Hey Big Tipper: Tipping Etiquette


Are you the kind of person who leaves a tip?

Have you ever been chased down for a tip on leaving a restaurant or told by an irate waiter your tip was insufficient? Here are some first hand acouunts on Tipping Etiquette from across the globe

Let’s face it; the tipping system in North America is downright fickle, and at times flawed. I resent being exploited and inveigled into making up the shortfall of a poor salary. I feel sorry for the porters, water boys, waiters, and service staff in general who are at the mercy of the public’s generosity. I would rather see wage’s raised and service charges included, instead of carrying the guilt of having been foolishly generous or a stinky miser.

While travelling in North America I spend my time calculating how much I need to give for tips, and believe me, I was never very good at mental arithmetic. Instead of ogling the luxuries the New York department stores have to offer, I’m busy glaring at the bullet head of the aggressive taxi driver, trying to calculate how much tip to give him at the journey’s end so as not to ignite his wrath. I’m nervous all the time when in the States, less so in Europe, they are more civilized about tipping. Although, in some parts of Europe, where they see heavy tourist traffic like Venice, they too are very hostile if you have been less than generous. I remember vividly, slinking away from a second-rate restaurant in Venice, after failing to leave a “tip for the table” as we were instructed by the gorilla-like Maître D, “Flea bitten Australians” he flung after us as we scurried into the night.

I’m more relaxed travelling to countries that don’t necessarily expect a tip. It is not customary in the Asia Pacific, although the practice is gaining acceptance. India, China, Korea, and Taiwan discourage gratuities; at one time it was against the law, like most things, in Singapore. In Japan it is considered an insult, I like Japan’s attitude! Australia and New Zealand are more relaxed, preferring to put the onus on the customer, most establishments now include a service charge, although I have never seen anyone actually turn down cash!

Bangkok has come to expect tips from foreigners, our own fault perhaps, and 10% service charge is now the norm, but I often wonder if it is distributed fairly to the staff. I actually don’t mind tipping in resorts such as Thailand and Bali, the service is so good and the resorts are so physically beautiful. The locals earn very little and rely on the generosity of returning guests; I always try to remember the little people behind the scenes, give a tip to a gardener at the end of your stay, and his smile will stay with you until you return!

If you want to avoid tipping all together, go for high-end all-inclusive. Silversea luxury cruise lines discourage tipping, in fact everything is included during your cruise, if you wish at your discretion to single out exemplary service you can leave a tip in an envelope on your departure.

So Round up and relax!


About Elitist

Name: Joy Christine Greedy

Occupation: Novelist and small town girl thrust into the life of an Asian Expat. 27 years later, I’m living in Singapore writing blogs to inspire those of you who yearn for the finer things in life.

Inspiration: Wine, chocolate, food glorious food, people watching, sunsets, nature, and children at play…Oh, and amongst other things… a good novel at bed time.

Whatever happened to the romance of travel? I am a romantic at heart; I dig my heels in and refuse to call countries by their new names. For me Mumbai will always be Bombay, Thailand…Siam, Myanmar…Burma, Yangon…Rangoon,  Ho Chi Min City…Saigon, Sri Lanka…Ceylon, Iran …Persia, Zimbabwe…Rhodesia…These names exude character! How could you have a musical called Miss Ho Chi Min City or Mollywood instead of Bollywood.

Who doesn’t enjoy a little luxury and time to indulge, even if for a short time! There is a human element to luxury, luxury as a state of mind. Let me help you find inspiration and motivate you to lose yourself in the magic of the moment.

  • Jon Toogood

    I’ve always found the same thing, tipping can be a real terrible way to end a great meal in some destinations, and depending on what friends and family you are there with as well, especially if some people leave first… Would be much happier if there was a standard 10% included on the bill instead of having to work out the math at my age!

  • Mcgreedy

    I agree with this particularly the North American model. For restaurants in NA to claim that tipping allows them to reduce staff costs and to sell F&B at reduced prices is absurd and prices are not less expensive.

  • Myisha

    Completely agree that the distraction of calculating a tip can leave you exhausted – especially when not familiar with the norm in a country!! If in North America it is the norm and expected -then include it in the bill as a service charge. If it’s not the norm and it’s not in the bill as service charge then I can use my discretion to tip based on quality of service (i’ll probably tip more in this case!!) Brilliant article – thanks!.

  • DJK

    The old question – ‘How much to tip?’
    I don’t agree with the North American way (‘tip is mandatory’ as waiters don’t get paid enough), but the 10% ‘Service Charge’ were you don’t know where the money is going is always a little suspicious.
    I do enjoy rewarding service with a tip, the kind that makes the staff satisfied that they have done a good job.
    Good blog and great website…

  • Singaporejoe

    Tipping in North America is the norm
    for one reason – it works. Service in a North American restaurant is
    consistently better than any of the other countries mentioned. Why? Because
    the waiter/waitress is invested in making your meal a pleasurable experience.
    The idea that raising the wage of the waiter and abolishing tipping is
    preferable ignores the fact that, for over a century, one cannot beat the
    service in an American restaurant.

    As for the tipping system being
    fickle, I am sorry but the very opposite is true. One can expect great service
    in a restaurant in New York, Miami, Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles. Its true
    in big cities and in small towns, its true in Italian restaurants and Chinese
    restaurants; its true in five star restaurants and local greasy

    If you want fickle, dine at 10
    different Australian restaurants in a row. Then you will see all manner of
    customer service.

  • James Steward

    I agree, America is the best country in the world!

  • Charles

    I have given a large tip as a social experiment to see what the reaction to it is when it was totally unexpected.

    I gave $50 to a bus driver in Singapore who provided a free hotel shuttle service as I thought he was extremely delightful in his manner, attitude, approach to his work.

    The result was such an outpouring of gratitude that I was a little overwhelmed by his response but I am sure that I really made his day and probably his week.

    I felt good doing it because I may have changed the way he looked at his job but he also changed me as he has made me look at the way I interact with service personnel.