Friday, December 5, 2008

Other Cultures, Other Ways

I'm a great armchair traveler but rather than a general over view - "The Magnificient Alps" or "The Beauties of Paris" I want the details of daily living. Conde Nast Travel is currently running a series on how to behave in foreign countries (business meetings, who pays in a restaurant) and today's lesson was Tipping 101. (You may view the others at

China has a "no tipping whatsoever" policy in the better hotels (which stick you with a 10% extra fee anyhow) but since you can't rid us Americans of the nasty habit of tipping everything that moves, China has relented somewhat -- if you insist on tipping, do it quietly and out of sight, never in front of employers. This presents a delightful picture in my mind... hotel corridor, guest furtively sticks head out of the doorway, spots a maid down the hall -- 'Psst! Psst!" urgently... maid turns, comes to the doorway; guest whispers "In here"... the maid looks furtively around and slides in. "Here," the guest whispers, "Take this." The maid bows silently and scuttles away.

Japan is nearly as secretive. Tips must be enclosed in a clean, white envelope -- some department stores even have a money-wrapping department! You should also try to get new bills in consecutive numbers from a bank, if at all possible.

Russia used to have a non-tipping policy and people were afraid to accept tips believing they would be reported to the police for taking bribes -- but not any more, not by a long shot. In Russian today, be sure to tip your waiter directly; don't leave the tip on the table because management will slide along and take it! In fact, all of Eastern Europe now expects to be tipped.

In Dubai, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Brazil, Costa Rica, France and the United Kingdom, the tip is included in the bill. Look for the words "service compris" on the tab -- in any of these countries. It's French for "service included" and universally accepted as an explanation.

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