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Thursday, January 15, 2015 (read 2734 times)

How to Tip in Spain

by David

When I worked in a restaurant many moons ago in the States, waiters would dread the arrival European diners because despite eating and drinking well (they are on vacation, right?) they would do something unthinkable to an American. They would leave without tipping! Americans seem to have tipping etiquette burned into their psyche and most people have learned to calculate a tip with little effort. But what about tipping in Spain?

No Official Tipping Guide

In Spain, there is no official tipping guide, only vague notions in which tipping is a personal decision left to ones discretion. Here, there is not an obligation to tip—anyone or at anytime—but it is OK to give a little bonus out of consideration for the extra effort. Let's start by looking at the most common situation where we would normally tip in America—a restaurant.

In America the general rule of thumb is to give 15% of the total (not including the tax, of course) for service that can be deemed as adequate or "meeting expectations". Depending on the level of service received this percentage may increase (for excellent service) or decrease (for poor service). For travelers to Spain, the starting point for giving a tip is 0%. It may feel awkward not tipping since it is so ingrained in our minds but don't worry, you won't be depriving that poor server of their rent payment or health insurance. In Spain, people are paid a steady wage whether they receive tips or not and since health care is universal, there are no additional health insurance co-payments.

A quick restaurant tipping guide should be based on your total amount spent and the type of restaurant. In general, if your bill is less than €30 you should leave the loose change that you receive for you bill. For example if your total is €28.50 you could leave the 50 euro cents or €1.50. It's up to you and you shouldn't feel pressured to give one way or another. With this as your starting point, you should increase your tip proportionally to the total. If your bill comes out to €74.80 and you pay with €80 you can leave the €5 bill and change if you feel that the server was deserving of what here would be considered a very generous tip. But you shouldn't feel bad either if you leave only couple of euros or nothing at all. Don't worry, here they won't chase you into the street demanding a tip or bad mouth you to the other customers. Here, it just doesn't work that way. The bottom line is that you shouldn't feel bad about leaving less than 15%. Although tips are always welcome, they aren't something that a server is expecting nor is it something they need to make ends meet.

A quick note if you are in a bar or café and order something to drink along with a tapa: don't feel obligated to leave a tip. Most people won't leave one and in some bars the tips are kept by the owner. Also, be sure to look at your bill in the restaurant, café or bar; if on the receipt there is note or charge with the name Servicio or Servicio Incluido (sometimes included in bills for larger groups) than a tip has automatically been included and you shouldn't pay anything more.

Taking a taxi is also a source of anxiety for some travelers but fear not, it's not that complicated. If you taking a trip from point A to point B, round up the fare and leaving the driver the small change. If your trip is particularly long (more than €60) then rounding up to the nearest €10 could be an option—but only you feel the driver deserves it. Also, keep in mind that if your trip is beginning or ending in a specially designated area like an airport, train station, trade show etc… surcharges are often added (which aren't always included on the meter) to the cost of the ride. So be sure to ask before you get into a taxi how much the trip will be—even an estimation will do—so there are no surprises at the end of the ride. The City of Madrid's website lists the different surcharges you may have to pay which you can see in the suplementos section.  If you have a lot of luggage or require some special service than you should tip the driver accordingly but remember that it's not an obligation—it's a gesture of appreciation.

In a hotel you are not expected to tip unless you have been given extraordinary service or if you have solicited a service that is not normally part of the hotel's offerings.            

For someone coming to Spain for the first time—especially an American—revising one's own tipping guidelines can be challenging and awkward at first. Just remember that in Spain, like many other European countries, tipping as we know it in America doesn’t exist and if one does tip it is done in the best sense of the word—to show someone your appreciation for a job well done. This custom is one that tends to create an unusual amount of stress for people coming to visit Spain. So now you know, relax and enjoy your time here and do it without spending your hard earned money unnecessarily.

Keywords: tipping guide,tipping etiquette,tipping guidelines,visiting spain,tipping in spain,spanish customs

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