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When living and working in one of the most famous cities in the world, people ask me a lot of questions on the street – mostly because people can hear that I speak perfect English. Many are looking for directions to The David, some want to know where I’m from, some just want to pet my dog, Luna. I love to help people enjoy their European vacation and try and answer all of their questions, but recently there has been one that repeatedly keeps popping up and many seem very confused on the topic: How should we tip in Europe?

Today, leaving a tip in Europe is becoming more popular – but only for actual good service – not because it’s paying a part of someone’s paycheck. If the service isn’t good? No tip necessary.

Here are a few good guidelines:
  • Many locals and EU tourists agree that the overall way to tip in Europe is to leave 10% of the bill for good service at a sit-down restaurant, and a larger percentage if it was truly excellent service – especially at higher-end restaurants or hotels that specifically provides higher levels of personal service.
  • For bars and cafes, simply rounding up the bill or leaving the change is also appreciated for a quick coffee or drink if the service was good. For drinks, I personally leave a euro for each – and more if I get something that requires more work for the bartender.
  • Cash is best for tips because it assures the money can be given directly to your server. Also oftentimes a tip won’t be able to be added to a credit card bill, so having Euros is the overall easiest option. If you don’t have Euros but still have dollars in your wallet, many accept the foreign currency.

This may sound too simple of a solution if you have already searched the internet for how to tip wherever you’re going in Europe especially because there are a few popular travel rumors that make many feel confused or scared to tip.

Continuously, many tourists tell me they have heard that Italians are offended if given tips, or that European servers, in general, get paid minimum wage, so tips are too much. This may have been true in the past when a single family ran an entire hotel or restaurant (they would be making all the profit anyway), but now, your server may be a professional working for someone else (and maybe not getting paid as much as they’re worth), and if they do an excellent job, the act of tipping is just as appreciated in the EU as it is in the US – if not more so because it isn’t mandatory.

Yes, in the EU almost all wait staff gets paid at least regular minimum wage, this doesn’t mean that it is a “livable” wage, just like minimum wage in the US especially if you’re living in a big city full of tourism. Life expenses may also be lower in the countryside, but that certainly isn’t the case in Florence, Italy. Even our groceries are priced higher the closer you get to the Duomo and increasing numbers of tourists create unbearable rental prices for locals. Just recently, we were forced to move outside the center to save money – and that was with two full paychecks of a minimum wage – one being in the service industry. I’ve heard similar personal stories from Ireland and England, so although the wait staff isn’t relying on their tips to get paid, if you give them a few Euros for a job well done, you may just be making a difference for them that month!

When traveling to Europe, don’t stress over how to tip – think of it simply. If your experience with the service was poor, no tip needed. If the person serving you helped you enjoy your time in their city, leaving them a few Euros to let them know you appreciated their work is a perfect way to let them know!

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