When it comes to international travel or experiencing different cultures, one aspect that often perplexes visitors is the customs and expectations surrounding tipping. While tipping may be deeply ingrained in some societies, it’s fascinating to discover there are countries where leaving a gratuity is not customary or expected. From Japan’s meticulous service standards to the egalitarian ethos of Nordic countries, the act of tipping can be seen as unusual or even offensive. Understanding these cultural differences is essential for travelers to navigate the complexities of tipping etiquette around the world.
Here’s a list of some of the countries where the tipping spectrum ranges from appreciation for exceptional service to considering it insulting or unnecessary. In these destinations, tipping practices vary significantly, reflecting the cultural nuances and expectations associated with gratuities.
In China, tipping is not an established practice. In fact, leaving a tip might even be seen as offensive or implying a lack of professionalism. Instead, Chinese culture emphasizes hospitality as an integral part of service, with the expectation that excellent service is included in the overall experience and cost.
The Chinese still aren’t in the habit of tipping, but gratuities are now acceptable.Maggie Tian, General Manager of China, Interpid Travel
“While tipping in China historically was considered rude, times are changing,” explained Maggie Tian, General Manager of China for Australian-based tour operator Interpid Travel. “With the growth of tourism and Western influences, tipping is gradually becoming more acceptable in certain situations. While still not expected, tipping is now welcomed in larger cities with a significant number of foreign residents and visitors.”
Visitors can choose to tip porters, tour guides, or bartenders a small amount for exceptional service, which locals will appreciate. Still, it is crucial to be mindful of cultural sensitivities and respect the historical perspective on equality. As China continues to evolve and embrace global influences, the balance between traditional norms and tipping customs may continue to shift.
2. French Polynesia
The paradise islands of French Polynesia, including Tahiti and Bora Bora, are known for their warm hospitality. However, tipping is not customary in this region. Service providers rely on fair wages and are committed to delivering exceptional service as part of their cultural ethos, making it unnecessary for visitors to leave gratuities. While it is acceptable to tip for exceptional service in certain situations, it’s important to note that the recipient may choose not to accept the tip.
Japan has a rich culture of exceptional service, often referred to as “omotenashi.” Tipping is not expected or practiced in Japan, as it may be perceived as offensive and rude. The emphasis in Japanese hospitality lies in providing impeccable service as a standard, ensuring visitors have an unforgettable experience without the need for additional gratuities.
If you give a concierge in Japan a tip, he will literally run after you to return your money.Jack Exon, President Ovation Vacation
In Japan, service is focused on delivering the essentials of a job with pride, and appreciation is typically expressed through compliments or bowing. However, there is one exception to this rule: ryokans, traditional small, family-run guesthouses with just a few rooms. In these establishments, travelers have the option to leave money as a tip for the nakai san, the kimono-wearing server responsible for preparing meals and setting up futons. However, it’s crucial to follow the proper etiquette when giving a tip in this context. Instead of handing over the money in person, it should be sealed in a beautifully decorated envelope, creating a respectful and thoughtful gesture. This adherence to proper protocol ensures that the tip is given in a culturally appropriate manner within the unique setting of a ryokan.
Switzerland is known for its meticulous attention to detail and high-quality service. Tipping is not required, as it is customary to include a 10% service charge in the bill. However, rounding up the bill or leaving a small amount as a token of appreciation is considered polite in certain circumstances. Higher tipping percentages are more common in big cities.
Belgium operates on a service-inclusive model, meaning that service charges are typically included in the bill. Therefore, tipping is not a widespread practice. However, rounding up the bill or leaving a small amount as a gesture of appreciation is always welcome and might be slightly expected in more touristy areas.
In Australia, tipping is not the norm. While it is appreciated and becoming more common in some situations, such as fine dining or exceptional service, it is not expected or ingrained in the local culture. One can typically find a 10% goods and service tax on every bill. Service providers in Australia receive fair wages, making tipping discretionary rather than obligatory.
In Brazil, service charges are commonly included in the bill, making tipping less common. However, leaving a small gratuity, especially for exceptional service, is appreciated. The amount is typically around 10% of the bill, but it can vary depending on the establishment and level of service received
Denmark, renowned for its egalitarian society and community generosity, may surprise many as a nation where tipping is not the norm.This can be attributed to two key factors. One, the country’s higher GDP per capita and robust welfare system ensure that service staff, taxi drivers, and frontline workers are not heavily reliant on tips for their livelihood. Second, service charges are typically included in restaurant and hotel bills.
However, while tipping may not be a tradition, it is still common in Denmark and the broader Scandinavian region to round up the bill as a token of appreciation. Moreover, like in much of Europe, exceptional service can be rewarded with either a monetary tip or the valuable loyalty of repeat visits, both of which hold great significance.