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I am travelling to Taiwan to visit a relative-in-law who will be undergoing a pretty big surgery procedure. I'm not familiar at all with Taiwanese customs at all, but the relative in question asked that I bring a relatively expensive bottle of liquor ($100+) to "tip" the doctor with after the procedure has been completed.

This sounds all very strange and weird to me. I tried looking this up online, and it seems that tipping culture is very unexpected in Taiwan asides from bellhops and service personnel. When I asked another relative similar questions, they made a passing remark about how they tipped a doctor for their surgery a relatively expensive bottle of wine. I get the uncanny feeling that this relative is perhaps trying to fleece me for a pricey bottle of liquor but as I stated before, I have no idea if this is customary at all. It just all sounds so weird especially considering the amount of money being paid to the hospital to have the procedure done in the first place.

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    Why are you doing the tipping when it's the relative having the surgery?
    – Midavalo
    Oct 5, 2022 at 3:29
  • @Midavalo The reasoning they used was that in a previous surgery done a few years back, my sibling was the one who tipped that doctor with an expensive bottle of wine and some other expensive gifts. Almost like playing a game of hot potato and I just happened to get the hot potato.
    – yuritsuki
    Oct 5, 2022 at 3:35
  • @yuritsuki Not familiar with Taiwan, but while Japan is also not a tipping culture, I've seen grateful patients give significant gifts (liquor, expensive skincare, etc) to doctors. However, this was always directly from patient to doctor, so here the fact that your relative is asking you to bring this is quite weird. Is there a trusted third party you can check with? Oct 5, 2022 at 5:59
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    I suspect the reason OP is being asked is so they can buy it at duty free
    – MJeffryes
    Oct 5, 2022 at 9:05
  • @MJeffryes They're being asked to gift it though, not just buy it... Oct 5, 2022 at 10:13

1 Answer 1

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Although I am not familiar with Taiwan, I have heard of similar practices in European countries as well. You may call it a 'tip', but I would rather call it a bribe. Even if you, or some sort of insurance, pay for your treatment to the hospital, it may actually be required for proper service to give an additional compensation directly to the doctor.

A quick search on Google reveals that a similar practice is well known in Taiwan as well. According to Gifts, bribes and solicitions: Print media and the social construction of informal payments to doctors in Taiwan:

The Taiwanese practice of patients giving informal payments to physicians to secure services is deeply rooted in social and cultural factors. ...

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    It's not a bribe (at least in layman terms) if you customarily do it after the treatment.
    – alamar
    Oct 5, 2022 at 10:52
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    @alamar There is also a small but underlying worry that if I do not "tip" the doctor after the surgery is performed, the aftercare treatment may not be done properly or to the best of their abilities. Which renders the gift as still some sort of "bribe"
    – yuritsuki
    Oct 5, 2022 at 12:44
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    @yuritsuki This is customarily done when you are discharged from the aftercare. You may also be inclined to thank the nurses in the same (but significantly reduced) fashion. Not sure about the Taiwan specifics, though :)
    – alamar
    Oct 5, 2022 at 12:55
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    @alamar Did you read the article I linked to? Also the researchers behind that article use the term 'bribe'. By examining media coverage, they found that the payments were 'portrayed as a necessary part of gaining initial access to care' and that patients were 'worrying that doctors paid by a third party will not feel obliged to give quality care'. If you pay in the belief that it is required to get proper care or be treated at all, I don't see why the term 'bribe' is used incorrectly here. Oct 5, 2022 at 17:14
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    @alamar It's not a bribe only if people go to the hospital once in their lifetime or their doctor's lifetime, whichever comes first. If you come more often than that, valuable gifts get you a better service than what the doctor provides to the poorer patients. Which is indeed a bribe. Oct 5, 2022 at 20:16

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