(Editor’s note: This content is sponsored by Travel Awaits.)
Good service, bad service — these days it hardly matters: if you dine out, you’re expected to tip. At least, that’s how things work in the U.S.
But the rules are not the same the world over. Here are six countries where you don’t have to tip unless you really want to — and sometimes not even then!
Between the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Mount Everest and the Terracotta Army, China is a land of wonders. If you’re not a fan of being hit up for tips, one of those wonders is an almost total aversion to gratuities.
In mainland China, you won’t be expected to pay anything extra out of pocket — not at restaurants, not at hotels, not in taxis. In fact, if you leave a couple extra yuan on the table in a Chinese restaurant, your waiter is more likely to chase you down and give your money back than he is to pocket it.
In some cases, tipping may actually cause offense. The person you’re trying to compliment may instead interpret your offer of money as a suggestion that she is not adequately appreciated by her employer. Worse, she may take your tip to mean that you view your relationship with her as “just business” rather than a genuine friendship.
In more touristy areas, or in hotels frequented by Westerners, Chinese may be more willing to accept tips. But, in general, it’s a good idea to pay your bill and nothing more. (Keep in mind: The rules may be quite different outside of mainland China — in Hong Kong, for example.)
There’s a funny story about a woman who tried to tip in Fiji. It may be apocryphal, but it tells you something about the people who inhabit this idyllic South Pacific island chain.
According to the story, a woman from California couldn’t believe that the hotel staff sincerely did not want to be tipped, so she kept leaving money in her room for the housekeeper. Confused, the housekeeper eventually used the cash to buy the woman a potted plant — hey, if she’s leaving all this money, she must be expecting a present in return!
Fijians are a famously communal bunch: share and share alike. As such, tipping individuals for going above and beyond is not their custom. However, some hotels have “Christmas funds” that are dispersed to staff around the holiday season. If you’re especially grateful for the service you’ve received, you should consider giving a tip in communal fashion, Fiji style!
There may be something rotten in the state of Denmark, as Hamlet said, but it’s not tipping etiquette. By Danish law, all service charges and gratuities must be included in the bill. That means you’re already paying for your server to make a decent hourly wage, and you’re under no obligation to tip any extra on top. Of course, if the service was exceptional, your waiter won’t turn down a little something. But you shouldn’t feel like an extra 10 percent is de rigueur.
4. New Zealand
You didn’t fly all this way to quibble about the bill, did you? I didn’t think so, and you won’t have to bother. Kiwis — the affectionate term applied to the people of New Zealand, and also their national bird — don’t expect you to tip. In fact, it may be better if you don’t.
While it may be tempting to spread the wealth — especially if your waiter has done a satisfactory job — the truth is locals don’t tip in ordinary circumstances, and they don’t want tipping to become the norm. When destinations become more popular with North American tourists who are accustomed to leaving an extra 15 percent, that can affect the way the economy works.
It’s nice to pay it forward, of course. On the other hand, sometimes it’s just better to respect the customs of the country you’re visiting.
Incidentally, and despite the fact that Kiwis and Aussies dislike being lumped in with one another, the rules of tipping are quite similar in Australia. Broadly, it should be reserved for exceptional service that goes far above and beyond.
Although attitudes toward tipping may have become somewhat more receptive in recent years, it remains out of the ordinary in Japan. Indeed, it sometimes borders on being socially unacceptable.
In a way this is a shame, because the Japanese are famous for their hospitality. Visitors consistently marvel at the friendliness and competence of waiters, bartenders, taxi drivers, and just about everyone else. Given the attentiveness of the hosts, it’s no wonder that western guests are sometimes inclined to leave a little extra something.
But Japanese hospitality comes with no strings attached. Not only are you not expected to tip, you may well find that your tip gets rejected. Japanese working in the service industry don’t rely on the generosity of tourists to make their living, and their dedication is not conditional upon reward.
You may, however, get better results by tipping interpreters and tour guides. (This is true for most of these destinations!)
6. South Korea
South Korea is a very modern nation in many ways. The bright lights of Seoul evoke LG, Samsung, pop music and democracy. But traditional values persist in some areas of life, and tipping is one of them.
Even more so than in China, tips in South Korea are liable to be misinterpreted. You risk being seen as condescending, as though by offering a tip you’re implying that the recipient can’t provide for himself and needs your charity. It’s best not to tip anywhere here, although you can usually get away with, say, telling a cab driver to keep the change for convenience’s sake.
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