bill even if you intend to pay by credit card.
Depending on your Bank you may be able to have one of these "chipped" credit cards. If you request it far enough in advance.

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Old 05-11-2010, 07:44 AM
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Would someone post their recommendations on proper etiquette in France? We are going to spend some time in Normandy and Paris in July and I know the French are normally not as "American tourist friendly" as the Germans.
Or Switzerland
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Old 05-11-2010, 08:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wardlowk View Post
Would someone post their recommendations on proper etiquette in France? We are going to spend some time in Normandy and Paris in July and I know the French are normally not as "American tourist friendly" as the Germans.
I think you will find that the French are very tourist friendly if you do a few simple things- speak some French- even if it is only Good Day (Bonjour), please (s'il vous plaît) and thank you (merci). Always say hello and goodbye when you enter and leave a shop, even if you don't buy anything. Saying "Bonjour, madame/monsieur" as you enter shows you are civilized (bien elevé) and you will be treated better. Remember you're in France- it will be different than home- no one will hover around your table at the restaurant asking "are you still working on that" (UGH!), and people don't do the phony perma-smile. That doesn't mean they aren't friendly. And yes, the bathrooms can be "interesting"!

For cafés, you can just take any open table. A server will come by and greet you with "Bonjour". It's expected and polite that you reply in kind. Then you will probably be asked "Avez-vous choisi?" (Have you chosen?- meaning "what would you like?") When your drinks are brought to the table, you will be expected to pay. The server can make change if you are paying with cash. If you present a credit card, they will probably go and get their hand scanner. For a tip, you can leave small change in the little dish that usually is placed on the table with your receipt. You can sit as long as you like.

For restaurants, reservations are always preferred if you know where you want to eat and when. It's sometimes tough to get a table at lunch in smaller places if you are not there around 12:30-1:00. Remember, no one is pushing people out for a second seating; lunch can be a two-hour affair.

Be sure to check the chalkboard menu for specials. There will usually be two or three "menu" choices- typically a cheaper two course offering (a starter and a main course) and a three course starter-main-dessert offering. These are usually a better value and often more interesting specials than what you would find if you order separately- "a la carte". If you want what is typically called a menu in the US- a list of all the food, ask for "le carte s'il vous plaît". Don't be afraid to order a pitcher "un pichet de vin" instead of a bottle of wine. It won't be grand cru stuff but if you are just looking for a glass with lunch, the local wines can be surprisingly agreeable!

For dinner, you can't go wrong with a reservation, but you can still try walking up to places. Tipping is as b-y states above- used to just be rounding up, but now more and more places seem to expect the 15% tip. In France, dinner can be as late as 9pm. Again, it's not a slam-bam in and out affair, time between courses will be paced to allow you to fully enjoy your meal. Coffe and tea come after the dessert, not with it so if you must have it together, you'll need to ask. To let the server know you are ready to leave and would like to settle up, you can say "Madame/Monsieur, l'addition, s'il vous plaît" (the bill, please). Say "bonsoir" (good evening) as you leave the restaurant, to the owner if present, to the room in general if not.
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  #9  
Old 05-11-2010, 09:35 AM
boothguy boothguy is offline
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Hey b-y: you ask for the check in a combination of Italian and Spanish? Bet that gets you some giggles. I think you're looking for Il conto per favore (pair fa-VOR-ay). And depending on the place, you may have to wave your arms and/or mime the check-signing signal more than once in order to get out of there. Italians tend to look at dinner out as the evening's entertainment: the WHOLE evening. And they're frequently surprised when Americans want to dine and dash.
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Old 05-11-2010, 09:48 AM
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Can I just snap my fingers for the check?
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Old 05-11-2010, 09:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wardlowk View Post
Would someone post their recommendations on proper etiquette in France? We are going to spend some time in Normandy and Paris in July and I know the French are normally not as "American tourist friendly" as the Germans.

Paris is somewhat like New York. We had quite the mix on the last trip. Some were friendly, others polite but cold and a few were down right rude. Debbie knows enough French to get around -- some Parisians refused to speak French to her, others were quite happy that she was talking to them in French.


If service charge was not included we tipped like we do in the UK. At least 10% but never more than 15%.


Here in Wales I've had tips refused. At a local pub, the barman asked if it was ok to put the tip into the RNLI charity box. Other times they've just laughed and told me there was no need to tip.

Last edited by Andrew*Debbie; 05-11-2010 at 12:44 PM.
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Old 05-11-2010, 10:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wardlowk View Post
Would someone post their recommendations on proper etiquette in France? We are going to spend some time in Normandy and Paris in July and I know the French are normally not as "American tourist friendly" as the Germans.
Normandy gets plenty of English speaking tourist, particularly towns related to D-Day with WWW II monuments. We visited Normandy in second week of June '07; you could hear more English than French on the street due to D-Day anniversary celebrations.
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Old 05-11-2010, 10:21 AM
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Can I just snap my fingers for the check?
No. (Unless you are in an SS uniform.)
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Old 05-12-2010, 04:32 PM
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Your tipping in Italy is all wrong

Don't know how you can say to tip 15% in Italy. I am married to a native Italian and have been going to Italy since 1993. Maybe the normal tourist traps like Venice etc will try to get you to tip them extra, but just look at the tables the Italians are at and see what they leave at the table. I can tell you it is next to nothing and certainly not 15%. Look at your bill and places have a coperto for bread of 2 euro pp or so. Some also add a service charge. Have you ever noticed that if you sit down it is double what you would pay normally for a cafe or sandwich if you stand at the bar. Anyway if you are smart don't leave 15% unless you just want to seem like a rich American and maybe you are one. Again-they don't expect a tip, but certainly if the server has gone out of the way some money can be given, but once again 15% isn't normal and way too much!
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Old 05-12-2010, 05:11 PM
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I am literally sitting next to an Italian graduate student, so I asked her . In
a good restaurant in a major city the norm is now 10% for Italians. I added a bit more as I admittedly over-tip for good service
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Old 05-13-2010, 12:05 AM
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More on restaurant prices and tipping in Italy...

To continue the story...we picked up a Professor of Management from the University of Rome 1 at SFO and hosted a dinner for him tonight. This thread became one of the topics of conversation.

First, he said that restaurant prices have gone up considerably in all the larger cities in Italy over the past few years. Expect to pay EUR 40 to 50 per person (before tip) for a good meal in a good place. Luxury establishments can be much more. Credit cards are more widely accepted in all cities than used to be the case, but one should leave the tip in cash. Paying the bill and giving a tip are considered two separate transactions. The high prices have hit all large-city establishments; he cited the example of pizza and drinks for two regularly running to over EUR 30 in Rome.

Next, he supported the 10% level for the "standard" tip for good service. He said it is generally less in small towns and in the countryside. He also said it can be much less in stand-up establishments or places with limited service.

When I made the comment that prices in Italy now seem like those in the U.S., he said "No, Italy is higher, with the possible exception of NYC."
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Old 05-13-2010, 05:22 AM
zerbitini zerbitini is offline
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I wish I had asked this question before our trip... this is helpful information!

We tried to watch what everyone else was doing - but we tend to eat dinner early (7 PM) and everyone else tended to linger longer at their tables after dinner, so this was only marginally helpful.

In Germany, after the meal, the server would come to the table, provide the bill and people would IMMEDIATELY settle up. At the restaurants where we ate in Italy (smaller towns) no bill was presented and we quickly learned that we had to go to the desk/cash register to pay - otherwise we would sit at the table a LONG time. We only had one dinner in Geneva, and the server left our bill on the table, and came back for payment as they do in the US.

We only ran in to one situation where the restaurant staff was unfriendly, and that was our first night in Munich at the Hofbrauhaus. We didn't realize that we were supposed to seat ourselves, and when we asked a couple of different waiters what we should do, they would just stare at us and walk away (maybe it was my garbled German?). We sat ourselves in a section with a different waitress, and she WAS extremely helpful and friendly.

In hindsight, we would have also taken nicer clothes for dinner. It seemed that most Europeans tended to dress up more than what we're used to.
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Old 05-13-2010, 06:05 AM
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A few points based on my own experience:

1) In Paris I've noticed that many restaurants we went to had a note in the menu that 15% service charge is included in the bill. I've rounded the bill up (per suggestion in Rick Steves "Paris 2010" guide) for an "okay" service and generally left about 7 - 10% extra for good service. I think it also largely depends on the bill amount, as for a bill of E150, E10 tip is fine IMHO
2) I can't speak for all of Norther Italy, but in small towns of Tuscany (Lucca and thereabouts) less than 10% was very much appreciated. In fact, we've visited this one restaurant in Lucca a few times and left a tip of roughly 10% or so on the bill of about E120. The server came back and tried to return some of the tip, as he considered it to be too much.
3) It certainly helps to speak some french in Paris, but bad french attempts are worse than no french at all IMHO. Many places I've visited had people that spoke some English or understood enough to provide service... Most of them do want to sell their food, services, etc. to you...
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Old 05-13-2010, 06:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by b-y View Post
To continue the story...we picked up a Professor of Management from the University of Rome 1 at SFO and hosted a dinner for him tonight. This thread became one of the topics of conversation.

First, he said that restaurant prices have gone up considerably in all the larger cities in Italy over the past few years. Expect to pay EUR 40 to 50 per person (before tip) for a good meal in a good place. Luxury establishments can be much more. Credit cards are more widely accepted in all cities than used to be the case, but one should leave the tip in cash. Paying the bill and giving a tip are considered two separate transactions. The high prices have hit all large-city establishments; he cited the example of pizza and drinks for two regularly running to over EUR 30 in Rome.

Next, he supported the 10% level for the "standard" tip for good service. He said it is generally less in small towns and in the countryside. He also said it can be much less in stand-up establishments or places with limited service.

When I made the comment that prices in Italy now seem like those in the U.S., he said "No, Italy is higher, with the possible exception of NYC."
First I don't want you to believe I am being argumentative, as the information I receive from the forum is normally excellent. Rome according to Mercer is the 18th most expensive city in the World. Finding prices expensive compared to other places in Italy would be expected and the professor I am sure is stating the facts as far as cost. I was in Rome 2 years ago and it isn't cheap. The real problem was when the euro came into being. An expresso was 700 lira or 40 cents in US, now it is about 1 euro for $1.40(not today with euro at 1.25). Ouch! We try to eat at local places and not the tourist places. Sometimes the owner of the restaurant is serving us and you don't tip them as it isn't the custom. I do leave tips many times, but mostly coins as my wife is always telling me it is too much. Hell in the US I leave 20%, but that is because I know that the bulk of the salary is based on tips. In Italy that isn't the case. I am sure your professor knows that the waiters and waitresses are paid well and most don't expect any tip and are usually very happy to receive one. Most people doing EU delievery of course go to the tourist spots(the big 3, Venice, Florence & Rome) since time is short. They tried to rip me off in Venice and ask your professor about the Asian couple that was charged something like 700 euro in Rome last year for a normal dinner! ONE HINT: If you think you are getting ripped off tell the owner that you are going to call the Carabinieri(police-so to speak), and watch how they will change their tune! I am fortunate in that my wife is Italian (lived in Genoa most of her life) and I of course have been less of a target to get ripped off. It has happened to us though, so no one is immune. Of course it happens here in the USA as well. Anyway back to the subject at hand-again I am talking from my experience-at least 35 times in Italy and normally 1 month at a time. I have been all around most of Italy except the "heel". I love the country so much we plan on moving there in the near future. Will I tip-yes if the service is good, but it won't normally be anywhere near 20% unless the server really was nice and efficient and might I add that my wife doesn't see the amount! Again thanks for the informative back and forth. Have a great day!
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Old 05-13-2010, 06:39 AM
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You hit the nail on the head. All menus I have seen state that tax and service is included. It is typical to round up to the nearest Euro - maybe a little more if the service is good. My family lives in the Germany - France area of Europe, but I haven't seen anything different in the core EU countries I have visited.

Its not like there was a vote in the EU to suddenly increase the tip people give to waiters. You really do stand out as a rich American throwing money around when you over tip, and that isn't a good thing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chuckster View Post
Don't know how you can say to tip 15% in Italy. I am married to a native Italian and have been going to Italy since 1993. Maybe the normal tourist traps like Venice etc will try to get you to tip them extra, but just look at the tables the Italians are at and see what they leave at the table. I can tell you it is next to nothing and certainly not 15%. Look at your bill and places have a coperto for bread of 2 euro pp or so. Some also add a service charge. Have you ever noticed that if you sit down it is double what you would pay normally for a cafe or sandwich if you stand at the bar. Anyway if you are smart don't leave 15% unless you just want to seem like a rich American and maybe you are one. Again-they don't expect a tip, but certainly if the server has gone out of the way some money can be given, but once again 15% isn't normal and way too much!
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Old 05-14-2010, 07:55 PM
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I think it is important to remember that at least in Germany (probably EU too) that the wait staff make a better wage than the US wait staff making less than minimum wage. In the US, wait staff depend on the tips to make up their wage.
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Old 05-17-2010, 02:04 PM
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Agree - at least that's what I heard

We did not tip for service in our ED trip back in 2008. I heard that's acceptable practice in Europe. Sometimes, the service charge was included in the bill (In Venice, 15%) and I paid.
At Rome, to catch an evening tour, we took a van provided by the hotel we stay to Rome downtown. Funny thing is that I saw a note in the van written in English roughly as: People think we don't love tips. We Italian drivers love tips just like you Americans (or sort of). Perhaps things are getting changed.

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Originally Posted by chuckster View Post
First I don't want you to believe I am being argumentative, as the information I receive from the forum is normally excellent. Rome according to Mercer is the 18th most expensive city in the World. Finding prices expensive compared to other places in Italy would be expected and the professor I am sure is stating the facts as far as cost. I was in Rome 2 years ago and it isn't cheap. The real problem was when the euro came into being. An expresso was 700 lira or 40 cents in US, now it is about 1 euro for $1.40(not today with euro at 1.25). Ouch! We try to eat at local places and not the tourist places. Sometimes the owner of the restaurant is serving us and you don't tip them as it isn't the custom. I do leave tips many times, but mostly coins as my wife is always telling me it is too much. Hell in the US I leave 20%, but that is because I know that the bulk of the salary is based on tips. In Italy that isn't the case. I am sure your professor knows that the waiters and waitresses are paid well and most don't expect any tip and are usually very happy to receive one. Most people doing EU delievery of course go to the tourist spots(the big 3, Venice, Florence & Rome) since time is short. They tried to rip me off in Venice and ask your professor about the Asian couple that was charged something like 700 euro in Rome last year for a normal dinner! ONE HINT: If you think you are getting ripped off tell the owner that you are going to call the Carabinieri(police-so to speak), and watch how they will change their tune! I am fortunate in that my wife is Italian (lived in Genoa most of her life) and I of course have been less of a target to get ripped off. It has happened to us though, so no one is immune. Of course it happens here in the USA as well. Anyway back to the subject at hand-again I am talking from my experience-at least 35 times in Italy and normally 1 month at a time. I have been all around most of Italy except the "heel". I love the country so much we plan on moving there in the near future. Will I tip-yes if the service is good, but it won't normally be anywhere near 20% unless the server really was nice and efficient and might I add that my wife doesn't see the amount! Again thanks for the informative back and forth. Have a great day!
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  #23  
Old 05-18-2010, 07:36 AM
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john lance john lance is offline
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It's amazing to read what some of you guys are leaving as tips in Europe! Please bear in mind that unlike in the USA, the customers of a restaurant do not have to subsidise the wages of the staff. Their employers pay them (as they must by law) excellent salaries, they receive 5 or 6 weeks annual fully-paid vacation and in many countries a Christmas bonus equal to one month's wages and in other countries yet another month's bonus on top. In addition to all that, if they are pregnant they receive a year or two (depending on the country) of fully-paid leave with a guarantee of a return to their job afterwards. Then of course, as with everyone within or without work, as much healthcare as is needed and unemployment benefits equal to 80% of their take-home salary. No, tipping in Europe is not the Big Event it is in the USA, it's not something people think about or discuss and usually it's just rounding up to the nearest Euro, leaving loose change on the plate or, in the case of classy restaurants, up to 10% of the bill. In an English pub for example, maybe only 1 in fifty people give a tip to the bar staff (the rest just hold their hand out for the change, even if it is one penny!), although in a quiet establishment if you're sitting at the bar it's not unusual to buy the barman or barmaid a drink, which they will usually accept and enjoy whilst talking with you. To tip more is just throwing your money away. Having said that, a 20% tip is ok on a small bill up to, say, 17 euros but 20% on any larger bill is not something Europeans do, nor need to do given what I previosly wrote.

Outside of restaurants, the only tips expected or given in Europe are to taxi drivers (10%-15%), hairdressers (10%-15%), and the usual set of people at hotels. Off the top of my head, that's about it, thankfully.
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Old 05-18-2010, 07:48 AM
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How about the attendants at the rest stop restrooms? The money we give, is it a tip or fee? Any rule on that?
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Old 05-18-2010, 08:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john lance View Post
It's amazing to read what some of you guys are leaving as tips in Europe! Please bear in mind that unlike in the USA, the customers of a restaurant do not have to subsidise the wages of the staff. Their employers pay them (as they must by law) excellent salaries, they receive 5 or 6 weeks annual fully-paid vacation and in many countries a Christmas bonus equal to one month's wages and in other countries yet another month's bonus on top. In addition to all that, if they are pregnant they receive a year or two (depending on the country) of fully-paid leave with a guarantee of a return to their job afterwards. Then of course, as with everyone within or without work, as much healthcare as is needed and unemployment benefits equal to 80% of their take-home salary. No, tipping in Europe is not the Big Event it is in the USA, it's not something people think about or discuss and usually it's just rounding up to the nearest Euro, leaving loose change on the plate or, in the case of classy restaurants, up to 10% of the bill. In an English pub for example, maybe only 1 in fifty people give a tip to the bar staff (the rest just hold their hand out for the change, even if it is one penny!), although in a quiet establishment if you're sitting at the bar it's not unusual to buy the barman or barmaid a drink, which they will usually accept and enjoy whilst talking with you. To tip more is just throwing your money away. Having said that, a 20% tip is ok on a small bill up to, say, 17 euros but 20% on any larger bill is not something Europeans do, nor need to do given what I previosly wrote.

Outside of restaurants, the only tips expected or given in Europe are to taxi drivers (10%-15%), hairdressers (10%-15%), and the usual set of people at hotels. Off the top of my head, that's about it, thankfully.
+1 - I too was amazed at some of the amounts people have said they tip. I typically round up a restaurant or café bill to an even number (if the bill is 16,40 EUR I probably round to 18,- for example - same with a Taxifahrer by the way). Most servers are quite happy and some are even surprised to receive a tip and very appreciative.
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