This must be one of the most frequently asked questions by people when visiting Paris. Of course all around the world there are different customs for leaving tips at restaurants, theatres, etc. So what exactly is the protocol for leaving tips in Paris? We have the answer.
The word tipping itself comes from T.I.P. – an acronym for To Insure Promptness. In French, the word for tipping is ‘pourboire’ which comes from ‘pour’ and ‘boire’, ie. for a drink!
The most common difference between tipping in France and tipping in America is that tips are not seen as required in France. This is because by French law, a 15% service charge is already included in your bill. Service compris indicates the tip has been added to your bill but sometimes the wait staff do not actually receive any of it. To work as a server is not just a summer job, but a stable career choice with a good base salary. The gratuity is already pre-included in the price of the meal, therefore the servers are not paid below minimum wage as they are in the States. Thus, waiters and waitresses do not rely on tips to make up their salaries.
Because American servers rely on in tips to pad out their low salaries, they are expected to be as friendly and hospitable as possible, attending to the customer’s every need. They check in frequently – asking if you have everything you need, and bring the check in a timely matter to ensure. In France however, the expression “the customer is always right,” has a bit more leaway as sometimes, the servers know better. When you order well-done meat, they’ll give you medium-well as they know better how to cook their meat! This is where the tipping comes in. Because the gratitude is already included in the bill, the servers feel no obligation to be especially nice to the customers – you may notice that they are much more laid back than American servers. They do not check up on your table as frequently, and may not refill your water as often as a waiter in the States would. The great upside is that you have your table for the evening – you never feel obliged to eat quickly to make room for the next tipping customers as you can in the States, where you can get your check as the food arrives and feel pressure to eat quickly.
However, if you come across an especially nice and friendly server Paris, who is indeed attending to your needs, it is a symbol of your thanks to leave them a small tip. As tips are not expected, it’s up to your own discretion of the dinning experience regarding your expectations and the quality of service. They do not rely on this, so the amount of the tip is somewhat irrelevant. The money aspect is really not what leaving the tip is about, it’s a symbol of appreciation that you show for the exceptional service you have received in the restaurant. Therefore, in places where you have received average or mediocre service, tipping is unnecessary. However, if you are pleased with the place you’ve eaten, it isn’t uncommon to leave a small tip (10% or less) in order to further show your gratitude
Rush Hour 3, New Line Cinema
Of course, if you are going to eat Chinese take away at Cafe de la Paix, an upmarket French cafe, (like they do in Rush Hour 3) and you don’t get kicked out, you may want to consider tipping A LOT (and to the street musician serenading you)
This is a French tradition to tip the people that show you to your seat. The theatre is one of the few places in France where tipping is expected, especially in an upmarket theatre. Also make sure to save a euro or two for the coatcheck attendant.
You are not required to tip your tour guide (though remember there are some free tours now where tour guides rely entirely on tips).
If you enjoyed your tour and want to show your appreciation, a good general rule is to tip your guide 10% of the tour fee. It is a nice guesture and will be appreciated by guides that generally don’t have a fixed salary the way most waiters do.
Much the same with concierges in hotels. If they help make your stay remarkable and give you their carefully curated recommendations, it is nice to show your appreciation, especially if you plan to return to the same hotel.
If you do happen upon valet parking at a prestige establishment, it’s not a bad idea to tip your attendant a fixed amount, independent of the amount of time you’re leaving your vehicle or the fee they charge.
Valets often rely on tips as they pay the restaurant a fee to set up outside – it is win/win. The restaurant is able to offer a valet parking service and these independent entrepreneurs have a set clientel.
A general rule of thumb is to leave 1 to 2 euros for a valet and the same for a maid at your hotel Of course, tip once you’ve got your lovely Ferrari back!
No, generally you do not need to tip taxi drivers in Paris. However, there are some things you should keep in mind while taking a taxi in Paris. These include having an apropriate amount of change on hand as the drivers often do not carry a large amount, and keeping in mind that a driver may refuse to take you to your desired location for any random reason. Why? No one really understands. That’s just a Parisian taxi driver for you.
So come to Paris, enjoy the City of Lights, and don’t worry about giving away all your extra cash!
However, if someone goes out of their way to help you and be nice to show your appreciation, it is always nice to tip.