Ultimate Tipping In France Guide: How Much, Who, When NOT TO TIP

Ultimate Tipping In France Guide: How Much, Who, When NOT TO TIP
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Although tipping in France is not expected or required, it’s customary to leave a small gratuity to show your appreciation if you receive good service. How much you leave is not always that simple for tourists.  Here’s a guide to tipping etiquette in France, where tipping customs may be a little different than what you’re accustomed to.

The Origins of tipping in France

The origins of leaving a tip or gratuity for services you receive is not entirely clear; however, it’s commonly traced back to 17th century England. 

The French word for Tip

The french word for tip “pourboire,” is interesting  because it literally means  “for drink.”

It comes from a custom and expression used in the past when someone would say «Here, to drink to my health!», Tenez, pour boire à ma santé, then give a few coins as a reward for good service.

Several other European languages also use similar nomenclature for the word tip.

In German, it’s “Trinkgeld” and Danish “drikkepenge.” Both of which mean “drink money.”

In Spanish, the word for tip is “Propina,” which comes from greek “Propinein” and means to drink to someone else’s health.

And finally, the polish word for tip is “napiwek,” which means “for beer.”

Tipping Etiquette And Culture In France:

First, take everything you know about tipping etiquette and forget it, throw it out the window.

This is especially true if you come from the United States, Canada, Chile, Mexico, or any other country where a tip of 15 to 20 percent is engrained in the culture and  expected.

Tipping in France is not mandatory or expected.

If you don’t leave a tip, you won’t get a dirty, and no one will think twice.

It’s a hard pill to swallow for some tourists who feel guilty if they don’t leave at least a 15 percent tip, but it’s true. 

Having said that, it doesn’t mean that tipping doesn’t exist in France.

IT’S STILL CUSTOMARY (NOT REQUIRED) TO GIVE A SMALL TIP FOR GOOD SERVICE TO SHOW YOUR APPRECIATION.

The amount you leave is a highly debated subject, not just by tourists but by people in France also. 

How much you tip in France is arbitrary

If you’re reading these words, you’ve probably already read a few other articles and realized that not everyone agrees on the amount you should tip in France or whom you should tip.

That’s because there’s no one size fits all amount to tip like there is in the US and Canada. It’s very arbitrary.

  • A tip can be a few coins.
  • You can round up to the nearest euro.
  • You can leave a percentage of 5%.
  • You could leave 10% to 15%, which is considered a big tip. An amount that not many French people leave behind. 

The best you, the customer, can do is follow some general guidelines and customs and try to understand how things work in France to make an informed decision regarding how big of a tip you leave behind. 

Even French people can’t agree on the amount to tip. 

Ask 10 people in France how much you should tip, and you’ll most likely get 10 different answers that range from very low, to very high, to nothing at all. Some people will tip the hairdresser; others won’t. Some people tip hotel staff; some don’t. 

It’s one of the reasons why tipping is all over the place in France.

I’m not only speaking from personal experience, but also from watching my friends, talking with wait staff, and quietly observing other patrons after they’ve paid their bills. 

Below are some direct quotes left by French people on Quora about tipping in France. I translated their comments to English and place them in quotes above their original answer.

tip in France when service given is better than normal

you don't have to tip in france

i rarely give tips

The point I’m trying to make is that although tipping is customary, not everyone agrees on the idea of tipping. But most importantly,  the amount you leave is nowhere near as much as it is in the United States or Canada.

Why all the confusion about tips?

If all this sounds confusing, don’t worry. There is a logical explanation, and it’s mostly to do with two things: Service Compris and salaries in France

1) What is “Service Compris?”

One of the reasons why tips are smaller in France or why some French people refuse to leave tips is because of Service Compris. 

Service Compris (literally “service included) is a surcharge, usually 15%, that gets added to the bill in addition to taxes. Since 1987, most cafes and restaurants have been required by law to add this service charge to the bill, which also allows the French government to tax tips at the source. 

i don't tip in France, the service is already included

Because there is already a 15% service charge added to the bill, some believe they shouldn’t need to leave a tip. Others will leave a tip to show appreciation for good service, but it will be much smaller than what you may be used to. 

How to know if there is a service charge.

If there is a service charge, you should see the words “Service Compris” printed at the bottom of menus’ in small font.

You should also see the phrase “service compris” on your bill, along with the percentage you were charged.

service charge: service compris on a French menu in France

Difference betwen a Tip (pourboire) and (Service Compris.)

Ask a French waiter if the tip is included, and they may say no (some think that they should say yes).

Technically speaking, a tip or (POURBOIRE) is not the same as a service charge (SERVICE COMPRIS).

  • The service charge (service compris) is mandatory and automatically added to the bill, based on a percentage of the total bill.
  • A tip or pourboire is not obligatory, but it is customary and at the customers discretion to leave a small amount to thank someone for their good or exceptional service. 

2) Workers earn a liveable wage

The second reason why tips may be smaller in France than in other cultures is because of French salaries.

Before minimum wage laws, many French professions relied on tips to supplement their income, and to some extent, people did leave larger tips than they do now. 

Geoffry, a 37-year-old manager who has been in the restaurant business in France for over 15 years says, “customers used to regularly give 15% to 20% tips but today it’s barely 2% to 3%.” (source Parisien)

Other professions which no longer exist or are slowly dying out survived solely on tips, such as turd scrapers (décrotteur) who scraped the poo off the boots of pedestrians and boot shiners (Cireur de bottes), who were often young children. 

Even Coco Chanel worked for tips before she became a famous fashion designer singing at a café concert

Shoe shiners in France: Cirreur de bottes marseille

Tipping culture has changed a lot since then, thanks to labour laws. 

All workers in France make a liveable wage (minimum wage or above).

How much are French Waiter salaries?:

French waiters are paid a liveable wage and are not dependent on tips, unlike in the United States, where servers can make as little as 2 or 3 dollars per hour and rely heavily on tips to live. That’s just not the case in France. And it’s the second reason why tips are not as large as compared to other countries.

A server in France who works full time will usually earn between 1 430 € to 1 700 € net per month. An amount based on the minimum wage in the hotel and restaurant industry and a 39-hour workweek rather than the normal 36-hour workweek.

French waiters also receive another benefit such as the “ticket resto,” subsidized food vouchers that can amount to several hundred euros per month and can be spent on food in grocery stores and most restaurants.

And of course, all workers in France earn a minimum of 2.5 days of vacation for every 30 days worked. 

Having said that, even though many service people make a liveable wage, it doesn’t mean that they don’t count on the generosity of customers because minimum wage is minimum wage; it’s not a large sum of money. 

What If You Get Bad Service?

In some cultures, receiving bad service means you leave a coin or a smaller tip. “yeah, that’ll show you to give me bad service.” 

In France, that’s not the case. If you leave a 5% tip instead of the 15%, no one would even blink. In fact, the server might be pleased to receive a 5% tip. 

So if you happen to receive bad or rude service, DON’T tip, don’t leave even one centime. Leave nothing. 

Tipping French waiter in France

TIPPING SITUATIONS: Who, when, where, and how much to tip

(general guidelines, not rules set in stone)

Don’t forget that the amounts I list below for tipping in France are general guidelines. There are no hard and fast rules. Even French people argue over how much you should and should not tip in France. 

RESTAURANTS, CAFE AND BARS

Tipping in French restaurants

Restaurant Tips

Restaurants are the one place where most people will leave a tip for good service, as opposed to other industries where tipping isn’t so regular. 

Just remember, when tipping waiters in France, it’s NOT to help supplement their income, It’s to show appreciation for good service.

As I stated before, the amount people tip varies by person.

For those that don’t leave a tip, it’s either because they don’t believe they should leave a tip since the bill already includes the “service compris,” they’re broke, they don’t have any cash to leave a tip, and or they are paying by credit card. I’ll talk about paying with credit cards at the end of this article.  

How much should you tip in a French restaurant?

Very few of my French friends leave a tip based on a percentage; it’s more of an intuitive thing.

  • For instance, you can leave a 1 to 3 euro tip for a meal that costs between 13 to 25 euros.
  • If you want to use a percentage, leave about 5 % if you received good service. 
  • Leave 10% if you received great service.
  • Leave 15% to 20% if the service blew your knickers off and you left with a huge smile on your face.
  • In fancier restaurants, where someone has waited on you hand and foot, then leave 10 to 20 %, but not if the service was bad.
  • If you’re with a large group of people, a euro from everyone in the group is an easy way to express gratitude for serving so many people.

Again, the amount you leave is at your own discretion based on your level of service and budget. Some cash-strapped students and adults can’t leave a tip, and no one bats an eye or comes chasing after you to collect their tip money. 

Café Tips

Like restaurants, the service charge is automatically added to your bill in a café. 

Most people pretty much agree that it’s a  “keep the change” situation where you leave some of the small change you get back when paying with cash or round up to the nearest euro.

For example, if your café and croissant cost 2.50, you could leave 10 centimes (4%) or 20 centimes (8%). If you’re feeling generous, you could even leave 50 centimes (20%). If I only had 50 centimes and no other smaller change, I would just leave that behind. 

Bar Tips

Generally, the service compris (surcharge) is included on your bill if you are sitting at a table but not standing at a bar and ordering your drink. 

Leaving some small change after paying in cash is a nice gesture to show appreciation if it’s a larger bill, tip 5% to 10 %, based on the level of service you received. 

Take Out or Fast Food type restaurants.

There are many inexpensive eateries in France where you order your meal and then take it to your seat or take it to go.  The service charge is not included in these situations because you are not getting table-side service.

These establishments often have tip jars where customers can leave some coins which are shared amongst the staff. I usually drop in some change but not always; it just depends on the place and what I have on hand. 

TIPPING HOTEL STAFF

Tipping hotel staff such as housekeeping and porters might be common in the U.S., but it isn’t always automatic in Europe. However, it is always a nice gesture to give a few euros to hotel staff, especially if they’re accustomed to receiving tips from other tourists and if they gave you outstanding service. 

Tipping in France: Hotel

Housekeeping (femme de Chambre)

Out of all hotel staff, housekeeping always gets the least amount of love and tips. Out of sight, out of mind.

If you do want to leave a gratuity for their hard work and effort, leaving a tip of 1 to 2 Euros per day is a nice gesture, especially if you were a slob,  left a huge mess. If you threw up all over the bathroom, you might want to leave a 20 euro bill for housekeeping with an apology letter. 

You can leave tips for housekeeping on the pillow with a note, the nightstand or the dresser in an envelope. Most hotels have paper and envelopes in the rooms. Also, giving your change to housekeeping is a good way to make good use of your extra change. 

Hotel Porter / Bellhop (bagagiste or groom)

 A tip of 1 or 2 euros per bag is about the going rate. If you’re in a super deluxe hotel, maybe 2 or 3 euros per bag

Hotel Concierge

If the hotel concierge has been helpful during your stay or went out of their way and got you sold-out tickets to the theatre or a reservation at a Michelin star restaurant that was fully booked, €5 or €10 is a nice way to express your thanks.

Valet (voiturier or chasseur)

A few euros to the valet to run and fetch your car would be a nice gesture of appreciation, especially if he did it in record time. If the valet went above and beyond the call of duty, went down to get your car from the garage, brought your bags down and loaded them in the boot of the car, then 5 or 10 euros is a generous tip. 

TIPPING DELIVERY PEOPLE

Tipping Delivery People In France

Food delivery services.

With pizza delivery and food delivery services like Uber eats, you can tell them to keep the change or give them a euro or two, especially if your place is difficult to get to.

Many food delivery services like Uber eats in France have the option to leave a tip right in the app.

Something to keep in mind is that many food delivery people in France who work for Uber Eats are independent workers and make very little per delivery, so they rely on tips. They are picking up your food, carrying it on their backs and delivering it to your front door. A tip of 10% to 20% is well worth the convenience for this underappreciated job. 

Furniture delivery

Giving the delivery guy or gal a few euros for delivering furniture is a nice way to show appreciation. If they sweat blood and tears to carry your new refrigerator or couch up 2 flights of stairs, you may want to leave more based on the difficulty of the job: 10 to 20 euros is a generous tip.  

TIPPING BEAUTY AND PERSONAL CARE

Tipping in France: health, beauty: manicure

Hair dress or Barber

Depending on the price of your haircut and the level of service, you can leave A tip of 1 to 5 euros which will go directly to the person who cut your hair, or it might get shared with other staff such as the person who shampooed your hair, or an apprentice who is learning on the job. 

Esthetician

If you received good service, leave between 3 to 5 euros is a generous tip or you can leave a 15% tip. 

OTHER

Washroom attendants

If you come across a bathroom with a washroom attendant and a bowl for tips, you can leave some change if the person was helpful; the bathroom was clean and had fully stocked with paper towels. 

Taxi driver

Whether it’s a taxi driver, uber driver or limo driver, no one can ever decide how much to give. You can leave 1 to 5 euros, depending on the length of your ride. You can also round up to the nearest euro or tell the driver to keep the change. 

If the driver helped you with your bags, opened your door, or did something out of the ordinary like got you to the airport in record time, then you may want to give a little bit more based on a percentage of around 5% to 15%.

Tipping Tour Guides

A few euros or 10% of the cost of the tour. If you thought the tour guide was exceptional or the tour was extra long, you could always leave more. 

WHERE NOT TO TIP

Health Professionals

You do not leave a tip for people in the health industry. This includes dentists, acupuncturists, sports therapy or physical therapy.

Pourboire Interdit

In the rare case you see a sign that says “Pourboir Interdit,” it means that tipping is not permitted. 

Tip with cash, not Credit Card

It's better to pay your tip in cash

In the US and Canada, it’s easy to tip with a credit card. There is even a space for you to write in the amount which can be added at any time, not so in France. 

It’s always best to leave a tip in cash. If you don’t have cash for a tip, let the person know before your credit card is swiped because there is no way to add a tip. Usually, what has to happen is the transaction needs to be cancelled and reentered with the tip added in.

Also, I’m not sure if this is true, but several servers have told me that they often don’t get the tip right away and have to wait several weeks to get it. 

One last thing about tipping in France

Don’t forget, tipping in France is not expected or required, but if you receive good service, it’s customary to leave a small gratuity to show your appreciation. How much you leave is up to you, but you don’t have to feel guilty for not leaving a 20% tip. 

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