“We are so used to tipping in the U.S.,” says Margaret T. Cassilly, a Washington, D.C. — based meetings industry consultant. “If we go to another culture we tend to tip regardless.” But tipping protocols in Europe and Asia do differ somewhat from in the U.S., whether it is in restaurants, taxis, hotels, or private functions. In Britain, for example, people really tip only when they've had outstanding service, notes Sally Hodson, senior marketing executive, Incentive and Corporate Meetings, for the British Tourist Authority (BTA) in New York.

Each country has its unique protocol in this department, so the best bet is to contact the conference manager at your venue, the national tourist office representative, or your destination management company to find out well in advance of the meeting what service charges or gratuities will be added to your bill and to attendees' bills. In the meantime, here are some pointers from planners, destination management companies, and a national tourist office on tipping when outside of the U.S.

  • Consider the size of your meeting, the complexity of arrangements, and the level of activity of housekeeping, porters, and concierge. “If it's a 500-person meeting, and the porters, concierge, and housekeeping staff are rushed off their feet, one might wish to give a higher tip at the end of the event,” says Hodson. “But you have to be careful. A lot of hotels in Britain do charge for porterage and they put it on the bill.”

  • Many European countries include a value-added tax on top of a service charge for restaurant meals. Leaving small change in a restaurant would be appreciated by the waiter, but is not necessary.

  • In many countries, the custom is to tip porters but not taxi drivers.

  • “In Europe, in general, you tip a little more than you do, say, in Latin America and Asia, because salaries are higher,” notes Cassilly.

  • Meeting planners working in Asia need to be culturally sensitive and intuitive about tipping. In Singapore, for example, a tip is taken as an insult, observes Cassilly. “Service is very good and is part of their job,” she says.

  • “In Asia I have found that it is sometimes better to write a letter to the boss and let the boss reward the worker,” says Michelle Bruno, a principal with the Bruno Group, an event marketing and management and communication company in Salt Lake City.

  • Bruno adds that “bringing in food when they are working hard, or if you have small giveaways, like hats or key chains, can be very well-received, especially if the giveaway is a well-recognized international brand…. If you gave someone a key chain in England, they would laugh, but in China they would love it.”

  • In Hong Kong, tipping occurs only when people are truly satisfied with the service, says Peggy Lau, managing director of Pacific World Hong Kong, a destination management company. Restaurants in Hong Kong generally add a 10 percent service charge to the bill. Diners often add an extra 10 percent for great service. Tipping in taxis in Hong Kong is not a standard practice. Most people simply hand the driver loose change or round up their fare.



Peter Mabin is a freelance travel journalist based in New York City.