Expat FAQ

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How should I tip in restaurants in North America?

Tipping is complicated, and is only made more so when traveling somewhere new. Standards are different almost everywhere you go, and different establishments often have different tipping expectations.

Tipping in North America is expected for almost any service. It is part of the culture and an aspect of going out and can easily offend people not tipping them. However, knowing when and how much to tip can be difficult to determine.

If you sit down to a meal with a waitress, a 15 percent tip is average, up to 20 percent for exceptional service. Cafes, take away, and places without waiter service don't require a tip, but may have a tip jar.

Some places charge a service charge that works as a tip. It will usually be noted on the menu, and will be written on the bill. This is often at 18 percent. It is common for restaurants to add gratuity for large parties of 8 or more.

In a bar, it is common to tip a dollar a drink if paid in cash, or if you open a tab, pay the bill at the end with a tip of 15 percent. It can be useful to leave a big tip on the first drink to ensure good service for the night. If you are receiving Happy Hour half-price, tip on the regular pricing amount.

Here is a basic guide for what to tip in North America.


It is customary to tip approximately 15 percent on the total bill before tax, 20 percent for exceptional service. Some restaurants will include an automatic gratuity, but usually only for large groups (usually over 8, but it is up to the individual establishment).


Tipping guidelines for Mexico are nearly the same as the United States or Canada. However, most service employees earn very little or no base salary and the tips they earn comprise the vast majority of their overall income. Some restaurants automatically add a tip to the bill, regardless of whether or not you're in a large party. A charge labeled "propina" on your bill is a gratuity that the restaurant includes automatically with each bill. It is not necessary to tip an additional amount.

At a bar, a minimum of 1-2 dollars should be tipped per round. If you're running a tab, leave 15 to 20 percent of the total as a tip.


In the USA, waitstaff can be paid below the minimum wage with tips making up the difference. Servers are also expected to pay income tax on your tips. This makes tipping very important to servers and leaving a bad tip is an insult. Tipping 15 percent is acceptable, 18 percent is good, and 20 percent is for excellent service.

Tips are often left in cash, even when paying with a credit card. You can leave the tip on the table, or hand it directly to the server. Service is usually not included in the bill except for large groups. If a service charge is applied, there should be a note in the menu and it should be clearly marked on the bill. Ask about any unexplained charges.

Counter service, fast food restaurants and espresso bars are usually not tipped. They may have tip jar and you can put in some change for good service.

Bartenders should receive 1 dollar per drink, or 15 to 20 percent of the total bill.


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