Sometimes it’s the small irrational and illogical things in life that stress us out when we are on our travels. How many of us constantly double-check that we still have our passport? How often do we ignore the seating and stand right next to the boarding gate in the departure lounge with boarding card firmly clasped in hand as we mentally identify potential queue jumpers?
High up on many travelers list of irrational worries is tipping etiquette when in a foreign country. The good news is that by remembering a few simple tried and trusted conventions you can guarantee yourself a stress-free dining and travel experience during your vacation in Central Europe.
So let’s look at the number one bone of contention — dining out.
Do as the locals do
The vast majority of waiting staff in Central European restaurants are tremendously skilled and proud of their work. They are also aware they represent the public face of their country and want you to enjoy your dining experience.
Giving hugely excessive tips in restaurants can be perceived as cultural ignorance and although the intention may be genuine, there’s a strong chance that your server will feel awkward and patronized at what appears to be a flaunting of wealth and your dining experience will present them with an uncomfortable experience. So in this scenario, although the intention was genuine, neither server nor diner would achieve the outcome they desired. Servers are paid a monthly salary that does not reflect tips and while tipping is appreciated, it is not expected. This particularly applies to rural areas and when off-season.
Leave a tip of around 10% or round up
In most Central European countries you can’t really go wrong by leaving a tip of around 10% for your meal. It’s also common practice to ‘round up’, so for example, if the bill is €30.45 simply round it up to €31.00 if there are just two of you. However, with all good rules, there are exceptions. So, let’s say that if the meal for your party of eight comes to €130.45, common sense says to go for the 10% option rather than make what would appear a miserly gesture.
Be aware that handing a banknote over and saying ‘thank you’ either in your native language or with your new found phrase book language skills can often result in the server taking this as an offer to ‘keep the change’.
And those exceptions?
- Some of the larger restaurants can include a service charge in the bill, in which case there is no real reason to tip above this unless you’ve been absolutely dazzled by the service. So always check that bill.
- Secondly, the city centers of Central Europe have become more touristy over the years and in some of the more high-brow five-star establishments tipping on a USA scale has become more commonplace. Otherwise, in general, it’s as above.
- It is common for the server to ask if each person will pay separately for their meal or together and it is not considered unusual if the diners decide to do so. In this case, tip accordingly.
- Don’t leave cash on the table and leave after receiving your bill. Wait to pay and tip the server.
- Don’t always assume (particularly in rural areas) that every restaurant will take credit cards. Cash is still king when it comes to eating outside the city centers.
- There is no tipping in any fast food restaurants, takeout restaurants, snack bars or when buying street food.
Bars, cafes, clubs, and pubs
Unless you’re in a nightclub until the early hours of the morning then expect waiter service. It’s customary in most countries to round up by a few coins when paying the server for drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). If paying at the bar (usually only in nightclubs) when buying a drink then there is no need to tip, although rounding up may get you served first when returning for your next drink.
Tipping is voluntary and not expected but feel free to round up or even add 10% if you feel you’ve had an above standard service.
The subject of tipping is currently a much-discussed subject in Europe with many people feeling that with most countries introducing a minimum wage then tipping is a relic from the past and good service should not be anything to pay extra for. Do you agree or disagree with this? Or maybe you just want to tell us about your experiences of tipping in Central Europe? Do you have any good or bad experiences you would like to share with us? Join in the conversation!