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?