Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002


Thanks to Boing Boing, I’ve now got a reasonably definitive list of faux pas, sorted by country. What is interesting is the differences between countries such as the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom; although we all essentially speak the same language there are some customs which are quite different.

Take tipping, for example. In Britain, it is customary to leave a small tip in restaurants, but this is usually no more than a few pounds and is usually discretionary. You put the tip in the tray that the bill arrives in, rather than giving it directly to the waiter. You generally don’t tip when you pay at the bar, or in fast food outlets, and many restaurants include a ‘service charge’ which acts as a tip and may well be discretionary. Furthermore, if you don’t tip, it isn’t always seen as offensive, since the person serving you will be receiving the national minimum wage – tips are just extra.

I’m writing about this because it reminds me of when I was in London last year – Hari and I met up with Chris Romp in a pub near Tate Modern and when he ordered a round of drinks he offered a tip to the barmaid. This isn’t done here; while it is polite to tip a waiter who comes to your table, to tip at the bar as unheard of. You may occasionally see people pay double for a drink and let the bar staff buy themselves a drink, but that’s not particularly common either.

This compares drastically to what I’ve heard happens in the US – you’re expected to tip around 15% of the bill and the person serving you will generally insist on being tipped. Brits are much more laid back about the whole thing, although this does vary as I imagine that you would be expected to tip in some classier places.

So… how do you tip where you come from?


  1. Same thing in Canada. They usually expect 15% of the bill and if you don’t give them, they get rather angry and/or insist for you to give them some tip. Not all waiters will do that though, some of them are civilized 🙂

  2. In Belgium you tip when you think the service was good, or you round up the final amount if you had a tab at the bar.
    Personally I tip between 10 and 25%, but that is because I have worked more than 10 years in bars myself.
    I service was really bad, I don’t feel bad to forget to tip, but will normally always tip.

  3. My experience of the UK is that 10% is pretty usual in an average to good restauraunt. As you say Neil, I wouldn’t tip in a bar or fast food place, though I have been known to buy drinks for bar staff, usually if I’m talking to them rather than service based. More than 10% would have to be really good service.

  4. Seattle: I usually tip 15 – 20% at a restaurant. If the service is truly bad, then the tip goes down. It is rare, but I have left no tip at all less than five times and rarely drop to below 10%. Bar tips: usually a dollar a pour.
    It’s also common to tip a hair stylist here. Since I’ve been shaving my head for nearly 10 years, I haven’t bothered to keep up with that trend. Tipping your barrista (espresso drink maker) is common in Seattle. I’ll do it (a 50 cents or so) in an independent shop or stand if I order a latte or mocha or some such. I won’t tip at a Starbuck’s (they pay well) nor will I tip if I just order a cup of coffee.

  5. I know in the UK, I just tend to round this up to the nearest whole number or – if like happened in the taxi cab yesterday – if the bill is exactly £6 (for example), they whatever loose change I pull out of my pocket.
    I know in Japan, it’s actually considered offensive to tip!

  6. In the Netherlands, I tend to tip 10-15% or to the nearest convenient note. This is certainly true of waiter service (same in the UK). At the bar, I’ll normally tip on a tab.
    I’ve picked these up from watching locals do the same, so I guess it’s appropriate – it’s certainly appreciated 🙂
    All this talk of tipping makes me thing of the starting bit of Reservoir Dogs …

  7. I thought that when you visited bars in America, as long as you tipped, you got your fifth or sixth round free (or something like that)? Have I been misled?
    I tip bar staff in the UK sometimes, if I’ve given them a really complex order and they got it right, or if the bar is stupidly busy and they’re still cheerful.

  8. Another Canadian here (as you know). In Canada it is customary to tip, when you are in a restaurant where you are being served. 15% is the customary amount, though if the service is crappy you can cut it back, or not tip at all. At bars you usually tip the bartender at the bar.
    You do not tip at fast food restaurants. Tip jars/cups have started popping up all over the place recently – coffee shops being the most prevelant (though not Tim Hortons).
    I have heard that for some people working in restaurants they get paid crappy wages, and rely on the tips as a top up to a reasonable wage. The owners purposely do this. Though we do also have a minimum wage in Ontario.
    Actually I just found out that the minimum wage for the general public is 7.45 CDN but for liquor servers (i.e. bartenders) it is 6.75 CDN. A buck less. Weird.
    Anyways this is getting way too long.

  9. I only tipped her a couple of pounds. 😛
    In the US, I was a waiter for a few years and I can say that 20% is the starting point for where you should think in terms of tipping. If the service was sub-standard, I go down from there. If it was exceptional, I’ll go as high as 30% at times. The reason for this is minimum wage doesn’t apply to service staff (tips-earning employees) the same way as others. I was making $3.09/hour as a bartender.
    I’ll also tip the valet, coat-check, and hair stylists, though not quite 20%.

  10. “I’ll go as high as 30% at times. The reason for this is minimum wage doesn’t apply to service staff (tips-earning employees) the same way as others. I was making $3.09/hour as a bartender.”
    Cultural difference alert: I would refuse to tip 30%. Whether in a bar or restaurant, the markup they put on your food and drink is unbelievable! For instance, a bottle of wine that’s £4 in the shops is £11 or more in a restaurant or bar, and that’s just not right.
    I certainly wouldn’t work for $3.09 an hour (roughly £1.80-£2 by my calcs) if I had the choice. I think that wage is disgraceful, but I understand some people don’t have the option of moving jobs. Makes me realise how good working conditions in the UK are – £5.35 minium wage per hour if you’re 22 or over – we even have a minimum wage for 16 year olds (about £3 an hour I think).

  11. Servers are tipped here in the US because, like Muppet said, their salary is below the minimum wage. There are some places that add the tip onto the bill, especially if there is a party of 8 or more. I typically tip 20% if the service was good. I’ve noticed recently some restaurants that simply have a serving line and no servers still have a tipping jar next to the cash register.

  12. I’m doing my hypothesis paper on tipping. I was wondering if you all can helf me? Being a server I always have though that lower income workers tip better than higher income workers. I think it is correct, because they know what it is liked to get tipped of know someone who depends on tips.
    Please tell me your thoughts. AS MANY AS YOU CAN!!
    I also want to know what contries do not tip?
    I’ve herd about Canada and The UK and where I’m from, but will you tell me more contries.
    Thanks for your help