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How to Tip Correctly in ANY Situation

If you dine out then you probably understand what tipping is. At the end of a night out in a restaurant, it is customary generally to leave a tip for the server. This originated in England around Tudor times. It was originally a way to thank servants when people stayed overnight in someone else’s home. It then spread across London to restaurants and inns.

Although in the US tipping is seen as an integral part of dining or drinking out it is not seen in the same way in other countries. This leads to confusion and annoyance sometimes when a tourist from another country fails to tip correctly. In the paragraphs below, you can see why this happens and how you should tip.

Salt and pepper shaker on a wood table. Salt shaker on money.

Servers tips vs wages

Tipping servers is perhaps the biggest area when discussing how to tip. In the States, servers rely on tips to survive, but in other countries, it is different. In the UK for example, servers are paid a salary and tips are a bonus. It is this difference that leads European tourists to not tip properly, perhaps through habit or ignorance.

Tipping should be a way to reward good service on top of a living wage but unfortunately, this is not always the case. There are many ways to save money when dining out but missing out on the tip is not one of them.

Acceptable amounts to tip by

Different countries suggest different amounts. A restaurant in Southeast Asia might have 5% added to the receipt, and in the UK, 12%. In the US a regular good tip would be 20%.

How to work out your tip

This area often confuses customers. Some people have poor math skills and genuinely have problems with percentages. According to Business Insider, there is an easy way to work out a tip. Many receipts will have suggested tips on them to make it easier for patrons to leave the right amount.

If not then there is a good chance you have a smartphone with a calculator on it. For the absolute simplest way to work out 10% and 20% just divide the total by 10 (for ten percent) and multiply that amount by 2 for 20 percent.

Close-up of bearded man in jacket leaving tip for friendly barista while buying coffee and snacks in coffee shop

Tipping when traveling

Strangely, although US citizens are usually great at tipping, they often see less reason to tip when traveling overseas. Even when visiting much poorer countries, tips start to get forgotten about. However, there are reasons for this, so don’t chastise your fellow travelers just yet.

Some countries discourage the act of tipping. It is illegal to tip in Changi Airport, for instance, says USA Today. Singapore in general discourages leaving tips behind. Asian countries such as Korea and China also forego the tipping ritual. Top-end restaurants and hotels will sometimes add a service charge, and there is no reason to add more to this.

Best ways to tip in foreign lands

Research things to know about when dining out overseas on the internet. Look for local tipping customs to get a feel for what is right and wrong. If you are in a restaurant and want to leave a tip for your server, then ask if the tips are pooled or separate. You may find your particular server won’t get that money you left behind unless you give him or her it directly.

Countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, and other SE Asian nations will often appreciate a tip for service as the local salaries are low for long hours. Dollars are always appreciated, and a tip there could really make a difference to a low-paid worker.

Tipping in groups

When dining out together, working out the tip can be awkward. Ideally, everyone splits the bill, but often someone insists they didn’t spend as much, and it can all become awkward. Using an online tool or app like GigaCalculator, to calculate the tip per person can make this part of the night a lot simpler. 

Using your judgment to tip

Really, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world unless it really is discouraged, like in Singapore, you can probably make your own judgment calls. Good service should be reflected in return. In Changi Airport, this will be simply smiles and thanks but in America, it should be in cash.


Not knowing how to work out percentages is not an excuse not to tip as their smartphones and tools are easily to handle. It is not so necessary in some regions or situations, but it is usually appreciated. In other countries tipping is essential and part of the whole process of dining out.

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