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Tipping in France: Should you Give Something?

Tipping in France: Should you Give Something?

Are you planning a trip to Paris or France and wondering how much to tip the waiter, cab driver, or tour guide? In France, tipping is like grammar: there are as many rules as there are exceptions, and it doesn’t take long to make a faux pas!

So read this article quickly to avoid committing the inappropriate gesture that will ruin all your cultural efforts during your stay in France!

Tipping at a coffee place
Tipping at a coffee place @Yingko (Getty Images)

Should you give a coin, round up, leave a percentage of the bill, or nothing at all? How to avoid appearing rude by giving too little or too much? We answer all your questions about tipping in France.

A Brief History of Tipping in France

The history of tipping in France has seen many changes over the years.

Before the French Revolution (1789-1799), tipping was associated with the aristocracy and the upper social classes. Nobles and the wealthy tipped servants and domestic employees.

During the Revolution, the ideal of equality led to a certain hostility towards tips, perceived as a symbol of injustice and inequality.

After the Revolution, stricter pay rules for workers, including waiters, meant that they received a fixed wage and no longer had to rely on tips to support themselves.

Fun fact! Pourboire is composed of “pour” (for) and “boire” (drink). Originally, this reward enabled the beneficiary to buy himself a drink.

Over the past few decades, tipping has become more commonplace, although the French are giving less and less. On the other hand, tipping remains less important than in the U.S. and is not the main source of income for waiters.

Read also: 15 Ways to Say “Money” in French (Pronunciations and Origins)

Should I Always Leave a Tip?

Tipping is an exception in France. Since 1987, a 15% service charge has been automatically included in the price of the bill to remunerate waiters.

In addition, the 2015 law stipulates that all servers must have a fixed monthly salary equal to the SMIC (minimum wage set by the State), i.e. 1383 euros net per month.

Tipping is, therefore, a bonus for the recipient, but not his or her main source of remuneration.

Bill at a coffee place in France
Bill at a coffee place in France @French Iceberg

Is it Impolite to Leave a Tip in France?

No! Most of the time, no one will complain about receiving a little extra money. On the contrary! It’s a way of showing your satisfaction and thanking the waiter for his professionalism.

However, there are obviously situations in which a tip may seem inappropriate: if you leave change at a supermarket checkout, in a fast-food restaurant, or when service is non-existent, for example.

How Do I Leave a Tip?

In establishments such as cafés, it’s a good idea to leave your coins on the table when you leave. Don’t worry, no one will pick them up instead of the waiter!

For delivery drivers, if you’ve already paid in full by card in advance, it’s common practice to hand over a few euros.

In case of doubt, you’ll often notice piggy banks of various shapes placed near the cash register, accompanied by a small note to encourage customers to leave a tip. You can even slip a few coins directly inside.

It’s worth noting that platforms such as Uber, Uber Eats, Lyft, or Deliveroo often offer in-app tipping options.

How Much to Tip?

And as if things weren’t complicated enough already, the amount of the tip is also important. Giving too much or too little is likely to be perceived as an insult!

For example, it’s better to leave nothing than just a few cents. If you go to a restaurant and the bill is €23.90, don’t leave a 10-cent tip – the waiter will be offended. But don’t leave a 10-euro tip either, or you’ll be seen as a pretentious person who wants to show off his wealth.

Conversely, in a trendy nightclub on the Côte d’Azur, a small tip is likely to make you look cheap.

The rule is to adapt to the context and atmosphere of the venue!

As we’ve seen, in France tipping is optional and a bonus for the recipient. However, it is naturally expected in a number of situations (otherwise it would be too simple).

Tipping waitress
Tipping waitress @Candy Box Images (Canva Pro)

In a Bar or Café

In bars and cafés, it’s generally acceptable to leave a euro or two on the table if you’re satisfied with the service.

At the Hotel

Hotels, and especially luxury hotels, are the place par excellence where tipping is expected (though not obligatory).

Here are the staff to whom it is customary to give a tip:

  • Valet parking: €10 (or €5 on arrival and €5 on departure).
  • Baggage handler: €1 per item.
  • Cleaning lady: depending on the length of your stay, you can leave between €10 and €20 in an envelope on your bedside table.
  • The receptionist: if he has made your life easier during your stay (restaurant reservations, cab, etc.) remember to tip him at least 30 euros.

At the Restaurant

Amounts vary according to the type of restaurant. Here are a few examples:

  • Bistro: In bistro-style restaurants, it’s customary to leave a tip of around 5-10% of the bill.
  • Family restaurants: For mid-range family restaurants, a 5-10% tip is also appropriate. Again, round off the amount to your satisfaction.
  • Gastronomic restaurant: In high-end gourmet restaurants, it’s common to leave a more generous tip, ranging from 10% to 15% of the bill.
  • Cafeteria or counter service: In this type of establishment, no tip is expected.

Read also: 20 All-Time Most Famous French Chefs

With a Driver

Here again, tipping is not compulsory and is decided according to the quality of the service.

If a cab driver is doing his best to help you avoid traffic jams and avoid missing your plane, you can at least round up to the nearest euro or tell him to keep the change.

The same logic applies to private chauffeurs. If your journey was particularly pleasant, you can leave a tip directly from your app.

With a Delivery Driver

Generally speaking, you never tip the delivery man who carries your parcel. However, you can leave a €1 or €2 tip for the courier who delivers your meal or lifts your shopping bags to your apartment doorstep.

At the Hairdresser’s

Although the practice is rarer, a number of customers leave a small cash tip at the hairdresser’s. In most cases, a coin or two is more than sufficient. Most of the time, a coin or two is more than enough.

At the Theater

In small Parisian theaters, the role of the usher is to guide spectators to their seats in the auditorium. Paid only by tips, he expects you to give him at least a two-euro coin.

Tipping in the USA
Tipping in the USA @Andrei Berezovskii (Getty Image)

In the United States, tipping is a common and obligatory practice. It is a form of remuneration for waiters, delivery drivers, hairdressers, etc.

How Does Tipping Work in the United States?

Tips are generally calculated as a percentage of the bill. The standard amount is between 10 and 25%, but it can vary depending on the quality of service.

While it’s possible to leave a tip in cash, it’s very common to do so by credit card, including it in the bill at the time of payment.

This is not possible in France, even if you’ve just opened a bank account in France!

Specific French Tipping Rules

In France, tipping is optional. It is not considered a form of remuneration, but rather a bonus. Hence the French’s bad reputation when it comes to tipping.

The main differences between tipping in the United States and France are as follows:

  • Obligatory or not: tipping is obligatory in the United States, whereas it is optional in France.
  • Amount: tipping is generally higher in the U.S. than in France.
  • Method of payment: tips are generally left in cash in France, whereas in the USA they can be left by credit card.
  • Culture: tipping is a common and expected practice in the United States.

What Kind of Tipping Culture Do our European Neighbors Have?

Although tipping is also optional, it is much more widespread in Germany.

In Germany and Austria, for example, it’s quite common to leave a tip of between 5% and 10% of the bill. Rounding up to the next Euro is a matter of course.

This tipping culture can also be found among our neighbors to the south. In Italy, Spain, and Portugal, it’s very common to leave a euro or two for hotel and restaurant staff.

On the contrary, tipping is completely excluded in Denmark and Iceland.

There’s nothing worse than being caught off guard on the big day. Hotel, bar, restaurant, here’s our little “reminder” to keep warm in your pocket. Whatever the situation, you’ll always know how to behave!

Summary Table of Tips

Amount of Tip
RestaurantApproximately 5% to 10% of the total bill
Bar1€ or 2€ to leave on the table or counter
Luxury hotelValet parking: €10
Luggage handler: €1 per item
Cleaning lady: €5, €10, €20
Concierge: €30, €40 (depending on your budget and satisfaction)
DriverRound up or keep the change

French Tipping Vocabulary

Like all languages, French has a few idiomatic expressions you need to know. Here are a few terms related to tipping in French:

  • Un pourboire – a tip
  • Donner un pourboire/laisser un pourboire – to leave a tip
  • Un pourboire en espèces – A cash tip
  • service compris – a fee charged to diners that covers what would have been the tip
  • Récompenser le service – To reward the service
  • Vous pouvez garder la monnaie. – You can keep the change.
  • C’est pour vous. – This is for you. Use this if a server or someone else who normally wouldn’t see you leave a tip sees you, or if you give them back change as a tip.

Now you can enjoy the pleasures of French hotels and restaurants, and experience the joys of Parisian cabs and concert halls without risking a cultural faux pas! For all occasions, exceptional or every day, you know what tip to give in France!

Translated into English by Sacha