There you are, seated around a table after enjoying a leisurely and delicious meal at a romantic spot. Perhaps meze at a nondescript restaurant folded alluringly into one of Istanbul’s many dark corners, or a weisswurst and beer at a solid slab of table in one of Munich’s beer houses. You lean back, satisfied at having acquired a delicious meal in a new country and then someone asks the dreaded question. “Wait, how much are we supposed to tip?”
Panic sets in as you speculate on what the country’s accepted tipping practices might include. Is it 10%? More? Less? Not at all? Is the service already included or will not leaving a tip cause deep offense? You glance from table to table trying to glean some insight into what you’re supposed to do. Your smart phone fails you and simply asking the couple at the table next to you is unthinkable. Rumors circulate and if you haven’t done your pre-trip research, you end up either tipping too much or leaving too little and fleeing the restaurant as quickly as possible in a flurry of shame and confusion. Although there are many instances in which confusion over tipping can occur, let’s stick to restaurants.
In most of Europe, rounding the bill up is sufficient as a service fee is generally included. For example in Germany if the bill amounts to 37.23, you would simply round up to 38 or 39 depending on how generous you’re feeling. The larger the bill, the more I’d round up. For example, if the bill was 7.21, I’d probably just round to 8. If it was 57.21, I might just round up to 60. In France or Switzerland, unless you’re at a really expensive restaurant, leaving a few Euros/ Swiss Franc is sufficient, but not required as the service is generally included in the bill.
Tipping in restaurants in this regions varies from country to country. In Israel, you can just round the bill up and leave a few shekel. In Jordan, the service is generally included in the bill, but I would still throw in a 5-10% cash tip for the waiter. In Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon a 10% tip should be included. In Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, I’d advise tipping the same way you would in the U.S. with 15-20%.
In North Africa, you will be expected to tip. Unless you’re in an especially upscale restaurant, a tip between 5-10% is appropriate. Do make sure the service isn’t already included in the bill, particularly in areas where tourists flock. In South Africa, tip 10-15% at restaurants.
With the exception of Thailand (tip 10%), you won’t need to worry so much about tipping in restaurants. In China, it will cause confusion. In Japan, tipping is often considered rude. As a rule if you’re in a nicer restaurant in most southeastern Asian countries, I would just go ahead and throw down a 10% tip. In India, for example, tipping at a restaurant is not expected, but tipping 5-10% is always a nice gesture.
Throughout most of Mexico, Central, and South American tipping 10-15% at restaurants is expected. In Brazil, a 10% service charge is usually included in the bill so you don’t need to worry about tipping
Australia and New Zealand
You’ll have to play this one by ear. Traditionally, tipping wasn’t standard practice in these countries. However, it has become more common in recent years. It’s not officially standard practice and you’re not likely to offend anyone if you don’t tip at a restaurant, but if you feel like leaving a gratuity, something in the 10-15% range would be considered appropriate.