During a recent cultural awareness training workshop for a group of Chinese engineers and managers, I was asked a great number of interesting questions, one of which was how and where to tip in the UK. One participant was particularly concerned about his hotel stay: “Should I leave a tip for the cleaner every day?” He asked.
Good question, I said, and proceeded to give an answer. Today’s blog is written with this in mind: a handout for my next cultural training :-).
Should we tip or not tip? When, how much and where?
Taxi and Cab Drivers
- You’ve arrived in the UK and you need a taxi from the Airport to your hotel. Be aware, taxi drivers, especially in London, expect a tip of 10 to 15 per cent.
A quarter of a century ago, after a bit of sightseeing in London and having collected my first month’s living expenses from the British Council, I took a train from Euston to Coventry from where I hailed a cab to my destination: University of Warwick. I remember the taxi fare being £4. I gave the driver a fiver and told him to keep the change. Mind you, that was exceptionally generous of me, given that my lecturing salary in China at that time was a measly £4 a month and it meant that I gave a quarter of my monthly earning just like that! Small wonder that I still remember it even now ;).
You have reached your hotel, whether you are in the UK for business or leisure. Who should you tip and how much?
- Give the hotel porter a pound or two for carrying heaving luggage into your room;
- When you leave the hotel, leave some coins for your chambermaid, as tokens of your appreciation and the fact that they are lowly paid.
When my husband and I travel overseas, we tend to leave some local money in the hotel room for the cleaning staff, especially coins which we may no longer be of use. Occasionally I’ll leave some chocolates or food items, especially when we stay in places which are self-catering.
Restaurants & Take-aways
- In a restaurant, it’s normal to tip the waiter or waitress 10 to 15 per cent of the total food bill;
- If a service charge is already included on the bill, no need to tip twice, unless the service is exceptional and you’re in a generous mood;
- If you are unhappy with the service or the quality of your food, you don’t have to leave a tip;
- If your food is delivered to your hotel or apartment, you don’t have to tip, not for your room service anyway. However, a delivery driver may appreciate a small tip. If you are collecting your food at the counter of a take-away, no tip is necessary;
- In a cafe, when a waitress brings your tea or coffee, or whatever you have ordered, tipping is not required, unless you feel the service being especially pleasant. You can leave a pound, or your change in appreciation. Sometimes in a coffee shop, such as Starbucks, you may see a tip jar on the counter. The Brits are often criticised for not being generous tippers, unlike their American counterparts;
- There is no need to tip in a pub or bar.
If you have a function to attend or you simply prefer a good hair day, nip into a hair saloon and have a stylist to work magic on your hair.
- Many stylists expect a tip of about 10 per cent and for a junior or trainee, add a pound or two to the total cost. It’s up to you.
That has more or less completed my tips on tipping in the UK.
It is a very important cultural lesson for my fellow countrymen or women, as in China there is no tipping culture. The Chinese give generously to their family and friends, and often to their business associates and superiors too. However, there is a general disregard towards people who serve us. I have often seen people query their food bills in restaurants which sometimes lead to furious arguments. It’s far more likely that we will ask for discounts rather than offer to pay tips in a Chinese restaurant, even in China Towns across the UK.
Well, that will be a different cultural awareness training, when I talk about Chinese culture to British people.
Cultural etiquette, fascinating topic, isn’t it?!