How Much to Tip While Studying Abroad? A User’s Guide

2010-08-20 Brazilian currency

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A great way to experience your new country is to check out the local restaurants and cafe’s. Experience the food, practice your language skills and absorb the new culture. It’s important however, to know the tipping etiquette. Not all countries are created equal in this manner so it’s important to know the individual customs.

Here’s the first piece of insight. America is the only country where people tip as much as 20% of the bill. This is extremely high compared to many countries who tip 10% at the most, if at all.

Below see more of what is customary around the world. If you find yourself unsure, just play it safe and follow what the locals are doing. Also, don’t be afraid to ask locals!

Anyone have any funny (or not so funny) stories of tipping gone wrong? Tell us about them in the comments!

Paris Cafe

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Mr. Mystery

Most European Countries: Look on the bill to see if a “service charge” has been added. This often can replace the need for a tip, but typically it’s courtesy to tip 5-10% in addition to the charge. This ends up being a very small amount and many people simply leave extra change as the tip. (As is the case in France) The exception is the UK where tipping in addition to the service charge isn’t necessary.  Many Eastern European countries don’t include service charges, so tip 10-15%. When in doubt, leave 10%. You won’t risk insulting anyone, and they’ll likely be happy to make extra money off tourists who don’t understand the local culture.

Latin America: The rules for this continent align closely with Europe, although everywhere has exceptions. Many restaurants will include a “service charge” in which case, it’s a safe bet to tip an additional 10% just in case. There may be places where it’s not necessary, but you won’t risk insulting anyone if you do leave a tip.

Restaurants and fountains in Xi'an

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Asia: Here’s where things get complicated, so pay attention. There’s no cut and dry answer as each country varies dramatically. Sometimes if the location is very westernized, it will be better to leave a tip as they will expect the western customs.

Singapore: It’s not necessary to tip in Singapore. Some luxury hotels or restaurants may accept a small tip, but that’s it. Note: Don’t tip at the airport as it’s actually outlawed. Want to read more about Singapore? Our Global Ambassador, Theresa, wrote about her trip to Singapore.

Japan: Don’t tip, ever.  Wait staff won’t know what to do with the extra money and may even be insulted.

Thailand: It’s not necessary, yet it may be a good idea to leave a little extra for exceptional service. You may also be expected to tip a small amount if you’re at a luxury hotel or restaurant.

South Korea: Tipping is not expected and some nicer restaurants or hotels will add a service charge. No need to tip anything extra.

Taiwan: Restaurants will likely add a small service charge and tipping extra is not necessary. Want to know more about living in Taiwan? Our Global Ambassador, Jake, writes all about it in his post about cultural differences between Taiwan and America.

Cambodia: Like the rest of Southeast Asia, most establishments don’t require a tip, but leaving extra change on the table is ok. Nicer restaurants will include a service charge.

India: There’s no concept of tipping, yet it’s ok to leave extra change at nicer restaurants.

New Zealand: Servers at restaurants make a decent wage, so there’s no need to tip on top of the bill.

Australia: Like New Zealand, servers are paid well so there isn’t a need to tip, yet it is expected at very nice restaurants. There is some debate about tipping in this country. What do you think? Ever been?

Did we leave anything off? Let us know your experience in the comments and we’ll update the post!

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