It’s been a weird couple of days. First, we get chased by a ferret on the street while walking home from dinner. Then the Jehovah’s Witnesses ring our doorbell far too early on a Sunday morning and to top it off, a bad three-car accident happened just outside our house. The car actually crashed into our neighbor’s house in a bad rainstorm. Anyway, forget all that. Today we’re talking about tipping in France. Whenever we head to the U.S. on vacation, the American tipping culture becomes apparent from the moment we step off the plane. Taxi drivers, waiters, bellhops and more all get their share and it’s something normal for me, but not for Tom, since tipping in France is very different. Are you supposed to tip in France? And if so, how much?
Tipping in France: To tip or not to tip, that is the question
When friends and family come to visit, they always ask about tipping in France. For Americans, who have grown up with tipping pretty much anyone who lends a hand/provides a service, it can feel weird to NOT leave a little something when out to eat, at the salon, etc. So generally speaking, do you tip in France? No. But hold on, it’s not that simple.
Tipping in France
First, let’s take into consideration that in the U.S. waiters and many others in service professions depend on tips to earn a livable wage. Servers are paid next to nothing in the U.S. and bust their butts to be friendly and attentive. And why not? If they want a good tip, providing an excellent experience for the customer is key to earning a living. In France, waiters are paid a livable wage and do not depend on tips, nor do they go out of their way to be the best waiters ever. They do their job and get paid for it. End of story.
So do you leave a tip at French restaurants?
The short answer is no. But it’s completely at your discretion. Keep in mind that the service and tax are both included in the price you see on the menu (indicated by the words service compris, and it’s 15%). I repeat, the tip is already included in the price! So if you leave additional money on the table, you’re in effect tipping twice. Leaving a few euros for a particularly great meal/great service is always appreciated but never expected. If you decide to tip, just leave the coins in the plastic tray with the receipt on the table. It’s perfectly fine to round a bill up if you had good service like leaving 40 if the bill was 37.
What you need to know about dining at restaurants in France (and dos and don’ts) >>
On the other hand, don’t feel like you’re a cheapskate if you only pay the total on your bill. If your bill is an even 40 and you only have 40 on you, it’s fine. Really. In the US, even if service was sub-par, if you were served an edible meal, it’s customary to leave 15%+. In France, 15% would be out of the question unless you were at a really nice restaurant and someone really went way above and beyond. A few euros extra is already generous.
If you pay by card, you’re never obligated to run back to the table and leave a few euros. Again, definitely don’t leave the customary 15-20% American tip. That would be completely unnecessary. I personally round up if the service was good, so if I get a drink at a cafe and it’s 4.75, I’ll leave 5. Or if we’re out to eat and it’s 47 euros, I may leave 50 if everything was great. But again, leaving a tip at a restaurant is NOT expected at all and many French people never leave anything and that’s totally OK. Your call. You’re not stiffing the waiter if you only pay the amount on the receipt.
Tom’s note: When paying by card, many times you just get up and walk to the register to pay because it might be a little bit of a wait to have the waiter come to you, especially if it’s busy. You may see a tip bowl or jar there up at the front and you can leave a few coins to be shared among the waitstaff. At the chain La Boucherie, they have a tip bowl in a shape of a cow if I remember correctly, and when a customer pays his check and puts coins in the cow, it’s a big deal. The waiter rings a bell and all the waiters in the room say out loud, “Personnel ! MERCI !” So keep an eye out for a tip bowl if you’d like to leave a few coins on the way out.
Do you tip for a haircut in France?
When getting a haircut, again, it’s customary to just pay for the cost of the service. There’s no need to leave anything additional unless you are particularly pleased with the service. A few euros is fine. I left a tip the first time I got my haircut in France and the stylist was very surprised. Appreciative but surprised. Almost shocked. It’s definitely not the norm to leave a tip for a haircut (definitely not 15-20%). Remember, stylists do not depend on tips to live.
*** Also, watch out for setting a precedent with service providers you see regularly. If you leave a tip the first time you see a new hair stylist, he/she is going to expect it every time. ***
No tip necessary. But if you had a particularly bulky item and they were extra helpful, a few euros is a generous gesture if you feel like it.
No tip necessary. But if you had a complicated order or they’re on a scooter and it’s pouring rain, rounding up to the nearest euro or leaving an extra euro or two will make their night.
So that’s my opinion, but if you want to know more, let me know and I’ll get the scoop from Tom (if you’re new around these parts, Tom is my French husband who has his own column on my blog called Ask Tom Tuesdays where he answers your questions).
So to recap: France does not have a tip-centric culture to the same extent that we do in the US. The French are paid a livable wage so leaving a tip in most cases is not necessary at all. It’s completely at your discretion, and if you do leave a tip when out to eat, a few euros is a generous gesture. Use your best judgment.