We are so used to certain cultural norms that we carry them even when we are in a culture we know well.
Let’s take, for example, tipping. As someone who was raised in the U.S., it is common to leave a 15% tip, but I have found that I leave more. It is important to understand the differences in tipping culture.
It doesn’t matter if you tip in Italy. Period.
There’s a longer version. But it’s not that difficult. It’s important to remember that most Italians don’t leave tips and there is no reason to. Are you still not convinced? These are just a few reasons to not tip your server after eating in Italy.
- It’s possible that you are already paying an extra. A service charge or cover charge is a charge for occupying a particular seat. This charge applies to all orders. If you see the words servizio incluso, coperto on a menu, it will be added to your bill. You don’t need to think about anything else.
- Italian waiters don’t depend on tips to survive. In contrast to the United States, waiters in America are often paid less than the minimum wage and have the expectation that they will work hard to earn tips. There is no historical expectation that waiters in Italy will be earning tips to supplement their income. Waiters in Italy don’t make huge salaries. They don’t count on you tipping to make up the difference.
- This sets a poor precedent. Italians working in the tourist industry expect tips for waiting on foreign tourists. They’re also more likely to be upset with patrons from Italy who don’t give tips. This trend is making it difficult for Italians to be happy. As with many other matters, it’s best for you to follow the local lead.
- It is a bad idea. We are used to tipping a percentage in America, but this may also apply to other cultures. Katie Parla, my friend, points out that tipping in Italy based on percentages can make it seem like we are ” inefficient spenders who want to flash money to prove our status.”
Tipping in Italy is a serious matter. It’s true. You may also feel guilty about tipping without permission, even though you are allowed. What if you just had the best meal of your entire life? Perhaps the waiter made you feel like a distant cousin. In those cases, tipping is the best way to express gratitude. Here’s how to tip like the Italians.
- Add up your total bill and leave a EUR20.
- Hand a few coins directly to the waiter if you pay with a credit card. There may not be a line to tip the receipt and it’s unlikely that the tip will reach your waiter. It is appreciated to hand a few coins directly to the waiter. (And I don’t mean “a few coins”, but something that is EUR2-3.
- Don’t forget to tip the bar. This is the perfect place to drop a few small coins that we have trouble spending. Before you leave, keep 10-20C/ near your empty cup.
I have been using the words “waiters” or “waitstaff” in this article. However, tipping a taxi driver of at least a few euro is acceptable. If someone handles your bags for you in a luxury hotel, hand them a few euros. If I stay in a hotel that has a daily cleaning service, I leave about a euro per night for housekeeping. (Non-Italy Specific Sidebar) Some of my travel writing friends suggest that they leave their housekeeping tips at their arrival, not at the end of their stay to get better service.
Italy is seeing a shift in tipping expectations, particularly in touristy areas. People have begun to expect and sometimes even demand tips, but the truth is that it is not normal for people to demand or expect tipping. It is possible to do your bit to prevent Italy from being contaminated by foreign tipping practices. However, you can avoid any confrontations with taxi drivers and waiters in a huff about not giving them extra.