Tipping is always a hot button issue, and upfront I’ll say I don’t actually fully know where I stand, because I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. While I was staying at the Amans in Bali this week I did a quick Google search on tipping at Amans. I stumbled upon this FlyerTalk thread, which is almost 10 years old, and couldn’t help but laugh at this comment:
Don’t tip unless you speak English with an American accent.
For what it’s worth, at no point did I feel obligated to tip at Amans beyond the 10% service charge that’s automatically applied, but the service was so good all around that I almost felt guilty.
But I think there’s some degree of truth to the (hilarious) statement above. Here in the US we tip because it’s the right thing to do. People in service industries often aren’t even paid the minimum wage and rely on tips to make a living. That’s not the case almost everywhere else in the world, though when traveling abroad we often still take that mentality with us.
I think the simplest example is the Thai Airways first class lounge & spa in Bangkok. Say you’re flying first class from Bangkok to Tokyo, which entitles you to a complimentary hour long full body massage. Do you tip? I’ve heard a million different viewpoints, including:
- Yes, I tip $5USD because for them that’s a lot of money and I appreciate the service.
- $5USD? You cheap bastard! I tip $20USD, because that’s still a lot less than I’d pay in the US for a massage, it gets me good service, and it makes their day.
- I don’t tip because it’s not part of my culture.
- I don’t tip because it’s not expected — I paid thousands of dollars (or miles) for my ticket already! What’s next, tipping the flight attendant?
And I think there are merits to all those viewpoints. I can see why you’d tip a “reasonable” amount as a gesture of appreciation. And hell, I think it’s perfectly well intentioned to leave a “big” tip so you can put a smile on the face of someone that has completely different economic circumstances than you do.
But there’s another side to that coin. Say you’re a masseuse in the Thai lounge and you alternate between massaging Americans and Japanese passengers. Will the expectations of tips from Americans, for example, impact the way you’d treat a Japanese guest, when you know it’s not part of their culture (and actually rude) to tip? I’d imagine at a certain point you’d start giving 110% of your energy to the passengers you expect to tip, and a bit less to those you don’t expect to tip.
So I’m curious where you guys stand. Do you tip abroad when it’s not expected of the culture, and if so, under what circumstances?