Tipping in France, don’t do it

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

Tipping in France

It’s been a weird couple of days. First, we get chased by a ferret on the street while walking home from dinner. Then the Jehovah’s Witnesses ring our doorbell far too early on a Sunday morning and to top it off, a bad three-car accident happened just outside our house. The car actually crashed into our neighbor’s house in a bad rainstorm. Anyway, forget all that. Today we’re talking about tipping in France. Whenever we head to the U.S. on vacation, the American tipping culture becomes apparent from the moment we step off the plane. Taxi drivers, waiters, bellhops and more all get their share and it’s something normal for me, but not for Tom, since tipping in France is very different. Are you supposed to tip in France? And if so, how much?

Let’s go!

Tipping in France: To tip or not to tip, that is the question

When friends and family come to visit, they always ask about tipping in France. For Americans, who have grown up with tipping pretty much anyone who lends a hand/provides a service, it can feel weird to NOT leave a little something when out to eat, at the salon, etc. So generally speaking, do you tip in France? No. But hold on, it’s not that simple.

Tipping in France

First, let’s take into consideration that in the U.S. waiters and many others in service professions depend on tips to earn a livable wage. Servers are paid next to nothing in the U.S. and bust their butts to be friendly and attentive. And why not? If they want a good tip, providing an excellent experience for the customer is key to earning a living. In France, waiters are paid a livable wage and do not depend on tips, nor do they go out of their way to be the best waiters ever. They do their job and get paid for it. End of story.

do-you-tip-in-france

So do you leave a tip at French restaurants?

The short answer is no. But it’s completely at your discretion. Keep in mind that the service and tax are both included in the price you see on the menu (indicated by the words service compris, and it’s 15%). I repeat, the tip is already included in the price! So if you leave additional money on the table, you’re in effect tipping twice. Leaving a few euros for a particularly great meal/great service is always appreciated but never expected. If you decide to tip, just leave the coins in the plastic tray with the receipt on the table. It’s perfectly fine to round a bill up if you had good service like leaving 40 if the bill was 37.

What you need to know about dining at restaurants in France (and dos and don’ts) >>

On the other hand, don’t feel like you’re a cheapskate if you only pay the total on your bill. If your bill is an even 40 and you only have 40 on you, it’s fine. Really. In the US, even if service was sub-par, if you were served an edible meal, it’s customary to leave 15%+. In France, 15% would be out of the question unless you were at a really nice restaurant and someone really went way above and beyond. A few euros extra is already generous.

If you pay by card, you’re never obligated to run back to the table and leave a few euros. Again, definitely don’t leave the customary 15-20% American tip. That would be completely unnecessary. I personally round up if the service was good, so if I get a drink at a cafe and it’s 4.75, I’ll leave 5. Or if we’re out to eat and it’s 47 euros, I may leave 50 if everything was great. But again, leaving a tip at a restaurant is NOT expected at all and many French people never leave anything and that’s totally OK. Your call. You’re not stiffing the waiter if you only pay the amount on the receipt.

Tom’s note: When paying by card, many times you just get up and walk to the register to pay because it might be a little bit of a wait to have the waiter come to you, especially if it’s busy. You may see a tip bowl or jar there up at the front and you can leave a few coins to be shared among the waitstaff. At the chain La Boucherie, they have a tip bowl in a shape of a cow if I remember correctly, and when a customer pays his check and puts coins in the cow, it’s a big deal. The waiter rings a bell and all the waiters in the room say out loud, “Personnel ! MERCI !” So keep an eye out for a tip bowl if you’d like to leave a few coins on the way out.

do you tip for a haircut in france

Do you tip for a haircut in France?

When getting a haircut, again, it’s customary to just pay for the cost of the service. There’s no need to leave anything additional unless you are particularly pleased with the service. A few euros is fine. I left a tip the first time I got my haircut in France and the stylist was very surprised. Appreciative but surprised. Almost shocked. It’s definitely not the norm to leave a tip for a haircut (definitely not 15-20%). Remember, stylists do not depend on tips to live.

*** Also, watch out for setting a precedent with service providers you see regularly. If you leave a tip the first time you see a new hair stylist, he/she is going to expect it every time. ***

Appliance deliverymen?

No tip necessary. But if you had a particularly bulky item and they were extra helpful, a few euros is a generous gesture if you feel like it.

Takeout delivery?

No tip necessary. But if you had a complicated order or they’re on a scooter and it’s pouring rain, rounding up to the nearest euro or leaving an extra euro or two will make their night.

So that’s my opinion, but if you want to know more, let me know and I’ll get the scoop from Tom (if you’re new around these parts, Tom is my French husband who has his own column on my blog called Ask Tom Tuesdays where he answers your questions).

So to recap: France does not have a tip-centric culture to the same extent that we do in the US. The French are paid a livable wage so leaving a tip in most cases is not necessary at all. It’s completely at your discretion, and if you do leave a tip when out to eat, a few euros is a generous gesture. Use your best judgment.

So French readers out there, do you tip?? Curious to hear your thoughts.

Photo credit: hitsnooze / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Lou Messugo
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Comments (29)

  • Maggie Freeman

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    I found this post very useful. We’re buying a house in France in a couple of weeks. I’ve always tipped in restaurants…thought it was the norm. Thanks for the info.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Well, it’s definitely not the norm although an extra euro or two (or rounding up) isn’t a problem at all. You’ve been leaving a tip of 15-20%? The servers must love you! 😉 Glad you found the post useful. Good luck with your house!

      Reply

  • Lynn

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    My (French) husband who’s not a cheap person almost never tips, so I follow his lead. Like you I round up a bit if it makes sense (but it always feels weird in a taxi to give them 10c when that’s the difference, but they never expect anything!).

    For appliance repairmen/deliverymen/plumbers/etc, one thing I learned from my husband is to always offer them a coffee first thing — 90% of the time they’ll accept. I did give 20€ once to one to make something bulky “disappear” — that was definitely my American efficiency side 🙂

    Thanks for the tip on the hair salon — I’m always super confused. People seem to tip my colorist by putting a bill into his tool bag at his station, but I don’t see them tip my stylist, who’s the owner.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thanks for your input, Lynn! Glad to know you don’t tip here either although it feels weird NOT leaving anything. About tipping the owner, I always learned (even in the US) that you usually don’t tip the owner but can give something around the holidays. Guess that holds true in France too. Who the heck knows on that one

      Reply

  • Laetitia

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    I totally agree on the coffee : always offer coffee to someone working in your house, I would say it’s more important than tipping. And they usually accept. I would say tipping in France is showing you really appreciated the service.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Excellent tip, thank you! No one I know would turn down coffee 😉

      Reply

  • Todd V

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    I always followed the lead of my colleagues in France and so I don’t think I ever tipped.

    Since you mention Ask Tom Tuesdays, its been awhile since he has posted and I think his posts are great as well. Any on the horizon?

    Reply

    • Diane

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      No one has sent in any questions for him recently, Todd! Feel free to email anything that’s on your mind. I’m sure he’d love to write a new post 😉

      Reply

  • Emily

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    I don’t tip in Paris. It’s not what we’re used to in France. It’s why we are so awkward with this question when we’re travelling to the US. My boyfriend is often pissed off when he is always reminded to leave a tip (example, we were visiting the Everglades with an airboat, there was two signs about the tip, and the guy mentionned it two or three times…)…he has the feeling that everything is done on that purpose…

    Reply

  • Lili

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    I’m french, and I’ve absolutely never tipped. Even in Paris – especially in Paris – where people are not friendly at all, and prices high. The first time in my life I’ve heard about tips was a few years ago, preparing my first trip to USA. How complicated it seemed to me, that tips thing !!! And for sure I’ve sometimes forgot to tip. American people should have though french people are cheap and rude … no … just lost in american customs ! Here you talk about tips for haircuts, I’ve never though about it ! Seems really weird to me 😉

    Reply

  • Katrine

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    I’ve lived in Brest and Nice. In Brest I never even thought of tipping (as we don’t tip in Denmark either), but when I arrived in Nice I was told that tipping was important and not to leave a tip would be the same as telling the waiter/waitress you didn’t like the service.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh wow, never heard that about Nice. I wonder if that was advice to tourists or if those native to Nice tip? I’ve never heard of anywhere in France where tipping was the norm. Very interesting!

      Reply

  • Gui

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    Just wanted to let you know that your article about tipping in France doesn’t seem very accurate, you make it sound like tipping is more of a custom rather than an act of respect and acknowledgement. Shouldn’t you tip depending on the level of appreciation of the service rather than on what they’re used to. Especially since French waiters don’t expect tips from the French but they do expect them from other nationalities since why would you stop tipping all of a sudden just because you’ve crossed a border ? Do you not appreciate the service as much ? nd that would be even more disrespectful since a waiter would then think he had given awful service to not receive what the clients would usually leave in their restaurants back home.

    Always tip unless awful circumstances but tip depending on the level of appreciation, it’s ever so rewarding to feel appreciated by customers…

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Sorry you don’t feel my article is accurate but I consulted with several French people to make sure it was on point. I understand feeling appreciated by customers but if an American in France doesn’t tip 20% (because French people don’t tip 20%), it has nothing to do with appreciation. It has to do with cultural norms. Likewise if a French visitor in the US did what they did at home (no tip), the waiter would probably be a tad pissed off. When abroad, I think you need to respect the culture of where you are. Another point is that French waiters are paid a livable wage for their work whereas in the US they are not, so the tipping culture is very different for that reason. It would be silly to pay a 20% tip in France (what we do in the US) on top of the bill. If the service is appreciated in a restaurant in France it’s customary to leave a small token of appreciation, not 20%. Thank you for sharing your point of view.

      Reply

    • CeCe

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      You do not understand culture difference. Period.

      Reply

  • Emily

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    I had an experience once whereby I left a tip and it was returned to me. The waiter was offended that I had done so, saying that he was paid a good wage for his professional services. Obviously this is rare… Great article!
    Emily recently posted…Taxing timesMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Oh wow, that wasn’t in Paris, right? I feel like in touristy places, the waiters are used to foreigners who tip out of habit and would happily keep the cash. I bet you were shocked!

      Reply

  • Girl Gone Gallic

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    I only tip in France when the experience has been exceptional, but I will tip a few (as in two or three) euros. Although the tips are included, the actual wait staff never sees it – they just get their flat low hourly wage. Something to think about…

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yup I try to adhere to the “when in Rome” but I do round bills up and leave an extra couple of euros for a decent meal. It feels wrong as an American to leave nothing!

      Reply

  • Elizabeth

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    I only ate at one proper restaurant while I was in Paris and the waiter was so lovely and helpful, well beyond what was expected of him, so I gave him a big tip – enough for a cup of posh coffee at Cafe de Flore! 🙂
    Elizabeth recently posted…Credit Crunch Munch – THE Frugal Food Link Up!My Profile

    Reply

  • Kimberly

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    It still feels weird to me to not tip when I’m in Paris. I have a friend that lives in Toulouse that always visits me when I’m in Paris and she has been known to pick up my tips and give it back to me reminding me tips aren’t needed!
    Kimberly recently posted…Paris budget tip: FREE view of the Eiffel TowerMy Profile

    Reply

    • Diane

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      I know what you mean and it’s second nature to leave something on the table!

      Reply

  • BacktoBurgundy

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    We often tip extra if it has been a group meal (10 and over), due to the extra pressure. I find the tipping culture in the US quite aggressive though and can be stressful for visitors to get right – wish people were just paid a living wage to start with – all clear and up front!
    BacktoBurgundy recently posted…Creating Shabby Chic French FurnitureMy Profile

    Reply

  • Phoebe @ Lou Messugo

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    The only time I find it confusing is at the hair salon as I notice quite a lot of people slipping a little extra into their stylist’s hand but then I know it’s not really the norm. I’m not from a tipping culture in general and find the whole thing stressful (in salons) (and horribly stressful n general in USA!!!) Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance
    Phoebe @ Lou Messugo recently posted…Silent Sunday – 8 November 2015My Profile

    Reply

  • Becks from Access Riviera

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    I often get asked by visiting friends and relatives what the rules about tipping are. I’ll gladly leave a few coins for great service, and have left good tips for exceptional service. I also tip the pizza guys who come on scooters and delivery men as we live on the 3rd floor with no elevator.
    Becks from Access Riviera recently posted…7 French Riviera Drone Videos Worth WatchingMy Profile

    Reply

  • Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault

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    I have got so used to not tipping in France that I have to remember that in the UK it is expected! #AllAboutFrance
    Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault recently posted…Black DogsMy Profile

    Reply

  • Shawn Michaels

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    I whenever eat out always tip the waiter. Its my habit. Any how, Love your post. You have shared such a great information for us. Thanks.

    Reply

  • Beth

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    Do NOT tip. In france, one does not tip. americans and brits please do not tip. The fees/taxes are already included. Also, an old scam in paris is to include a tip IN ADDITION to the taxes/prix service compris–this is fraud. Please triple check all parisian restaurant bills for fraud/scams. City of hustlers.

    Reply

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