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Tipping etiquette is a fundamental part of travel and one that invokes a wide range of emotion amongst travelers. It is a socio-cultural behavior that we grow up with, becomes second nature and takes a conscious effort to change or adapt.
I broke the Tipping etiquette
I grew up in India of the 90’s where generally tipping was neither expected nor a part of our social construct, unless it was fine dining. An exceptional service would warrant a 5% tip, maybe! Then I moved to Canada and my world was rocked with ‘mandatory’ 15% tip. Between 15% tip and 13% HST (tax), eating out was always a “sticker shock” at first. There were numerous times, when I genuinely forgot to tip because it did not come naturally. Or times when I chose to tip a paltry 10% and avoided eye contact with the server, because I was on a shoestring student budget. But so was the server.
On a recent trip to India, I treated my parents at an upscale establishment and tipped our server a healthy (by Indian standards) 15%. I noticed my mom and dad giving me the stink eye! As the server left our table with sparkly eyes and an overdose of gratitude, my mom quipped “This is not Canada”. She added, “we could have eaten another meal at a local restaurant for the amount you tipped”. After a few more quips about my Canadian habits, my dad chimed in “there is a reason the standard of service is different towards locals and foreign clientele”. Obviously, pointing to the phenomenon where the service industry in India bends over backwards for its ‘foreign’ clientele and their tipping habits, while doing the bare minimum for the locals (slight generalization, but true!). I understand and respect where my parents were coming from and could not help but realize, I had broken the local tipping etiquette.
Tipping Guide: Tip Advisor
I love interactive maps, and I came across a neat ‘gratuity guide’, named ‘Tip Advisor’. Tip Advisor is an online resource developed by Go Compare travel insurance company. It only covers tipping etiquette in ~50 countries, but the data is fairly accurate based on my personal travel and research.
I hope they continue to build their database, this is a great online resource and one I will be referring to, often.
My mom called a few days ago, a month since the mentioned dinner, and announced “We ate at *someplace* last night and the bill was lower than your tip”. I have a feeling this is not the last I have heard of it 😉
It’s tough to keep on top of tipping expectations around the world, I am thankful for people who research and put the data out for public consumption. For this serial offender, all online tools are welcome.
Do you have a good tipping story or a better gratuity guide? Share with a comment below.