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Proper tipping etiquette ("how", not "how much")

Perhaps, I have too much free time on my hands, but I've been wondering why tipping feels different in Italy. Typically, in Germany (or most other European countries), if my lunch is, say, 18.20€, i hand them a bank note, look them straight in the eye and say: "20€, thank you, bye" in the local language. There are phrases to indicate that no change is required, but I rarely, if ever, have to use it. In Italy, however, it's a different story. They typically start counting the change right away, and then I have to verbally assure the server that none is required. Is it my body language? is there a magic phrase i should be using? It's easer in sit down restaurants where I can just leave the tip on the table, but in cabs or places where you eat/pay at the bar - how do you do it in a more graceful manner?

Posted by
8889 posts

Or just accept the change. There is obviously no need to tip so why do you want to give your money away?

Posted by
6087 posts

Agree with Chris, why worry about how to tip in a non-tipping culture?

Posted by
2487 posts

Or, if you don't want to look a miser, leave the change on the table when leaving.

Posted by
255 posts

I'm with the others, Tipping is not required and not an Italian custom, so no need to do it!

Posted by
2353 posts

We typically just leave the coins on the tray or table - rarely is there not a tray.

Posted by
792 posts

waiters in Italy are salaried employees, tips are not part of their income, unless a clueless American leaves one

Posted by
11700 posts

Same as some of the others: we expect correct change back if it's a significant amount but otherwise just tell the waitstaff to keep it. It can save time if having a lot yet to accomplish!

Posted by
4152 posts

There is never a need to leave anything. If you want to leave the loose change you can and that's fine but not more than what it takes to round up to the next euro. In your example I would leave the 80 cents and take the 1 euro coin. The waiter will be happy with that. Again, this is not a tipping culture but it's fine to "round up". You don't need to say anything, just leave the change on the table.

Donna

Posted by
11613 posts

Italians generally tip the barista, however.

Posted by
1769 posts

Romans sometimes tip the girl or the boy at the bar. I've never seen it done anywhere else, and many see it as a nasty habit that makes things easier for those who pay young workers under the table.

A trained barista gets more money than most Italians, why should we tip him or her?

By law taxi drivers own both the car and the license. They are the last ones you should tip as cab licenses are numbered, mandatory fares are set by their own unions and they always go on strike to block any possible change like Uber or more cabs on the streets.

Italians do not tip and they don't feel strange or think they look miser while waiting for the change.

Posted by
54 posts

Ellen - thank you for asking this. It's been bothering me ever since I got home from Italy that I came across as an Ugly American by not tipping.

Posted by
11613 posts

Thanks, Dario, only saying what I've seen. Maybe it's a 10-centisimo bribe?

Posted by
4509 posts

Ellen - thank you for asking this. It's been bothering me ever since I got home from Italy that I came across as an Ugly American by not tipping.

Based on my own experiences and observations of questions and posts here, the no-tipping issue is one of the hardest differences for Americans to get used to. Tipping servers, waiters and taxi drivers is so ingrained in us that to not leave a tip feels extremely awkward. And of course some waiters take advantage of the propensity of Americans to tip that they suggest or expect we leave a tip, making things even more confusing. And tipping rules or customs do vary from country to country or even from service industry to service industry, so it can be very hard to know when to tip, when not to tip and how much. So I usually offer a small amount, round up to a whole number or up to 10%. If a waiter seems un-inclined to take a tip, certainly do not force it on them (that can seem rude) and never tip more than 10% as it can encourage less scrupulous servers to demand tips from other Americans. I also never leave a tip on the table; you should always give it to the person you wish to actually receive the tip. And if paying by credit card, any tip must be in cash. And many small restaurants are run by the owners and their families; if you tip them you are just paying extra for your meal.

Posted by
11981 posts

I don't even leave anything.

A larger tip is not expected and might make people think it's braggadocio. Americans are already known for their habit of showing off. And to me leaving a small pittance of 1/2 euro change is also demeaning and insulting. It's like treating a person like a servant.

Italians don't expect that tip. The service of a waiter is seen as any work provided by any other type of worker. You don't leave a tip to the cashier at a supermarket or to the bank teller at a bank or a car salesman at the car dealership or to the pharmacist at the pharmacy. Restaurant workers in Italy expect to be treated the same as those other services and they are not paid poverty level wages.

Leaving a tip to a taxi driver in Italy is equivalent to leaving a tip to a lawyer or a dentist. As mentioned above, by law they own both the car and the taxi license, so they are self employed entrepreneurs. The taxi tel number you call is not a company employing them, but the professional firm/association of which they are partners and which they use for shared costs, such as radio dispatchers and marketing). Taxi drivers in Italy are probably one of the most financially comfortable class who are also protected by competition through their powerful lobby. No other country has managed to shut out Uber and Lyft the way they did in Italy. The fact that no foreign immigrant in Italy is a taxi driver and often the taxi license is transmitted from generation to generation is, that alone, a sign of how coveted that profession is.

Posted by
7737 posts

There are indeed several phrases you could say in Italian that mean "Keep the change." The one that comes to mind is "Per Lei." pronounced "pehr LAY" It means "For you."

And it's true about Americans creating a culture of expectation for tips. Last year I took a taxi from the Assisi train station up into the town. The price is already an extremely high 15 euros for at most a ten minute ride, but when I handed the driver a 20 euro note, he actually said "Devo il resto?" to me, meaning "Do I have to give you the change?" Not being able to quickly translate "Heck, yeah, dude. I am not giving you a 33% tip on a ten minute cab ride!" I just responded "Si'" and held out my hand for my five.

Posted by
6087 posts

American tourists that always tip in Italy (and elsewhere where tipping is not the norm) are just showing their ignorance of the culture and, of course, the locals that deal with tourists are going to be quick to take advantage.

Posted by
835 posts

We had breakfast a couple of dozen times at the same bar in Venice. Cost always came to 4.60 euro, and they always gave us change from five euro. We always put the change in the tip jar. After the third or fourth visit, they just made two cappucino for us without asking, which was a bit of fun.

A small tip is not an insult.

Posted by
32 posts

Roberto, does that go for car service drivers as well? We have a car service booked from Malpensa to Bellagio...is a private company...obviously here we would tip...but maybe not there??

Posted by
11981 posts

I'm sure some service providers accustomed to American tourists might hope for, if not expect, a handsome tip. Don't count on this Italian American. The Italian friends of mine who are taxi drivers lead a life that is much more comfortable than mine, and they think I'm the lucky one because I work in Silicon Valley.

Posted by
250 posts

It always amazes me that this topic keeps popping up like there were no previous threads about it. There seems to be no end to "how much should I tip" questions. The way I see it, this saves us some money and time and avoids the need to calculate 15% of the bill. We would rather spend that money (which adds up after each meal) on seeing Italy than paying waiters, right?

I can't help but believe that a small, round-up tip makes for good "diplomacy." Working with tourists who do not speak one's native language can be challenging. Some tourists are just plain rude. I tend to think waiters and all appreciate a little kindness. I don't see too many food service workers living luxury lives. Food service is tough work. I did some of these jobs in my younger years.

Posted by
5164 posts

barb food service workers in EU get paid starting at a much higher (living) minimum wage than in the US, get 4-5 weeks paid vacation, free health care and free education. Thats a better living than I had my first trips to Europe. I talk to people over there when I visit. A good server is paid more than minimum wage and is treated with respect, unlike in the US where it is a job for school kids and low end service workers who only work for tips.

Posted by
255 posts

Sometimes it's better to not leave anything than to "round up" . Waiters make a good living wage, and to leave 20, 30, 60 cents is not offensive, but it's... Useless.... I don't know how else to put it.
I've worked with customers and tourists and it's really not necessary to leave anything.

Posted by
11613 posts

TW, lots of questions pop up repeatedly on these forums. The OP is not asking about how much to tip, but how to do it.

Posted by
835 posts

Travelling Woman will make her FIRST visit to Europe in November this year ......

Posted by
11613 posts

Peter, that was my point, not articulated: for first-time travelers to Europe, the same questions to long-time forum users are new to the OPs. This particular question is actually not the same as most questions about tipping.

Posted by
5718 posts

Americans have so messed this up that now nasty aggressive waiters in tourist areas of Rome for example will announce 'the tip is not included' to American tourists on occasion. It usually accompanies unusually insolent service and on at least one occasion occurred after I corrected a wildly inflated bill. Don't be the ugly American tourist who louses up the system for everyone else.

Posted by
3 posts

How about tipping a valet attendant? Is that also unnecessary? I'm going to Positano next month and will have a car with me. My hotel says that they work with a parking company that will send a valet attendant to take the car away when I arrive at the hotel. There's no money involved so there's nothing to round up. Should I hand him a couple Euros?

Posted by
1769 posts

You do not tip anybody for anything in Italy.

I wonder if there is a better way to help Americans understand this concept.

Posted by
7737 posts

Darioalb, excellent point. I do like the fact that people who are asking about this are trying to learn how something is done in a different culture. Their (good) intention is to avoid offending someone by not handling the tipping issue correctly. So many of us Americans really have the whole tipping thing ingrained in us since childhood because it's such an important part of the economy here for certain occupations.

I happen to know you live in Italy, but your RS profile doesn't reflect that. I think if people knew that, your words on this subject would carry even more weight. Thanks for all your contributions to these discussions. Grazie mille.