Tipping is out of control in Canada but in these countries it is considered rude to tip

Tipping points: In most countries, ‘tip-flation’ has yet to take hold

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To tip or not to tip? Etiquette guides and waiters agree that the answer is yes, you should. Because who doesn’t like money?

But while “tip-flation” is on the rise in Canada, with more businesses now adding a prompt on the debit machine, and many of those prompts going up to 30 per cent, it’s worth noting that, officially at least, tipping is still small change in much of the world.

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A big exception is our neighbour to the south. America has always had a culture of tipping, in large part thanks to its culture of not paying people very much.

A recent Forbes article noted that many people in the service industry are paid less than minimum wage, and tips are supposed to bridge the difference. But it also quoted a study in which 30 per cent of Americans felt tipping was “out of control,” while 41 per cent said businesses should pay their employees more rather than rely on gratuities.

That number was even higher in Canada, where an Angus Reid poll this year found that 59 per cent of respondents favoured a system in which service was included and employees got a higher base pay – up from 40 per cent in a similar survey in 2016.

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But in the rest of the world, it’s far less common to be asked to shell out big tips. A recent study pulling data from TripAdvisor suggested that, for restaurants, 10 to 15 per cent is the norm in Britain, while in Greece five per cent is fine, in France it’s usually included in the bill (“service compris”) and in Italy there’s no need to tip at all.

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Another roundup by the BBC found that tipping is frowned upon in Japan, where a compliment (preferably in Japanese) or a bow is preferred. In Egypt, the concept of a tip or charitable alms known as “baksheesh” is nebulous but welcome, provided you don’t put your foot in your mouth by equating it with begging.

Scandinavians often round up the bill to the next euro or two, the report noted. And China finds itself at something of a crossroads: historically, tipping was seen as rude, but that is changing as the country continues to modernize.

Don’t believe everything the BBC tells you, however. A similar roundup from 2018 said it’s illegal to tip in Argentina, thanks to a 2004 labour law.

But a quick Internet search finds barely a mention of this so-called crime, and the website LandingPadBA, “a boutique travel provider for Buenos Aires,” has a whole page on tipping and gratuities that never mentions that it’s forbidden, and recommends 10 per cent as a standard for restaurants.

In addition to buffeting readers with the notion that 10 per cent tips (or none at all) are the norm in much of the world, travel sites will often advise that servers everywhere often expect tips from Americans (or Canadians) because that’s what they do at home. All the more reason to try to look and sound like a local when dining abroad.

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In Spain, a controversy erupted this year when restaurant patrons, especially in big cities, started to notice “American-style” suggested tipping on their bills. Admittedly, the amounts were generally five, eight or 10 per cent, a far cry from the Canadian suggestions, which usually start at 10 and go up from there. But the practice was new to Spain, where voluntary small tips are common, but asking for them is considered gauche.

By the way, tipping in Spain is “propina” and comes from the Greek verb “pino,” meaning to drink. In German it’s “das trinkgeld,” literally “the drink money,” while in Russian it’s “chayeviye,” which means “for the tea,” and has become more common since the fall of Communism there.

As to the English word, it entered the language in the sense of “gratuity” in the 1600s, and may have originated in criminal circles as a way of describing an illicit present.

But despite all those drink-related terms in other languages, it’s not a contraction of “tippling.” And it’s definitely not an acronym for “To Ensure Prompt Service” or the like, a rumour that seems to have popped up around the turn of the century. Besides, that would only make sense if you tipped before the meal and not after it. Consider that your tip of the day.

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