The British have a certain reputation when it comes to tipping. Other countries see us as bad tippers: we don’t like tipping, we can even be bad. But the truth is that we are not used to tipping very often, since there are no real “rules” about tipping here. If it’s your first visit to the UK, tipping can seem like a minefield. When do you tip? Who do you tip? How much do you tip? There is nothing more uncomfortable than not understanding the etiquette of the country in which you are staying.
When friends of mine came over from overseas, I got a few frantic texts from them at a restaurant, wondering if the waitress would be offended if they tipped directly to her. My friend wondered if she would be perceived as bad and if it might seem that she was suggesting that the waitress was poor. As I explained to my friend at the time, tipping in the UK is a fairly casual affair and you’re unlikely to offend anyone no matter what you do. There isn’t really a ‘culture’ of tipping here in the UK and it is done more based on ‘how you feel about the service’.
That said, it’s confusing for anyone visiting, so to help familiarize you with the when, who and how much, here’s a guide to tipping etiquette in four of the most common tipping situations while in the UK. .
Tips are very common after you have finished a meal in a restaurant here in the UK. When you get your bill at the end of the night, take a look at it. If there is a service charge at the end of the bill, that is your included tip and there is no need to give anything else.
Of course, if you feel like you received amazing service and want to leave more, you can. Please note this is not standard practice here in the UK. Some restaurants include a tip on the bill and others do not. Most don’t because the diners don’t like it. Brits tend to object to being told how much to tip or whether to leave anything.
If there is a service charge included and you are not satisfied with the service you received, you can request that it be removed, and many venues do. If there is no service charge on the bill, you can leave a tip, but there is really no obligation to do so. Most diners, if they are satisfied with the service, leave a small tip on the table as they leave. This should be around 10 percent of your bill, but again, how much to leave is up to you.
As I told my friend who was terrified of what to do at the end of his meal, you wouldn’t normally give it to the waitress but leave it on the table when you leave. In most restaurants, the amount you leave will not go directly to that particular waitress, as all servers must hand over their tips to split equally. This is another discussion. Many people think this is unfair, while others think it’s completely fair.
If you are buying takeout there is sometimes a tip jar on the counter and again whether or not you leave a tip is entirely up to your discretion. I don’t think I’ve ever left a tip on a takeout or seen anyone else do it. If you are drinking and eating at a bar, you are not expected to tip the bartender. If you really want to, you can tell him to “keep the change” when you pay with a bill that’s above the price of your bill, or you can say “and one for yourself” when you order your drink, implying that you’re buying them. a thank you drink. This is a bit hindsight since bartenders these days don’t drink on the job, but it’s a nice way to say thanks for service. You certainly wouldn’t tip the bartender every time he serves you a drink. It’s worth noting here that in most UK bars you pay as you go rather than opening a tab. You can ask to open a tab and then pay the bill at the end and leave a tip if you wish, but most people pay the bartender every time they order a drink, and tipping in a bar is almost unheard of in the UK.
With the rise of app-based taxi services like Uber, it’s much easier to tip the driver if you’re happy with the service. You just do it through the app, and this is very common in the UK. If you’re happy with your driver, you can leave a tip and a nice review in the app, and drivers are just as happy with a 5-star review as they are with a tip.
But if you are going to rent a black cab or other private taxi, it is a bit more inconvenient. If the bill is precalculated, it is difficult to tip and most people would not tip the driver in this case. If you’re paying cash, a good way to do this is to round up the rate to the nearest pound or just say “keep the change” if you’re giving them a note. Again, you are not expected to tip the taxi driver, it is entirely a personal choice and the driver will not be offended if you do not tip him.
Tipping hotel workers is probably the most confusing and complicated of all areas of tipping in the UK. As with everything else, you don’t have to tip and no one expects you to. The most frequently tipped hotel worker is the bellman or bellboy. This is the person who helps you carry your luggage to your room, and it’s perfectly normal to give them a couple of quid for doing this.
Housekeepers don’t usually get tips, but some people like to leave small gifts in their room when they leave. You can also leave a few pounds in the room when you’re gone, as a nice surprise for your housekeeper. It all depends on how luxurious your hotel is, but if you have a porter, you can give her £2-5 when you check out, if she wants.
Again, this is by no means expected, and most Britons would not do this. It is not normal to tip when ordering room service, or to tip at the hotel bar or restaurant, especially if everything is included in the hotel bill.
If you are on a bus tour, you will usually find that the driver has a cup or something where you can leave a tip at the end of the tour. On rare occasions, your tour guide will board the bus asking for tips for the driver, but this is unusual. If you are on a walking tour, it is not common to tip your guide. I think this is mainly due to that British awkwardness. We really don’t like handing money this way, directly to a service worker, preferring to leave it in a jar, or even better, leave it somewhere for them to find when we’re gone! If you don’t have that British awkwardness, you can, of course, tip whenever and however you want, and your tour guide will greatly appreciate it.
Other places you could tip
One of the most common tipped service workers is your in-salon barber. It’s a strange anomaly, but we seem to be perfectly comfortable with this one. Hairdressers are regularly tipped 10 percent of the bill, and this is also sometimes extended to other salon workers, and even retail workers from time to time.
This all boils down to our desire to give a little more when we are very happy with the service we receive and nothing at all when we are not! Because of this, no one expects you to tip, and if you do, they will see it as a thank you for the service you provided. But if they don’t tip, they won’t assume they did it wrong, as most UK customers don’t tip at all. Although waiters really appreciate tips to put a little more into their wages, they don’t trust tips to make enough money, and if you say a genuine “thank you” and tell them how great it was and that I’ll be back, that means so much to them as a tip. Repeat business is very important in the UK and retaining customers trumps tips for most businesses.
So by all means tip if you think the service was great and don’t if you don’t want to. No one will be offended no matter what you do. There is no right or wrong way.