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Tipping in Europe

When tipping in a foreign country, you certainly want to follow local custom, but if you don’t know what it is, you could easily offend the person you’re trying to thank.

Like much of Europe, the social exchange and standard of acceptance is different from what we’re used to in the United States.

For example, while it is customary to offer an additional 20% of your total check as a tip for wait staff while dining out in the USA, in Europe many tips are built in to the base price of your experience, meaning no additional funds are expected to be left at the close of your meal.

If you want to leave additional gratuity anyway, know that Europe is modest when it comes to tipping, and leaving a hefty 20% tip makes you stand out as a tourist, and appear under educated.

Here are a few basics of tipping across Europe to help you say “thank you” appropriately.

Money Talks

It was the standard for tipping in the US as recently as a decade ago; pay your bill in cash and leave the change as a tip. But these days, with more and more Americans doing the majority of their spending on credit or debit cards, a cash tip is becoming something of a white unicorn. Most frequently, we just add a few bucks onto the total bill on the receipt before we sign and trust that the establishment will ensure that the server receives the funds.

This standard practice has not yet reached much of Europe, however. In many countries a credit card tip may not actually make it to your server’s hand. If you want to ensure they receive the money you intended for them, leave it in cash and on the table before you walk away.

Tipping standards in Europe tend to range a bit lower than the 20% standard in the US. While extra gratuity will always be appreciated, the standard across most European countries tends to hang out closer to 10% for dining out.

Quick Tipping Guide:

  • Croatia: 10-15%
  • Czech Republic: 15%
  • Estonia: 5-8%
  • France: First, seek out the words “Service Compris” on your bill, which means no tip is required. You also aren’t expected to tip on bar purchases. For everything else, allot up to 10%
  • Germany: 10-15%
  • Greece: 5% for an expensive experience, 10% for an inexpensive dining encounter
  • Hungary: no more than 10%, often, just pocket change
  • Iceland: No more than 10%, as all charges have a 15% tip built in
  • Italy: As close to 10% as possible. Any more is an insult, don’t leave a tip if your first attempt is refused.
  • Russia: 10% to the waiter directly. Monies left on the table may be claimed by management
  • Scandinavia: Don’t tip
  • Spain: 7-13%
  • Switzerland: 5-10%
  • Turkey: 10%
  • United Kingdom: 10-15%

Know What’s Included

As previously mentioned, many countries bundle the gratuity in with your total bill. Before offering any tip, check to see if you’ve already been charged one. To figure this out, check for the words “Service Included” to appear on your bill at the end of the meal. Do note that this will be in the language of the country you’re visiting.

Additionally, prepackaged tourist deals, often noted as “menu” will almost certainly have a tip included.

This or That

Is it best to tip in your home currency, or Euros? Maybe you should try to tip in local currency wherever possible? Should you consider the exchange rate first? What will be most appreciated?

Save yourself the headache. In general, just tip in Euros.

Exceptions:

Tip in local currency in Russia, Switzerland, and The United Kingdom.

A Word on Taxis

It is customary to offer a basic tip to your taxi driver at the end of your trip. This is typically a small fare and not a big cause for concern. The basic guideline across most of Europe is to simply round up the fare to the next dollar. While some in some countries the custom is to simply deny your change, in others it is more common to receive the change and then offer it back to the driver.

Exceptions:

  • Estonia: No tip expected
  • France: It is customary here to tip up to 10% of your total fare
  • Greece: No tip expected
  • Russia: 10%
  • Scandinavia: Don’t tip

If all of this seems overwhelming and too much to remember, there is a simpler method. If you prefer, you may simply tip as the Europeans do, and offer a simple Euro or two per guest in your party.

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