News, Culture & Society

How much SHOULD you tip? Etiquette expert William Hanson has some advice

The matter of whether to tip, and how much to leave, is one that often leaves Britons scratching their heads.

Luckily, etiquette expert William Hanson has some helpful advice on the do’s and don’ts of tipping.

MailOnline Travel asked him for his thoughts after a study revealed that Britons tip more for poor service abroad than good service at home and that one traveller was chased in the U.S by an angry waitress over a $20 tip.

The research was carried out by travel money provider WeSwap, which asked 2,000 respondents to consider how much they would tip for a £32.37 meal in Spain, which is the cost for two of an average meal in a mid-level restaurant.

It also asked them how much they would tip for an average UK meal – which is £46 – and an average U.S meal for two, which is £41.47.

According to the results, Britons would tip £6.12 in Spain, or 18.9 per cent of the bill, £9.01 in the U.S, or 21.7 per cent of the bill, and £5.10 in the UK, or 11.1 per cent of the bill.

Interestingly, when asked what they would tip for bad service abroad, the mean amount came to £5.39, or 16.65 per cent of the bill, which is more than they would tip for good service at home.

The survey also revealed that 53 per cent of Britons tip between 1p and £5 per meal when abroad and that 55 per cent tip this amount in the UK.

Is there an amount that’s deemed too stingy to leave? Apparently, yes.

The survey revealed that nearly half – 46 per cent – wouldn’t leave a tip of £5 or less as they would find it rude.

According to a WeSwap survey, Britons would tip £6.12 in Spain, or 18.9 per cent of the bill, £9.01 in the U.S, or 21.7 per cent of the bill, and £5.10 in the UK, or 11.1 per cent of the bill

Nearly a fifth, meanwhile, using the average meal amounts stated above, believe that £5.24 is a respectable tip per meal. And three in 10 holidaymakers do not budget for tipping as part of their holiday budget.

Understanding tipping cultures is, of course, the key to stress-free tipping.

One Briton interviewed for the survey, Andrew from Northamptonshire, revealed that on a business trip to America, the group misjudged the tip and riled their server.

He said: ‘’When I first went to the US on business I was shocked by the tipping culture that exists. I was unaware of just how vital tips were for waiters in terms of their wages. I went for dinner with some colleagues, which came to a bill of around $250 (£206). They left a tip of $20 (£16.55) and we left the restaurant. Only to be chased down the street by the waitress who was shouting “20 bucks? Is that all I’m worth?” Safe to say I was much more careful in future!’

The survey revealed that nearly half of Britons – 46 per cent - wouldn’t leave a tip of £5 or less as they would find it rude

The survey revealed that nearly half of Britons – 46 per cent – wouldn’t leave a tip of £5 or less as they would find it rude


Jared Jesner, CEO of WeSwap, has some tips on tipping cultures:

  • In the US, as you may know, tipping is not seen as optional as it is in the UK. The only situation you don’t tip is if the service is seen as truly awful. Small tips can also cause offence. It’s been known for waiters to loudly return tips of five per cent before customers manage to leave the restaurant.
  • In Scandinavia, tipping is not common practice like in the USA, but in some restaurants, you may need to confirm the total by typing the value before your PIN, this is so that you can add a tip, but don’t feel pressure to leave a substantial tip out of politeness.
  • In the UAE and Dubai, only hotels are legally allowed to add a service charge onto bills (often 10 per cent). This rarely goes to the staff so handing them cash directly is a nice touch. In independent bars and restaurants around the emirates, tipping is not mandatory but always welcomed.
  • In Portugal, tipping is expected at around 12 per cent of the tab, or round-up to the nearest euro if you’re having a coffee. Between 10-15 per cent of the bill is a good indicator for tipping across most of western Europe, including Spain, France and Germany.
  • If you are in a restaurant and paying by card, always check to see if the terminal prompts you to add a tip. If so, add it to the cost of your bill but if not, leave it as cash. Tipping policy differs from establishment to establishment, so check how you are being prompted to tip, and follow their lead rather than just leave cash, as that can be inconvenient for the server.
  • It is always a good idea to have some cash on you for a number of reasons when travelling abroad. Much like the UK, the acceptance of card can differ widely from place to place, so always budget to take some cash just in case. I would always recommend carrying 10 per cent of your food budget in cash just in case the restaurant doesn’t accept cash or if their terminal may be faulty, and you can always use it to give your server a little extra you appreciated their service.


And other Briton, primary school teacher Latha Dias, had a far more heart-warming tipping experience while abroad.

She said: ‘We’d been touring Sri Lanka for a while and had become very aware of the difference a nominal tip in UK standards meant to restaurant staff. The poverty gap is evident and the meals so reasonably priced once converted. You do start to feel very conscious of tipping well.

‘This was never because you were made aware of the back stories of those working in restaurants and bars, instead it was bright smiles and impeccable customer service. This was typified in a small independent restaurant we visited on the South coast – Galle. Our waiter went above and beyond the call of duty to make us feel special and happy, he was manning 12 tables alone and was pushed to the edge, but did not drop his smile or level of attentiveness.

‘He undoubtedly deserved a handsome tip, but unfortunately all we had was one note of 5,000 rupees, for a meal that was only 3000 Rs. We got up to leave but ended up tipping the waiter the full 5,000 as we couldn’t leave him empty-handed and quite frankly it converted to just over £20, which just felt right to give.

‘As we walked out he ran after us and tried to give it back because he thought we’d left it in error, and once we’d told him it wasn’t a mistake and it was for him he was really emotional – as were we – and he said that it would be a huge help for a family medical bill he’d been saving for. It made us feel great to have helped and really understand the plight of an entire workforce holding up a hugely vital economy with a great service and work ethic.’

Mr Hanson was not impressed with the behaviour of the waitress who chased Andrew in the U.S.

He said: ‘Under-tipped service staff should always be thankful for whatever is left, even if their clients have been miserly or forgotten to tip. Chasing customers down the road is demeaning and desperate.’

And he said he could understand why some people would find it rude to leave less than £5.

He said: ‘It is equally just as bad to under tip and leave too little. Sometimes what is also appreciated by staff just as much is a friendly and courteous manner.’

The rule, he added, is generally to tip for good service and never be afraid not to tip for bad service.

He said: ‘In many western countries, especially the UK and Europe, tipping should only be done when the server has gone above and beyond. When tipping cash in the UK it’s a case of giving an additional 10 per cent – but of course you can always tip above that if you wish. If the service has been drastically below expectation then do not be afraid to ask for any imposed service charge to be removed but you will need to justify your reasoning to the manager.’