- An unwritten law: Tipping in Germany
- How much tip should you leave at the hairdresser?
- Tipping the pizza boy
- A little extra for the taxi driver
- A thank you for the room service
- It can always be more: Tipping in the USA
- charge in Italy: Unusual tipping
- Japan: A country where tipping is an insult
- When is tipping tax-free?
- Tipping with a card payment – when cash isn’t in hand
How much do people really tip? A complete guide
The right amount to tip is an age-old question. In Germany it’s common practice to leave a 10% tip, in the US it’s an astounding 20%, and in Japan, you’ll be shunned if you even consider leaving a penny behind.
So, where should we be rewarding good service? And where can we save ourselves the expense?
In this guide, we’re shining a light into the dark by answering the question: How much should you tip in different countries and for different services?
An unwritten law: Tipping in Germany
Do you remember the last time you didn’t leave a tip at a restaurant?
That could be because leaving a tip after you're done eating is practically muscle memory.
Much like an unwritten law.
It’s customary to leave roughly 10% in gastronomy. The extra money acknowledges both the service received and the quality of the meal.
In fact, this was common throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. People would leave a tip for handymen and craftsmen hoping for better or faster service. The extra money would be used to drink to the customer's health.
While there are benefits to rewarding good service, tipping culture has had a negative impact on wages over time. Business owners picked up on the added income and reduced wages to compensate. It's a controversial practice to this day.
Nowadays, a clause in Germany’s Industrial Code states that employers can no longer rely on the tips restaurant guests leave to support employee salaries.
“Tipping is a sum of money that a third party extends without legal obligation, in addition to the employer paying for services.”
So, technically speaking, if you are dissatisfied with a particular service in Germany, no tip is required.
Let’s take a look at other industries where tipping frequently occurs: hairdressing, pizza delivery services, taxi drivers and housekeeping.
How much tip should you leave at the hairdresser?
It’s a rule of thumb that you tip approximately 10-15% for a haircut, putting hairdressing ahead of gastronomy.
But why exactly is this the case?
One reason might be the relatively low wages in the field. Das Orange Portal reported that a hairdressing trainee in East Germany will only earn €269 within the first year of their apprenticeship. That means tipping is an important part of their salary.
Tipping the pizza boy
What would a lazy Netflix evening be without pizza? Let’s set the scene:
A personable delivery guy shows up on time, rings the front door and delivers your food.
How much should you tip?
Rounding up the amount or giving an extra euro or two always leaves the pizza guy happy.
But there is no law that requires you to pay your delivery person. So if your order is late, you also don’t have to feel obliged to leave a tip.
A little extra for the taxi driver
Like hairdressers, taxi drivers often earn the absolute minimum wage, so tips of 10% or above are welcome, but not compulsory.
A thank you for the room service
If you’re away on holiday, the chances are your hotel room is being cleaned on a daily basis. So it would be appropriate to tip before you check out to thank them for the service.
How high the tip should be depends how long your stay was, according to German newspaper Welt. For instance, a short stay of just one night only calls for €5. As you stay longer, this increases. Let's say you stay for 14 days. €2 a night would be a reasonable tip.
It can always be more: Tipping in the USA
Let’s step away from Germany and step towards the USA. What does the tipping situation look like there?
Anyone who has ever been on holiday in the States has probably experienced an event not too dissimilar to the following;
It’s your first visit to an American bar, and you go to give the waiter the total amount plus a 10% tip. Instead of a thank you, you’re met with a surprised look. Or sometimes, they'll tell you the tip should have been 15-20%.
That’s quite a generous sum.
However, restaurant staff in the US often earn less than the legal minimum wage, which means a decent tip is essential.
The Coperto charge in Italy: Unusual tipping
The Italian Coperto (cover charge), is a service fee that's automatically added onto the bill when you eat in a restaurant.
It’s therefore unusual to tip additionally in gastronomy, but an Italian waiter would always be happy to accept a tip as a token of appreciation.
Japan: A country where tipping is an insult
Next stop, Japan:
Of all the countries around the world, Japan is a country where the tipping culture really is an exception. But this doesn’t impact the service. Good service is generally a given in Japan.
Leaving a tip as a tourist is considered to be more of an insult than a sign of appreciation. This is also true in some parts of China.
Before you pack up and travel to these countries, you should familiarise yourself with these rules in advance.
When is tipping tax-free?
And what about taxing tips?
Here’s when it applies:
Whenever a tip is voluntarily given, it’s tax-free.
But if the service charges are stated on the menu, the tip is taxable because as part of the full cost, it was not voluntarily given.
Tipping with a card payment – when cash isn’t in hand
Whether or not you can tip with card is often unclear.
Sure, it works.
However, as all restaurants and cafes deal with tipping differently, it's always a good idea to ask the waiter for the best way to tip.
How the tip reaches the employee also varies. Their boss can transfer the tips earned along with their monthly salary, but legally doesn’t have to, as it is the guest’s thank you for overall excellent service. They can also give tips from the cashier directly to the employee after a card payment is made.
To this day, it's often unclear how much to tip. But there are basic rules you can follow to avoid disappointing or insulting someone at home or abroad.
Key points to remember about tipping:
- A 10% tip is common in German gastronomy
- Restaurants in the US will expect 20%
- In Japan, expect to have good service but not to tip
- Italy has an official service fee known as "coperto"
- If voluntary, tipping is tax-free