If you are like me, one of the things I always look up before I go to a new country is the rules of tipping or tipping etiquette. Being American, I come from a country where we tip for everything. If someone raises a hand to help you in any way, you are supposed to give them a few dollars for their help.
American tipping etiquette seems strange to non-Americans. In fact, I have been quizzed at length by a few Europeans and Chinese on the topic. The conversation usually goes something like this…
Friend – “What if the doorman at a hotel flags a taxi for you?”
Me – “You must tip.”
Friend – “Really? But he did nothing but raise his arm.”
Me – “Yes, really! Unlike in your country, service people in the US are paid very low wages. So low, that often a very large proportion of their earnings comes from tips, not salary. So essentially they work for tips.”
Friend – “What if I don’t want to tip them?”
Me – “Then maybe it’s better to walk down the street and get a taxi yourself so as to avoid embarrassment on both sides.”
Friend – “Wow, you guys are really serious about tipping!”
Conversely when my family came to China for a visit, I practically had to beg them not to tip. China is a country where tips are not the norm. And in fact, tipping can serve to accentuate the class difference between the person who is receiving help vs. the person who is giving it, resulting to the helper feeling as if they are losing esteem or respect.
The point is, remember you are always a guest in a country when you travel. Your home country rules of etiquette generally no longer apply. And tipping / or not tipping can be an embarrassing breach of etiquette if you don’t know what to do. This is why I was thrilled to find the infographic below on tipping etiquette around the world, from Mint personal finance. Just load this up on your phone and you will never be faced with that jetlagged moment in the airport or in a taxi wondering if you should tip or not.