The last French TIPPING IN FRANCE guide you need to read (from a local)

The last French TIPPING IN FRANCE guide you need to read (from a local)

Tipping nuances vary from country to country, making it easy for tourists to commit a social faux pas. If you’re planning on travelling to France and wondering whether or not you should tip that taxi driver or the friendly server– read on. I have all the tips you need to know about French tipping culture and etiquette in France for just about every situation.. 

I used to be confused about tipping in France until I moved here

When I moved to France with my family in 2011, I was so confused about French tipping etiquette in France.

Some sources said tipping in France wasn’t necessary, and others said it was customary to leave a small tip for good service to show appreciation. 

What does that even mean? Do you tip in France or not?

Now, after living in France for over a decade, I can say in all honesty, “I get it,” but it came down to understanding French cultural nuances and how things work in France. It’s the kind of knowledge you only get from living in France like a local. 

Or having someone familiar with French customs and tipping culture explain how things work. 

So before we jump into the who, how much, and when to tip in France section, you should first understand how things work in France.

Once you understand that, you’ll be able to make better-informed choices about when and how much to tip in France, instead of feeling anxious and confused when the server drops off your bill.

Most importantly, you won’t have to rely on tipping in France guides like this one. 

How to say tip in French  

First, you need to know the French word for Tip which is POURBOIRE. 

It’s pronounced \Poor-Bwar\ which literally means “for a drink,” or “for drinking” Pour + Boire.

Pourboire definition: French for tip or gratuity: Annie André

“For a drink” is the French tipping word?

There’s a lot of lore about the origins of the word pourboire and how it became the French word for Tip.

 Some believe it comes from an old custom and expression used in the past when customers would give a few coins as a reward for a particular service and say:  «Here, to drink to my health!», “Tenez, pour boire à ma santé.” 

toasting and clinqing glasses is an old custom that goes back to ancient times

But it’s not just France. Several other European languages also use a drinking term 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.”
  • In Polish, the word for tip is “napiwek,” which means “for beer.”

French Tipping Etiquette, Culture And Why It’s So Arbitrary

Take everything you know about tipping etiquette and forget it, throw it out the window. Au revoir!  

“You can count France as one of the many countries where you don’t have to tip.”

That’s a hard pill to swallow for tourists in France who come from a country where tipping 10 percent, 15 percent or 20 percent is engrained in the culture and expected. 

Before you get too excited about not having to tip in France, there’s a big but…

Although tipping in France is not required or expected, it doesn’t mean the practice of tipping doesn’t exist in France because it does.

But tipping in France is very nuanced and nowhere near the standard 15% you see people leave in some countries like the U.S. and Canada. 

The fact is, tips ARE very much appreciated by people working in the service industry and you won’t insult anyone if you do leave a tip.

Here’s where things get murky.

French people can’t agree on how much to tip in France either.

By now, you’ve probably read a few articles about tipping etiquette in France and realized that not everyone agrees on tipping rules or the amount you should tip.

French people can’t seem to agree unanimously either about how much to tip.

Go ahead and ask ten people in France how much you should tip. I guarantee you’ll get ten different answers.

Unlike the United States and Canada where a 15%  tip is generally accepted as the amount to tip a server, there are no widely accepted rules in France. 

Some, not all French people, don’t even believe in tipping. 

Tpping in France is arbitrary.

  • A tip can be a few coins.
  • You can round up to the nearest euro.
  • You can leave a percentage of 5% or 10%.
  • A 15% tip on an expensive bill would be considered a large tip but not for a small coffee.
  • Some French people tip the hairdresser; others won’t. Some people tip hotel staff; some don’t etc. 

I’m speaking from personal experience and living in france for over ten years.

I’ve also asked my French friends, talked with wait staff in restaurants, and quietly spied on other patrons after they paid their bills. 

Here’s a snapshot of what some French people think about tipping in France.

Below are direct quotes left by French people on Quora about tipping in France.

I translated their comments to English above the original answer.

Tipping in France: Leave a tip in France when service given is better than normal

 

Tipping in France: i rarely give tips

Why all the confusion about tipping in France?

If all this sounds confusing, there are two logical explanations.

One of the reasons why people leave smaller tips in France or refuse to tip at all is because of a little thing called “Service Compris” (literally service included). The second reason is because of the salaries in France

1) What is “Service Compris?”

This is nothing more than a surcharge, usually 15%, that restaurants and cafes are required by law to add to the bill.

Because of this surcharge, some people believe they shouldn’t need to leave a tip.

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

How to know if there is a service charge?

  • It should be printed in small font at the bottom of menus.
  • And at the bottom of the bill, along with the percentage you were charged.

service charge: service compris on a French menu in France

Tipping in France: Service compris amount should be printed on bill in France

2) Workers earn a liveable wage

The second reason people leave smaller tips in France compared to other cultures is people in the service industry, including waiters, earn a liveable wage.

They aren’t dependent on tips, at least not as much as their American counterparts, where servers can make as little as 2 or 3 dollars per hour. Those poor sods rely heavily on tips to make a living. 

How much do French servers make in France?

French servers will usually earn between 1 430 € to 1 700 € net per month.

The salaries of waiters is based on the minimum wage in the hotel and restaurant industry and a 39-hour workweek rather than the normal 35-hour workweek.

In France, any hours worked over the standard 35 hours are paid at a higher rate. 

Workers also have other benefits.

Many French employees in France, including restaurant and hotel workers, receive subsidized food vouchers called “les tickets restau,” short for ticket restaurant. These can add up to a couple of hundred euros per month and are accepted virtually anywhere that sells food, including grocery stores and many restaurants. 

Everyone in France has health insurance, whether you work or not.

A doctor visit is affordable and usually costs 25 euros per visit for a generalist. 70% of that doctor fee you pay gets refunded back to you within days via an automatic ACH payment.

And, of course, the famous French vacation days. For every 30 days worked, employees accrue 2.5 days of vacation. 

So yes, restaurant servers and bartenders do make a liveable wage.

However, it doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate the generosity of customers because minimum wage is minimum wage; it’s not a large sum of money. 

Tipping in France: Shoe shiners in France: Cirreur de bottes marseille

Tips used to be more common and people used to leave bigger tips in France.

Before minimum wage laws, many French professions relied heavily 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)

Some professions didn’t even earn a salary and relied solely on the generosity of their customers.

Many of these professions no longer exist, 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

Here’s why your server may say the tip is not included even if you think it is.

I’ve heard some tourists complain about French servers, who when asked if the tip is included, will say no, even though a 15% service charge was added to the bill.  

You: Is the tip included in the price?: Le pourboire est inclus dans le prix.

Server: No the tip is not included: Le pourboire n’est pas inclus.

The reason a server might say the tip is not included is because a tip (POURBOIRE) is technically not the same as a service charge (SERVICE COMPRIS).

  • Service compris is a mandatory service charge that’s automatically added to the bill, based on a percentage of the total bill.
  • A pourboire is a tip that’s not obligatory, but customary (for some) and at the customer’s discretion to thank someone for good or exceptional service. It goes straight to the person you give it to.

Tipping in France:

**FRANCE TIPPING GUIDE: who and how much do you tip in France

Now that you understand a little more about tipping etiquette and culture in France, we can move on to how much to tip in different situations. 

Don’t forget, the amounts I list below are general guidelines. There are no hard and fast rules.

On Tipping in Paris. It’s is a little complicated

Because so many tourists leave tips in touristy restaurants and cafés, many locals do expect bigger tips, especially if they learn that you’re American, who are counted as some of the best tippers in Europe. 

On to the tipping amounts by situation.

RESTAURANTS, CAFE AND BARS

Tipping in French restaurants

Restaurant

Very few of my French friends leave a tip based on a percentage; it’s more of an intuitive thing and entirely at your own discretion based on the level of service you received and your budget. Some cash-strapped students and adults can’t afford to leave a tip, and no one bats an eye or comes chasing after you to collect their tip money.  

  • 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 %. 
  • 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 terrible.
  • 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.

Café

Most people 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 coffee 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%).

Tipping in bars in France: James Bond drinking a Vesper martini made with Lillet:

Tipping in Bars 

The service charge should be included on your bill if you’re sitting at a table but not standing at a bar ordering your drink. 

Leaving some small change behind 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 in France.

French tipping: it's ok to leave some change in the tip jar i France

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 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 hotels in France. Still, 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 went over and above the line of duty.

Tipping in France at hotels

Housekeeping 

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. 

Hotel Porter / Bellhop

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

Hotel Concierge

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

Valet

A few euros to the valet to run and fetch your car would be a nice gesture of appreciation, especially 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.

In this case, 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 access.

Many food delivery apps like Uber eats in France have the option for customers to leave a tip from within the app.

Keep in mind that many food delivery people in France who work for Uber Eats are independent workers and get paid per delivery, which may or may not be a liveable wage. 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 two 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

French Tipping in France: for health, beauty: manicure

Hairdresser or Barber

Depending on the price of your haircut and the level of service, you can leave a tip of 1 to 5 euros.

Your tip will go directly to the person who cut your hair, or it might get shared with other staff.

Esthetician

3 to 5 euros is a generous tip, or you can leave a 15% tip. 

OTHER

Washroom attendants

If the person was helpful, the bathroom was clean and was fully stocked with paper towels; leaving some change or a euro is not uncommon.

Taxi drivers

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, had water waiting for you in the car, 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

Tipping tour guides is not automatic for most people, especially in France, but if you feel like your tour guide did an exceptional job, or the tour was extra long, you could always leave a few euros or 10% of the cost of the tour.

WHERE NOT TO TIP

When You Get Bad Service!

In some cultures, when you receive bad service, you leave a smaller tip or leave a coin. “Yeah, that’ll show you to give me bad service.” 

In France, If you leave a smaller tip, say 5% instead of 15%, or 1 Euro instead of 5 euros, no one would even blink. The server might even be pleased.

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

French Tipping: Waiters won't get offended if you leave small change

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

French tipping guide: It's better to pay your tip in cash

In the U.S. 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. In France, you can’t do this. 

Once your server swipes your bill, you can’t ask them to add in a tip. They have to cancel the transaction, then you have to tell them how much to add manually, and they have to re-swipe your card. 

For this reason, it’s better to have a few euros cash on you at all times so that you can leave a tip. 

A quick recap about tipping in France

You don’t have to give a tip in France. No one will bat an eye or spit in your food the next time they see you.

But, if you receive good service, especially excellent service, leave a small gratuity to show you appreciated a job well done. 

How much you leave is up to you, but you don’t have to feel guilty for not leaving a 20% tip. 

Maybe leave a euro or two depending on what you ordered and the service you received.A

Don’t forget, a service fee is automatically added to all bills at restaurants, cafés and bars. (usually 15%). This is not a tip it’s a service charge.

And last but not least, servers in France do not live off tips because they make a liveable wage. But minimum wage is not a fortune so tips are always appreciated.

If you’re interested in food and dining, check out my article on 77 French Aperitifs: An A To Z List & Guide To Pre-dinner Alcohol Drinks in France.

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