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  • Writer's pictureKirk

Tipping in a Foreign land

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

It used to be only an American thing. But now it's all over the world. The expectation of tips. It's important to learn the local tip culture before traveling. There is an urge for the American to extend the same tip culture we have to other countries, but that would be a mistake although it's done out of good intentions.


Tipping in foreign countries used to be unheard of. But this American tradition has infiltrated the world such that it is expected in many if not all countries. When is it expected in the lesser developed countries I visit?

  1. At restaurants a 10% tip is normal.

  2. A tour guide you may tip a buck or two (perhaps more, case dependent)

  3. Taxi drivers, I just round up to the nearest whole bill.

That's what I've learned to do. That's typically more generous than the locals but not going overboard.


As a foreigner there is an expectation you will tip more than the locals so it's good to not disappoint. But going too far with this practice will eventually screw with their local economy. Whereas no tip was once expected, now there is, even from the locals in a small amount. If foreigners were to tip say 20% in these countries, the expectation for locals to tip more would be present. And that would further stress the fragile economy.


How much do I tip a camel leader????


I know it feels good to be generous when traveling, especially to poorer countries. After all, what's a 25% tip on a $6 meal? To many of us it's nothing at all, so the urge is there. But the longer term effect on the economy is what's important. Resist the urge! The expectation on the locals to tip more will be detrimental overall.


If you want to give more do it through direct donations at an orphanage. Buy food or clothes and give directly to the children there. Resist handing money over for others in the country to do it. Often it goes no further.


Now I'll give my opinion on tipping. Thank you for asking! It's out of hand here now. You pick up your own pizza for take out, a tip is expected. I went to newly opened ice cream shop once with the owner serving the take out ice cream. He had a tip jar! Am I supposed to tip the owner of his establishment?


One time I took (what I've come to despise) a tour bus to the Muir Woods near San Francisco. The bus driver showed up 25 minutes late for the 8:00 am tour. After we boarded he stood in the aisle and said that when the tour was through, tipping was the custom here. He said that although some were foreigners on the bus, the custom here was to tip 20%. Now he wasn't even the tour guide! Just the bus driver who gave round trip transportation. And he was late! I calculated what his tip would be if all complied. It would have been about $500!!!


When I exited the bus I looked him in the eye and told him I was offended by his speech. I told him no one should tip him that amount for driving a bus. I further told him because of his being late and the speech I wasn't tipping. I followed up with a poor review identifying his behavior.


I realize if you're in the service industry you will disagree with me. The owners probably don't pay enough. But the owners will only continue to underpay if we support this structure! Let the tip be included in the price for transparency. Let's not be vague about it through this silly tipping structure that most of us hate because of the ambiguity. After all, do you know how much to tip a valet? Do you tip him when he takes your car or delivers it back to you? Or both? Do I tip the doorman every time he opens the door or only once? Or never? Who knows???? Too ambiguous and can lead to dissatisfaction for everyone. Just include it in the price.


Do I tip the hotel employee driver who drove me across the water to my island hotel?


I was a big fan of Uber when they started. You knew the price. It is an owner operated business. It started with a no tipping structure. But that's corrupted now. If you don't tip the owner of his car, expect your rating to go down.


It used to be a tip was for service above expectations. Now it's expected even for poor service like the bus driver example.


Tips have infiltrated the entire world now. And it has radiated from our country. Guess what? Nobody likes it! But we continue to propitiate it and even export it! Crazy!


I will admit I have become an anti-tipper. I will tip a reasonable amount (not 20% to a bus driver!), in normal settings where the owner is allowed to pay below minimum wages. But I refuse to to be a part of this runaway snowball. It does not improve the quality of life for anybody but the owners of establishments that are allowed to underpay their employees. The employees would be better off if the owners were forced to pay higher wages through the normal supply and demand route.


Ok, I'll get off the soap box now. Anyone else want to get on?





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