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How does France’s tipping culture compare to the US and UK?

A new poll has found that 37% of people in France typically tip restaurant staff, considerably less than Anglophone countries

The new poll reveals clear differences between European and US tipping culture Pic: RVillalon / Shutterstock

More than a third of people in France generally tip waiting staff in restaurants as a matter of course, a new survey has found, although this is much less than their British or US counterparts.

The YouGov poll asked people in the US, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark and Sweden about their tipping habits.

Questions included how often people leave a tip (called a pourboire in French, which translates as ‘for a drink’) and the level of service they will tip. They distinguished between tips given at restaurants and those given to other providers such as ride-share drivers, pub/bar staff, coffee baristas, takeaway delivery drivers, and hairdressers or barbers.

How does France compare on tipping?

Respondents were most likely to tip restaurant waiting staff as a matter of course, more than any other kind of worker. By country, the results were:

  • 78% of people in Germany say they “normally tip waitstaff”
  • 77% of people in the US
  • 59% of people in the UK
  • 47% of people in Spain
  • 37% of people in France
  • 34% of people in Sweden 
  • 27% of people in Italy
  • 24% of people in Denmark

Almost a quarter (23%) of people in France said they “never tip”, versus 21% in Spain, 10% in Britain, 7% in Germany, and 5% in the US. The countries where people mostly “never tip” are Denmark (33% never tip), Italy (32%), and Sweden (27%).

People in the US and Germany are most likely to tip all kinds of other staff too, including hairdressers or barbers, pub or bar staff, and taxi drivers.

Why do people tip? 

All participants, both European and American, said that the main reason they tip is for good service. 

However, almost a quarter of people in France (almost as many as in the US) say that they also tip because they feel that “the staff aren’t paid as much as they should be”.

Note that in France a service charge must always be included in pricing and shown on the bill (15% service compris). The percentage is automatically included in cafés, restaurants, bars, etc. as part of the price of each item (not on top of the total). This goes towards the wages of waiting staff who must be paid at least the minimum wage like all employees in France.

Rewarding good service

  • Denmark: 71% tip primarily because they are “rewarding good service”
  • Spain: 69%
  • Britain, Germany, Sweden, Italy: 61%
  • France: 58%
  • US: 56%

Social pressure (‘feeling like I have to’)

  • Sweden: 21%
  • Britain: 19%
  • US: 15%
  • Germany: 14%
  • France, Denmark: 13%
  • Italy: 10%
  • Spain: 9%

Feeling that staff are not paid enough

  • US: 24%
  • France, Italy: 23% 
  • Germany: 21%
  • Spain: 16%
  • Britain: 15%
  • Sweden: 9%
  • Denmark: 8%

Tipping poor or terrible service

People in Europe are far less likely to leave a tip if they feel they received poor service, compared to people in the US, who will still tip even if they felt the service was “poor or terrible”, perhaps a reflection of tips making up a greater proportion of restaurant workers’ pay packets.

46% of people in the US will “sometimes, half the time, most times, or every time” leave a tip even if they receive terrible service.

In contrast, only 16% of people in France will do so if they receive terrible service. This compares to:

  • Germany: 19%
  • Italy: 13%
  • Sweden, Spain: 12%
  • Britain: 11%
  • Denmark: 9%

The results are similar for poor service, with 57% of people in the US “sometimes, half the time, most times, or every time” leaving a tip for this. 

This compares to 16% of people in France and Britain.

How much do people tip? 

In Europe, the typical amount is around 5-10%.

  • 5%: Spain, France, Italy
  • 10%: Britain, Sweden, Germany, Denmark

In the US, two-thirds (67%) said that they would tip more than 10%. And more than a quarter (26%) of people in the US said that their “normal” tip would be 20%.

Cultural differences

Of course, the survey acknowledged that there are major cultural differences when it comes to tipping, particularly in the US, which would significantly impact the results.

The major finding, it said, was that “in Germany, tips appear to be tied directly to good service, whereas in the USA they are not”.

And another YouGov survey recently found that the majority of Americans (56%) would like to make their tipping system more European, and would prefer their waiting staff be paid a higher minimum wage so that tipping is not as needed as a matter of course.

Related articles

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Union calls to make cash tips compulsory in France 

How to survive France's New Year tipping season

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