Today’s a good day for a break from all the dour airline news. In fact, with so much attention focused on the business of flying, it’s easy to forget the joy one can actually derive from traveling. Part of that joy, of course, is experiencing new cultures and customs. But as anyone who’s traveled abroad knows, it isn’t as easy as simply showing up in a foreign country and soaking up the ambience. As a traveler, we have a responsibility to follow the established etiquette of the country we’re visiting.
And one of the most sensitive, complex, and varied etiquette issues one comes across is tipping. We Americans tend to tip automatically and generously, anywhere from 15 to 20 percent on top of the bill, but most of the world is far more reserved in recognizing good service. Many countries factor a service charge into the bill, meaning any tip you leave is a tip on top of a tip. I encountered this on a trip to Spain years ago, where I was cautioned to check the bill before leaving any extra cash for the service. Sure enough, most bills came with gratuity factored in, even at little seaside fish shacks.
So how do you know what to do? Conde Nast Traveler has a tipping guide (.pdf) covering tipping practices in 25 countries across the globe. Aside from some annoying Verizon ads, the guide is a handy overview of major tipping rules and faux pas. Notably absent from the guide are major destinations like France, Italy, and Japan, but Conde Nast has extended guides for those (Italy is part of a larger Mediterranean guide), which include dining manners and general social behavior tips.