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HOW TO TIP IN FRANCE

In the U.S. tipping is customary and expected for everything from lackluster to outstanding service. It is an etiquette which is ingrained in all trades, from wait staff at restaurants to our baristas, valets, cab drivers, porters, and many more trades. In Europe tipping is not as habitual, but in France it is fairly commonplace. There is no obligation to do so, however leaving something extra is customary. The question `when?` or `how much?` can leave some travelers confused, as the practice varies.

This guide attempts to cover most situations that you, as a tourist, will encounter. Hopefully using these `tips` will provide a smooth experience when interacting with locals in restaurants, bars, hotels, tour operators, and taxis.

Currency: Can I pay in U.S. dollars, or should I use Euros?

The currency of France is the Euro. US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for Euros upon arrival. In our culture we can put everything on credit and debit cards, however, in Europe you will find it useful to always keep a little cash on hand. Currency exchange desks can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the city.

Restaurants, Cafes, and Bars: When should I tip? How much is customary?

First thing is first: By law a 15% service compris is included in the price wherever you eat or drink, whether explicitly stated in the menu or not. This is a service charge, not a tip, but it goes a long way towards providing servers a living wage. This does not mean that you should not leave a tip. It is considered very polite to leave a little extra for good service, but do not feel obligated to overtip!

Now, as far as the actual tip, it is generally expected but not required. Tipping, as in most of Europe, is most common in the largest tourist areas, as a direct result of American tourists carrying their own customs abroad. When so inclined to tip, the most common practice is to tell the server `C`est bon, merci` or `Gardez la monnaie,` meaning keep the change. As an example, if your bill totals 18 Euro, give them 20 and call it a day! If, by chance, your server does not return your change and you did not mention that they should keep it, ask for it back and do not leave anything. This is considered bad form on the part of the server. Another common rule of thumb is to leave 1 Euro per every 20 spent. In finer restaurants 5% of the bill is standard.

For exceptional service 10% is more than admirable, perhaps 15% but certainly no more than that!

In cafes and bars tipping is also at the customers discretion. One or two Euro per round of drinks (depending on how many drinks were ordered), a few extra coins for a coffee order, and one Euro in small bistros is more than enough. Nobody is expected to tip for self-service food (for example: readily prepared sandwiches from a café, a croissant, or pastry).

Be Courteous, and Patient: The French Attitude - Some people view the French as rude or anti-American, when in fact the French are generally polite. The `attitude` most travelers encounter is a misinterpretation of the service culture. Keep in mind that here wait staff do not live by tips, so if they are not smiling, refilling your glass at every chance, and checking on your table incessantly, it is not because they dislike you or because you are an American. It is because, unlike in the United States, your tip is more of a gesture than a means of survival. Do not be afraid to ask for help, whether it is reading the menu or asking for another glass of water. Don't be taken aback if your server seems indifferent, be polite and you will be served, even without a smile on the face. Always thank your server, and the owner if available, if you have a good experience.

Hotel Staff: Who should I tip?

Tipping in hotels in France is rarely expected except in cases of exemplary service or if you solicit special services. The most commonly tipped employees are the Porters and Chambermaids. If a Porter helps to carry your bag(s) to your room the customary tip is 1 or 2 Euros per bag, usually no more than 5 Euros total. For Chambermaids in moderate hotels a 1 Euro tip, daily, is adequate; while in deluxe hotels 2-3 Euros daily is more suitable (tip them up front if you want them to treat you extra nice). Leave these tips on the bed or the bedside table. Hotel Concierge staff can be very helpful for first time travelers; they are a wealth of information from directions to restaurant suggestions and reservations. Only tip them if they help with booking reservations at nicer restaurants, manage to get you tickets to a sold-out show, or some other service which requires some degree of effort. Make sure to tip well in these cases, especially if spending a few days in the hotel, they will remember you! Some hotels (and upscale restaurants) will have Restroom Attendants, tip them with small change and thank them, since without them, there would be no toilet paper or soap there.

Taxi Drivers: Should I tip?

Tipping cab drivers is unusual, but appreciated, especially if they help you with your luggage or provide you with useful info about getting around. Leaving a tip for a taxi driver is completely a personal choice. Most drivers will charge a minor fee for handling luggage; this is not a tip, but an official charge. Generally tourists are expected to cover toll road fees, so ask if your route will include any tolls. For the tip itself, round up the fare, or leave about 5%. Needless to say, if your driver was rude or took you on an out of the way route to hike up the fare, do not leave a tip. If you`ve hired a private driver leave around 20 Euros per day. If they went above and beyond you can always tip more. Always remember when travelling abroad that it is good practice to agree on a final fare before the cab driver begins driving.

Tour Guides: Is a tip required?

Tipping tour guides is very much appreciated but not expected. Common practice is in the range of 5 Euros per person for half a day, or 10 Euros per person for a full day. Although most tour operators include a `tip` in quoted prices bear in mind that the guides are often paid a low wage, so if one is particularly enthusiastic or informative do not hesitate to slip them a little extra if you wish!

Miscellaneous: Is there anyone I should tip that I would not normally?

Street Performers: Here is one place to splurge a bit. Though you may not actively solicit entertainment from musicians, mimes, artists, and the like, it is polite to tip them if you have enjoyed their trade. These people live off the money they make bringing their talent to the streets. Take some of what you would have left your waitress in the restaurant and give it to one of these artists!

River Cruise Guides: Private river cruises along the Seine in Paris are already pricey and a tip above and beyond the cost of your ride is entirely at your discretion. Depending on the quality of the journey, the knowledge the guide exhibits, and if he educates you on certain points of interest and/or provides entertainment (singing) during your ride should factor into your decision making. An additional 5 Euros is more than sufficient, certainly no more than 10 Euros if the guide is stellar.

Other Services: In the event that you are in France for a special occasion (wedding, honeymoon, graduation gift, birthday, etc..) and employ the services of a hairdresser, make-up artist, party planner, personal shopper, tailor or spa services and the like, use your best judgment in tipping. Factor in the cost and quality of service and, as a general rule, stay in the 10% range.

Final Thoughts:

Remember that it is perfectly okay to abstain, especially if you are not happy with the service provided. Unlike in the U.S., waiters are paid a living wage, and the expectations for tipping are lower in France than in America. This is also true for hotel staff, though if you encounter a problem with the service within the hotel, we highly recommend speaking with the manager.

When paying for services in cash (which we generally recommend for services other than your hotel) remember to take your receipt. This is important for two reasons; If you leave a tip on a credit card, the person providing the service may not always get it, and if there is a discrepancy it is important to have your receipt to settle it with the manager of the establishment and to prove that you paid for the service.

 

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