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August 14, 2012


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As someone who has lived in Europe and traveled abroad in Europe, Asia, and South America AND worked in restaurants here in the US as a server, let me be the first to tell you that your feelings are fully FULLY justified.

In Europe, generally, servers earn a higher salary and tips are only for exceptional service. And even in those cases, it's usually just leaving an extra euro or two. So tipping, especially anywhere north of 10%, or even calculating it in %, isn't really de rigeur, so to speak.

That said, if you are going to be traveling in another country for any period of time, you should learn how this is done. And in this day and age, pretty much any guide tourists will have will tell them that the service is not included in the price here. For example:

I think sometimes they are really confused by how the service is calculated. Even my friends and I have different ways to calculate tip (double the tax they say, 20% of the final tally I say). But they should make some effort. Some places will actually just add it onto the bill, like they do for larger parties, if the guests are foreign. They did that at a place I used to work, but sometimes the guests who would have tipped anyway would get ticked off. And adding gratuity to anyone with an accent seemed sort of, I don't know, discriminatory.

As a server, I would often get assigned the foreigners because I had passable language skills. I genuinely enjoyed speaking with them. But it all too often ended up that I would get a $1 tip on a $50 bill.

I understand the frustration. But I also understand foreigners since I'm one!
I'm french, in my country we don't tip. Or if we do, it's because we had a special favor from the waiter, or he was exceptionally good with us, something like that. Tips are supposed to be included in their salary, so they have to be good with us no matter what.
Here in the US, it's different, and it took me a while to get the tip thing. Some of my european friends never got it, and never tipped (while living here for a whole year). Some others tip, but really low because they don't like the principle of it.
So I can "understand" that while traveling they don't even think about it. They don't know tips are really part of your salary.

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