In the United States, tipping your waiter at a restaurant is practically a law. Unless you’ve received terrible service, you’re expected to leave a 15–20% tip every time you dine out. In Europe, however, this is considered excessive–and in some cases even an insult. Tipping in Europe isn’t nearly as common as it is in the U.S., but is not completely unheard of either. Here is a guide to tipping in Europe, so that you can know when to tip and when to just say thank you.
Who to Tip
If you want to feel like a big shot in America, you can throw your money around by tipping everyone who provides a service. In Europe, however, this will make you stick out. Tipping your server in a restaurant is not an obligation like it is in the U.S., but a server is one of only a few people you should consider tipping (and in a much smaller amount than you are probably used to). You never tip servers at cafes or bars (unless you’ve received some truly phenomenal service), and you don't typically tip the driver that takes you to the airport unless he or she helps you with your bags. If you take a taxi, rounding up to the next $5–$10 is considered polite if you had a good ride and the driver was kind and helpful.
How Much to Tip
In many places in Europe, including Italy, France and Spain, a service charge is included on every bill. This means that you are already paying that server for their work, so leaving a tip is not something that is expected or required. However, if you get a bill that does not include a service charge, leaving behind a 5–10% tip is considered normal. As a good rule, you can assume that in eastern and northern Europe, this service charge is usually included in the price, as well as in the Mediterranean. In countries such as Austria and Germany, there will be a note on the menu or the bill if a tip is not included, which will let you know whether you should leave behind some extra coins or not. Keep in mind that servers in Europe are typically paid well, so they don’t rely on tips as much as American waiters and waitresses do.
How to Tip
In Europe, never tip with a credit card. Even if you pay the rest of the bill with a credit card, make sure you have some small bills in your wallet to pay the tip in cash otherwise the server might not receive it. It’s also important to try to hand your tip directly to the person you wish to tip instead of leaving it on the table. If you want to tip the workers at your hotel for helping you with your bags or cleaning your room, tip them in the moment instead of waiting and leaving a tip along with the rest of your payment when you check out. This ensures that they get the tip you are trying to give them. Plus it’s more polite and personable.
Bad service exists all over the world. If you have a particularly surly or rude server, don't feel obligated to tip them at all. As mentioned previously, servers in Europe are usually paid pretty well. And since a tip isn't always expected, they may not even be offended if one isn't left.