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Sometimes budget-minded travelers are so preoccupied with saving on big things like hotels and flights that they end up losing money in more stealthy ways, like spending unnecessarily by failing to embrace cultural differences.
One way to avoid letting your trip to Paris burn a hole in your wallet?
Think twice before you tip.
Americans are generous tippers. Rewarding service people is an ingrained reflex, an obligatory part of our social contract. But the rules of tipping vary from country to country like any other social custom.
When eating or drinking in a French café, bistro, bar or restaurant, be it an espresso standing up at the comptoir or a fancy sit-down Michelin-starred meal, a tip for service is not expected for a simple reason: It is already included in the price of everything you consume.
Not tipping in France does not mean that you are stingy, were disappointed in the service, or disliked the food. Your waiter is not dependent on your tipping handsomely to supplement his (or her) hourly wages. He has health insurance like every other citizen of France, whether employed or not. If you order an espresso for €2.20, leaving the exact amount down to the centime will not be seen as a reproach. It will just be seen as paying your bill.
Don’t get us wrong: Tipping does exist in France. It’s known as a pourboire, meaning, literally, a bit of spare change to buy a drink. So if you are moved to leave a little extra, a right size gesture would be to round up the price of that €2.20 espresso to €2.50, or that €18 lunch to €20. If you’ve splurged on a Michelin-starred restaurant and had exceptional service, you might leave an extra 10% to show your appreciation, but again it is in no way expected or required.
Many Americans are unable to accept the cultural reality in France and out of habit, duty, guilt or even pride end up leaving an additional 10, 15 or 20% on top of the already included gratuity, which is excessive and unnecessary and frankly gratuitous. (Read more about when to tip, and when not to tip in Paris.)
Save your centimes!