With unemployment on the rise, workers around the world are relying more and more on tips. Traveling can be as tough as it is rewarding, so I’m sure many of us have been in that awkward situation where we weren’t sure if tipping was expected or insulting.

Growing up in the United States, I learned from a young age that tipping our waiter at dinner was part of the norm. It wasn’t until I lived in London that I started to notice grumpy faces when I would tip bartenders or waitstaff. Feeling that I was more than generous and wondering why the hell I was getting a stare down, I decided to ask some of my local British friends about the rules of tipping.

What I probably should have known before even crossing the pond was that in many European countries tipping can actually be insulting because waitstaff usually view their jobs as careers rather than an extra source of income. They are already paid more money, and therefore don’t need a large tip, which might explain why the service isn’t always so prompt. Tips are a motivating factor for many American workers, making performance and attentiveness necessary.

So let’s break it down:

Europe: As we’ve covered tips are usually not necessary because service is usually included in the bill. If it’s not, feel free to tip up to 10% but don’t go overboard like you might in the U.S. It’s always a good idea to look at the check before paying. Many people assume service is not included and end up tipping on top of the extra charge.

Asia and the Pacific: In these countries, people rarely tip. If you aren’t quite sure, glance around and try to notice what the locals are doing. Just because you are blatantly a tourist doesn’t mean you need to tip. It’s better to blend into the culture and feel part of the community. Plus not tipping will help you save money which means more travel time.

Middle East/Africa: Tipping in these countries is a bit harder to predict. If you do tip, at least know that you will not be offending them but it’s a good idea to notice what the locals are doing. From personal experience, I know that in Egypt tipping is expected, as this is the main source of income for many workers. Tip on everything: food, tours, hotel and be generous because when you think about it, the foreign currency is weak so you won’t really be spending too much money.

Central/South America: Follow the same rules as you would in Europe. A service charge is usually included but if it’s not, tip at least 10%. Even in Miami, which has a lot of Central and South American cultural elements, the tip is usually included in the bill. Again, make sure you look at the check before dishing out unnecessary cash.

Photo via acme‘s flickr stream

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