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Expatriate Health Insurance News: Guide to tipping

There are plenty of customs that vary across the world and it is important to get these right so as not to cause offence. This is especially the case when moving to a new country, as such a misunderstanding is not a good way to start off life in a new community.

When it comes to tipping, things can get particularly complicated and it really pays to do your research before setting off. That is because it is rude not to tip in some places, while handing over money in this way is seen as an insult in others.

It is therefore vital that you find out which category your new home fits into and if tipping is expected, then at what level.


It is quite widely recognised that tipping is widespread in the USA and not leaving some cash after a meal or for other services rendered can leave you in hot water. It is a huge part of the American culture and most staff will be particularly courteous as they make up a large proportion of their income through tips.

With this in mind it is fair to say that you should tip for just about every service you receive, as long as it has been up to scratch. This means leaving a little extra for everyone from waiting staff to the person who carried your bag.

Before tipping check that it has not already been added to the bill in the form of a gratuity. If not then the way to proceed is as follows: pay 15 to 20 per cent on top of your meal or $1 (62p) a drink when at a bar. If you have set up a bar tab then tip 15 per cent when you pay it at the end.

These rules can generally be applied in the same way in Canada and Mexico. When checking the bill for the gratuity in Mexico it is the word 'propina' that you are looking for.

Australia and New Zealand

Tipping is not a particularly common practice in Australia and New Zealand as service staff are paid well and do not expect extra. They will not normally take offence if additional cash if proffered, however.

Large groups can expect to pay a ten per cent surcharge and touristy destinations, such as The Rocks and Darling Harbour in Sydney and Southbank and Docklands in Melbourne, often see tipping by clientele. As an expatriate you may not spend a lot of time in these places, however.


Being such a vast continent and consisting of many different cultures, the rules surrounding tipping can vary from place to place. Be prepared that it is often the case that foreigners are expected to tip where locals are not.

As a general rule, a ten per cent tip for waiting staff is about right, while $1 should be given to baggage handlers per item of luggage and $2 a day for housekeeping staff.

In Egypt tipping is widespread and it is important to keep small denominations of the local currency to hand as you will need to tip everyone from museum guards to bathroom attendants and anyone who helps you.

If relocating to Tanzania, do not expect to tip in the restaurants where locals eat, but do tip if frequenting an upmarket establishment. Hotels and lodges will have a tip box at reception, so put an amount in there to be distributed to all the staff.

Madagascar previously had no tradition of tipping, but an increase in tourist numbers has meant that some waiters now expect ten per cent of the bill. Meanwhile, those in South Africa normally expect a higher tip than in other places on the continent, so it is best to leave 15 per cent of the bill.

The Middle East

Smaller tips are generally appropriate in the Middle East and these are greatly appreciated. It is best to leave this extra amount for the server in cash to ensure that it goes into the right hands. Do not ask to take leftovers home as poorly paid members of staff are often given this to feed their families.


Do not tip in China, as it is considered an insult by many and it is against company rules in the majority of cases to accept tips. What you consider to be a kindness can cost people their jobs if they take the money and in other instances can lead to a very awkward situation. This is generally the case with Japan too.

In other parts of Asia, such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Hong Kong it is safe to top around ten per cent in restaurants.

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