What’s proper tipping etiquette in Paris?

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Tipping etiquette in Paris or elsewhere can sometimes be a confusing issue for travelers, as different countries and even different areas within countries (city vs. countryside) may have different customs on tipping. So, what’s right and what's not?

The rule is that there is no hard and fast rule. Tipping appropriately is a matter of context. Make an effort to know the context as I will try to explain below, and you will never exhibit poor tipping etiquette.

One thing that is clear is that anyone who works in the hospitality/service industry appreciates a tip, as a gesture showing that service has been satisfactory. Members of the service industry include drivers, hotel staff, waiters, hairdressers and even dealers for casino games.

Keep in mind however that, except in very expensive establishments, over-tipping in Paris can be considered ostentatious, arrogant or wasteful. This is mainly because in many European countries, laws were passed that made it mandatory to include service in the bill. This ensured adequate wages to employees. As a result, you’re dealing with relatively well paid service industry professionals who don’t rely on tips and may consider you “throwing” money at them demeaning. But they’ll probably take it! Lol…

This is not to say that tips are not appreciated. It all depends on how you go about it. In fact, there is an opposite effect if you don’t tip at all, or tip too little (tipping 1 centime -a penny- is a way of indicating that you’re dissatisfied with the service). Does it all sound really confusing or contradictory? Well, that’s why it is called tipping etiquette!

As a rule of thumb, in Paris and elsewhere in Europe, you are on safe ground if you tip anywhere between 5 and 10%. Remember that in Paris, you’ve already taken care of the service through the bill. The rest is a just matter of savoir faire. Leave a tasteful amount within that range and/or try to round it out for both yours and your server’s convenience. In other words, emptying all the pennies out of your pocket or purse is not the most suave thing you can do to a dignified professional.

Service compris (service included) means you don’t have to tip, but doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, especially if your waiter has been great. Remember that the service compris portion of the bill goes to the establishment first, and may not make it into the hands that served you, at least not proportionally to the particular level of service they provided you.

This is why the little extra tip best shows your appreciation. There is no need and is not the custom to leave a “fat” tip. In proper tipping etiquette, literally, just a token of appreciation will suffice. Some people’s concern about tipping etiquette in Europe is nothing more than wondering whether they can get away with not tipping at all! Lol… Well, tipping can reflect on you socially.

Leaving a tip on a credit card payment often does your waiter no good. Even if you ask if it’s okay to add the tip on your credit card slip, they’re certainly not going to start telling you all about whether the establishment will give it to them or not. So, try to keep a small amount of cash on hand for tipping in restaurants, cafés, etc. (It might even come in handy if you have to use the toilets).

Overall, tipping in Paris is not as critical an issue as I have seen in some places. Here, it’s nothing to be overly concerned about as long as you make at least a semblance of a gesture. In certain places where tips make a big difference in the employees’ income level, not tipping or under-tipping can get you reactions ranging from them rolling their eyes and shaking their heads, to lashing out at you in disgust! Lol…

My personal tipping guidelines are 10% in Europe (if service is included) and 20% in the U.S. I have a soft spot for people whose job is to serve others. I usually get a positive response, so I have to assume I’m somewhat on target. Some people may tip less and some more but I believe this range to be generally safe.

Here are a few more situations with the appropriate tipping etiquette. Paris taxi and private shuttle drivers like to be tipped around 10%, or more if they perform other duties for you (excessive luggage, pets, etc.).

With valet parking, bell staff and such, you can tip a small fixed amount like a couple of euros, as opposed to restaurants whereby the tip should be more commensurate with the total of the bill.

There are a few casinos located in Paris. And if you are fond of casino games, you might as well be aware of how to tip your casino dealer. While playing your favorite roulette or Blackjack games, dealers help you in placing your bets and handling payouts properly. You are not required to tip with every hand you play, but you are somewhat expected to do so when you win. About 5-10% will be appreciated.

Other services such as hairdressers’ can also be tipped a flat rate, albeit one that’s more in step with the complexity of the task (i.e. €5, €10, €20).

This may underline the intricacies of adopting the right tipping etiquette for the right situation, but it shouldn’t get you too wound up! It’s only tipping… If ever in doubt, it’s easy enough to just ask! If someone like a Paris waiter is rude, it usually won’t be about the tip. But that’s another story.

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