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Don’t trip on tipping

In the U.S. we tip waiters, but we don’t tip government employees – even the ones who provide exceptional service. If one of my clients tried to tip the local permitting inspector, it would be illegal. If one of my clients took me out to a power lunch and tried to stiff the waiter, it would be awkward. Despite knowing that, I have a hard time breaking my tipping habits abroad. I’ve been told by my Indian colleagues, time and again, never to tip the cabbies in India. But I usually added a few extra rupees to the fare and my Indian colleagues would scowl at me. I didn’t have ignorance as my excuse. But just couldn’t break myself of that habit. I’ve not been to Japan, where I understand they regard tipping as a form of bribery, i.e. a payment in advance for favorable service during the next visit. I’ve heard waiters will try to catch you leaving the restaurant to return your bribe/tip money, creating an uncomfortable situation for all parties. When abroad, a lot can be lost in translation, and a lot can be misinterpreted in tipping. How someone tips for service is telling. While I like to reward good service, I focus on learning the tipping customs abroad to ensure no uncomfortable moments between my client and me. I don’t want to go into a negotiation with a prospective client whose culture is so different than mine that my normal behavior might make me look like a cheapskate or loaded, nor do I want them to think I pay bribes or think I’m insulting to the client’s countrymen. That’s why I recommend business travelers to pay extra attention to the appropriate etiquette when it comes to tipping abroad. In general, Americans are open to learning new cultures and different ways of eating when traveling abroad. But when it comes to money, old habits seem harder to break. Tipping practices are always evolving, especially as more people travel, but to give you a sense of how varied tipping in restaurants can be, here's a list and the common customs:

2 comments

  1. kimmy.esq@verizon.net

    Don’t know where this info came from, but this has NOT been my experience for Britain nor for Germany. And my English friend would agree with me.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Kimmy.
    The info is based on my personal experience and the advice of businesspeople living in country. Practices can vary a lot when it comes to tipping, the above is meant to be a general guide.

    Feel free to share your experiences!

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