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I will be travelling in western Europe, and I would like to dine at the restaurants there. Am I expected to tip the waiter/ waitress? How can I tip them when I am paying the bills by credit card? Do I have to prepare some coins just for that purpose?

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In Japan it is considered a horrible insult to tip the server. This feels odd, especially since their service industry is so amazing. If you are on a military base, waiters / barbers / etc. don't seem to take offense because they know it's our custom. Off base, we're expected to follow their customs. –  ZnArK Jun 14 '12 at 14:14
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You can't lump "Europe" together under one blanket, not even Western Europe. Countries will differ a lot and restaurants will differ a lot. In Norway you can typically enter the amount you want to pay when you pay by bank card, which gives you the opportunity to pay more and give a tip. In Italy you'll often find that there's a cover charge ("coperto"), so no tip is needed. In Malta you'd usually leave coins even if you paid by card. At a high end dining place it's more customary to leave a tip than a lunch café. Just illustrating the differences. –  Szabolcs Jun 14 '12 at 15:50
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Is it me, or many answers suggesting to tip are written by waiters themselves? –  Oleg V. Volkov Jun 14 '12 at 16:03
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@Znark: No, it's not a "horrible insult" in Japan. Tipping is simply not done or understood, so you'll probably get the waitress sprinting after you in the street to return the change they think you forgot on the table. –  jpatokal Jun 15 '12 at 6:38
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@Szabolcs: coperto is not a service. It's a payment for the table being ready for you. You are still expected to give a tip, unless there is "Servizio" also on a bill (usually 10%) –  Michal B. Jun 15 '12 at 9:54

17 Answers 17

up vote 32 down vote accepted
+500

There's a bit of per-country variation, but the rule of thumb across Western Europe is that service charges are already included in the bill (sometimes as a separate line item, sometimes not) and it's not necessary to tip in addition to this.

If you must, and you usually wouldn't unless the service is really good, rounding up a euro or two to the nearest suitable number is sufficient. This is usually done only with cash, since the kind of places that accept credit cards tend to also be the kind of places with hefty service charges already in the bill, but you can usually tip by credit card as well the same way you would in the US: just write in the amount after tip and sign.

Wikipedia has a fairly handy per-country breakdown.

Edit: Sigh. The OP asked about tipping in "Western Europe", I've summarized the rule for "Western Europe", which is that tipping is generally not necessary. Of course there are exceptions and not every restaurant and every country is exactly the same, hence the link to Wikipedia, but the key point is that, unlike the US, you never have to leave 15% in addition to the bill.

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"the kind of places that accept credit cards" - to be honest, it would need to be a REALLY small place to not accept credit cards. Just about any business with it's own address is likely to accept cards, if we're only thinking of western Europe. –  Ben Parsons Jun 14 '12 at 8:04
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I strongly disagree that it's the rule of thumb that service charges are included in the bill. I live in England, and have been to France, Spain, Netherlands, Germany and Italy recently, and very rarely see a service charge included. –  Matt Jun 14 '12 at 12:09
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@Matt: In all those countries, there is no explicit "service charge" included since it's included in each and every item on the menu. That's why water is so often not free, unlike the US: there's still service. –  MSalters Jun 14 '12 at 12:27
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Why is this answer at +20 points? IMHO, almost everything is wrong. There are great variations in tipping culture, not only between different European countries, but also depending on e.g. the cultural setting (low/high class establishment) or level of service (counter or table service). Tipping with cash or adding to a credit/debit card bill is probably also different between countries, since tax regulations or card service charges may impact how much the waiter actually gets from the tip. –  Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 14 '12 at 15:49
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"Why is this answer at +20 points? IMHO, almost everything is wrong." Yep, my conclusion is that I will come to this site for answers. There's nothing wrong with not being an expert, but voting without knowing whether an answer is correct is harmful. –  Phira Jun 14 '12 at 17:53

Scandinavia (where I'm from): matches the UK as described by Rory here. If the service is really good, you can tip upwards of 5-10% if you want. But please note that most entry-level jobs like cashiers, waiters, cabdriver etc. pays a lot better in Scandinavia than in the US (or frankly, most other countries), so you're not stealing anyone's lunch by not leaving a tip.

If the waiter gives you the credit card reader without an option for tipping, you are OK just paying your tab and leave. Same with bars or cabs.

Anyways, welcome to Europe. We love visiting Americans, gives us an opportunity to practice that second language :)

EDIT: Bad phrasing on my part. See comments below.

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Also of note is that in Scandinavia it's common for tips to be equally distributed among all members of the staff, so individual waiters have little incentive to show outstanding service for a good tip. –  mindcorrosive Jun 14 '12 at 9:06
    
In Norway, when paying at a restaurant or for pizza deliveries etc with a card, you often enter the amount yourself, so you may enter a higher amount than the required one if you want to add tip. Never had a job like that though, so don't know how it works on the back end with who gets what or whatever :) –  Svish Jun 14 '12 at 14:39
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I wonder why you say Scandinavia matches the UK as described by Rory, as it doesn't, really. He said you'd be expected to tip in the UK. In Scandinavia, you can tip if you want (typically if you're really happy with the service), but it's certainly not expected of you, no matter how good the service is. –  Jonik Jun 14 '12 at 18:45

In the UK you would definitely be expected to tip in a restaurant if the service is good, and the tip should be around 10% of the cost of your meal. Most reasonable sized places give you the option on the credit card reader, but cash also works.

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UK: A lot of restaurant now add 15% service charge to the bill. It will say on the menu somewhere. If it is added, don't tip! –  Wolf5370 Jun 14 '12 at 9:19
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either that, or they clearly write "service not included" on the bill, so there's rarely any confusion –  UncleZeiv Jun 14 '12 at 10:16
    
@UncleZeiv Yes and if its not included, its entirely at your discretion as to whether you leave a tip or not. –  Simon May 23 '13 at 13:07
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Disagree - I would generally say that tipping in the UK varies by person a lot. Some people always tip 10%, some never tip. The only thing I'd avoid is tipping under 5% (unless rounding up when paying by cash), as that will be seen as an insult. –  xorsyst Mar 26 at 16:32
    
Even if service charge is included on the bill, it's still optional. You can cross it out if you want to. However, doing so would send a strong message that you were not happy with the service. –  starsplusplus Mar 26 at 20:16

In Europe there aren't really any rules that govern tipping as a whole.

Simply reading the various answers might already have given you a good indication; the rules differ per country, and within the countries they often differ per establishment as well.

As the rules differ so widely, it may be more useful to use some common sense, and try to figure it out as you go:

  1. If it is explicitly stated that service charges are included, you're probably not expected to tip.
  2. Likewise, if it is explicitly stated that service charges are NOT included, that probably means a tip is expected.
  3. Tipping is often considered more of a kindness than a necessity; use it to show your appreciation.
  4. The Wikipedia article recommended by jpatocal has fairly decent (as far as I can judge) guidelines for most countries.

However, keep in mind that tipping is rarely such a big deal as in the US, and that Europeans themselves are often as confused about whether or not, and how much to tip!


Edit: For the amount, I've often heard 10% of the bill as a guideline, but in practice I've far more often seen people just round up the bill. However, I can imagine this also changes a lot from country to country; read the other answers or see the Wikipedia article if you want a country-specific indication.

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This should be the accepted answer :) –  starsplusplus Mar 26 at 20:17

In whole Germany (quite similiar in Austria and Suisse / Switzerland) it's quite usual to tip. As waiters are payed (salary or by hour) the tip doesn't have to be high, typically below 2 or 1.50 Euro (example: 16.80 Euro --> 18) - by every person (!). Of course it depends on the price category...

Only if you're really disappointed you would let give back the exact change.

More info for Europe here: http://culinarytravel.about.com/od/planningculinarytravel/a/Tipping_Guide_Worldwide.htm

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I am from Germany, and I second this. Not giving at least a small tip communicates - in my opinion - that service was not OK. In general one rounds a little, and of course it depends on price category. If you have a bill of 80 EUR, and if the service was OK, then I would consider a tip of 2 EUR to be too low. –  feklee Feb 20 '13 at 13:00

As mentioned here before, it depends on the country. From my point of view (and I am talking only from my own experience):

  • in Poland - it is not expected. But if you want to, the gesture will definitely be appreciated. It's OK to leave about 2-5 PLN. Usually no need to leave more, but leaving too little can be found insulting by some.

  • in Germany it depends on region. My experience in Bayern and Berlin, and I assume in many other parts - they expect tip and sometimes don't even give change for small values (under 1-2 EUR). In northern Germany it was not expected and treated as just a nice gesture.

  • in Austria - [EDIT] I noticed many people don't give tips. Hovewer, it is considered nice to pay some more in restaurants. After waiter tells you the price, just say how much you want to pay (eg. price is 7,40€, you say "8" while giving 10€ bill, and you'd get 2€ change and nice smile).

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It is abolutely incorrect that people don't tip in Austria. If you don't tip it means that you were absolutely unhappy and you will certainly not come back. –  Phira Jun 14 '12 at 13:45
    
Or what? What happen if you don't pay extra? Let's look at it from another side: I come to Austrian restaurant and spend entire evening without trouble. Should I "traditionally expect" a tip/discount and be angry if I don't have it? –  Oleg V. Volkov Jun 14 '12 at 14:02
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@OlegV.Volkov In many countries, you can also jump a queue and often, people will accept it rather than start a fight, and there is no law that specifies that you should wait your turn at the bakery. This is not about any individual expectations, but about social rules. Disregarding them and getting an unfair advantage often pays in life, but not always. This question is about what the social rules are in particular countries, not whether it pays to be an asshole. You seem to want to argue that the social rules in your country are the only ones that make sense, but this is rather off-topic. –  Phira Jun 14 '12 at 17:50
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@OlegV.Volkov that's just an cultural phenoman. It's your good right to question that but it's a fact that you're expected to give a tip in Austria. If you don't have a problem looking like a jerk because you ignoring that, don't tip! Phira is absolutly right, if you don't tip you're insulting the waiter. Almost everybody's tipping. –  schlingel Jun 15 '12 at 16:46
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Because waiters are doing menial jobs and this way you showing your respect for them and don't deny their dignity. If you don't get, fine don't do it - but you're still a jerk if you don't do it in Austria ;-) –  schlingel Jun 16 '12 at 13:08

I find in most countries a small tip, i.e. leave the change take the notes (and Euro/Pound coins) is nice. In the UK particularly a lot of restaurants add 15% service charge (I believe they have to state this on the menu and you are legally allowed to not pay it) - which means no tip as you just paid 15% tip anyway. Taxis I always round up to the nearest Euro/Pound or add another Euro/Pound if its less than say half a Euro/Pound.

No tip is expected in fast food places or bars of course.

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In Finland, you are not supposed to tip the waiter/waitress.

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What do you mean by NOT? Is it an offense if you do? –  Ankur Banerjee Jun 15 '12 at 10:54
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@Ankur: He probably meant you are not expected to tip. Feel free to tip if you want, but it's not customary here even in nicer restaurants. –  Jonik Jun 21 '12 at 10:31

As someone who works in a UK restaurant, I have almost never seen anything other than the cost of the food to be shown on any restaurant bill. The exception is indeed really high-end restaurants.

Our tips are divided among the floor staff, because we don't have a single waiter catering to a particular table. And the kitchen staff are also included as their prompt work is clearly part of the service.

Tips generally range between 5% - 10% of the bill. Customers paying by card usually tip in cash.

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I'd say that in general tipping is a lot less common in Western Europe than it is in the US. More specifically for Sweden I'd say people almost never give tips. The main exception I've seen to this has been among the "young rich" (or "brats" as they're sometimes called around here) who in recent years have taken to tipping generously as a way of bragging (giving a large tip just to show everyone how rich they are without actually having to rudely mention how much money they have). Among regular people though, I can't remember the last time I heard of anyone tipping.

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In Germany, it is usual to tip in the area of 10% of the bill, or "round up" to the nearest round amount: Some examples: - Bill: 12.80 -> the 10% tip is 1.28, so many people will pay 14 - Bill: 14.20 -> the 10% tip is 1.42, but most people will simply pay 15

If you are unhappy with the service, and don't indicate a tip by saying "Stimmt so" or saying the "rounded up" amount, most waiters will act surprised or disappointed. Demanding full change back strongly indicates that you were unhappy with the service.

I knew many students earning some money as waiters/waitresses, and they usually earned more on tips than on the very low salary paid to them by the restaurant owner.

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In Italy you don't usually tip the waiter.
If you pay by cash, you can leave some euros more than the amount (from one euro to five usually) if you are particulary satisfied, or if you pay by cards sometimes there is a box or similar near the cash register where you can leave some money that will be divided between the staff, but it is not something that is expected.

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In Portugal you can tip or not the waitress, they won't mind if you don't and won't be offended if you do. So it's up to you. Note that some restaurants allows you to tip with the credit card as long as it's all paid up in one operation (bill + tip).

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In Switzerland the service is included in the price of the meal (and thus invisible), so tipping is unnecessary.

If the service is far beyond what is normally expected, leave a small tip, between 2-5 francs.

Whilst a credit-card tip won't be refused, it is a bit crass. You'l be considered as better-educated if you pay the exact amount by credit card and tip in cash.

Tipping in foreign currencies is also considered a little clumsy.

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Experienced travelers have put together a great tipping guide over at FlyerTalk for waiters/waitresses, porters, and taxi drivers.

Foreign Tipping Guide by Country & Region

For Europe:

Many hotels and restaurants add a service charge to the bill.
In most cases, an additional tip is unnecessary.
If no service charge is added to your bill,
10% is the general rule for restaurant service, and $1 per bag for a hotel porter.
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I have never seen a service charge on a bill in a European restaurant. –  gerrit Dec 11 '12 at 14:47
    
@gerrit Harrods in London often adds an "optional" service charge in their restaurants. –  arboc7 Dec 15 '12 at 19:45

Just do what you want. If you liked service - you may want to tip. Don't ever tip just because it is "expected". Most countries have pretty clear laws about that everything you have to pay must be included in the bill. This "tradition" only stays as long as people continue to pay extra.

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In Austria tips are exempt from taxes, so they will certainly stay. If you want to go back to the same restaurant, you better tip according to local custom. There are of course many ways besides no tips how you can take advantage of other people. –  Phira Jun 14 '12 at 13:47
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"You better tip according to local custom" sounds very much like racket to me. Do I understand correctly that even Austria have laws against it? How paying exactly to the bill is suddenly "taking advantage" of people? They are on payroll from their boss already and they are paid exactly to service customer. –  Oleg V. Volkov Jun 14 '12 at 14:01
    
@OlegV.Volkov In the US, people in jobs that normally get tips are often paid less than minimum wage, since it's assumed that the tips will make up for it. They also have to pay income tax on the amount of tips they're expected to get (and if they say they didn't get tipped as much the IRS will probably assume they're lying) –  Random832 Jun 15 '12 at 17:11
    
This is exactly the very problem with all this tipping business. "Paid less than minimum", "assume they're lying" (and, as I understand will somehow be punished?). Both of those - paying less than minimum and punishing for assumption is against the law. So, in essence, you're saying that customer is obliged to take share of problems of some lazy bum who can't even get to court to defend himself. –  Oleg V. Volkov Jun 15 '12 at 17:19

In France, service charges are not included in the bill (or I missed something in my own country). Therefore, when the waitress brings you the bill, she brings it in a little (plastic) plate to put your money (or credit card) in order to pay the bill.

If you want, and if the service was good enough for you, you can leave some euros (between 1 and 3 euros usually) in the plate, even if you decided to pay by credit card. Then, the money you left will be shared between the staff at the end of the day.

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In France , bills are often with this mention "Taxe et service compris" ( taxe and service included ), so there is already something for the waiters. Of course, tips are always appreciated. –  Johan Buret Jun 15 '12 at 12:10
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service is not always explicitly included, but waiters are (theoretically) paid with minimum wage, unlike in particular USA. So technically, service is included in the price of the meal. –  Vince Dec 11 '12 at 10:06
    
for more details, the US allow very low salary without tips($2/hr in some extreme cases, barely comparable with France's 9 euros/hr) : dol.gov/whd/state/tipped.htm#.UMcHNqyCa8p –  Vince Dec 11 '12 at 10:15
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This is plainly wrong, service is included, it's just not generally itemized on the bill. Waiters are paid a fixed wage and do not rely mainly on tips for their income. Tipping is therefore very uncommon. –  Relaxed May 21 '13 at 16:15

protected by mindcorrosive Dec 11 '12 at 13:29

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