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By Audrey Sykes in Amsterdam—
Tipping abroad can be confusing, especially when you’re on a whirl-winded European trip that takes you into and out of different countries with different customs. Often travelers tip too much, or to little, and rarely the right amount at the right time.
How much should you tip in Amsterdam? Learn from the locals and follow these general guidelines:
Hospitality has a healthy wage
The restaurant and hospitality industry in the Netherlands represents a well-paid group of workers. They’re usually students, and if they’re considerably older chances are they own the place.
Regardless, minimum wage at cafes, restaurants and bars is well above that in North America (usually more than double), so servers do not live off of tips. In fact, many don’t expect anything beyond coins left on the table. Hence the lack of fast, positive and friendly customer service here: They’re simply doing their job.
Ten percent rule for nice restaurants
Eating out, for the Dutch, isn’t as common as it is in North America. It’s not as cheap (due to low demand), and the idea of a restaurant is reserved for special occasions (friends in town, celebrations, etc.).
Knowing that, don’t expect happy hours, “early bird” specials or daily deals. And if you find them, chances are it’s a tourist restaurant (which is not a bad option if you’re looking for a cheap dinner). Authentic, delicious dishes are reserved for cafes with three-course meals, charming canal-side ambiance and patient customers who take their time when dining.
For a tip at these fine dine establishments, hover around the 10 percent mark. It’s easy math, and the fine dining experience justifies the little extra spent on a tip.
Not one buck at the bar
When ordering any drink at a bar or a café, don’t tip. It might feel wrong at first and it takes some getting used to. But unless you’re at a high-end cocktail bar, servers only expect a little extra tip if it benefits the team. (Most places pool tips and split after a day, a week, a month; or they save up yearly and splurge on a party.)
If you’re a group of two or more sitting down for a drink, and you feel guilty for not throwing something on the side, the general rule is this: Take the total and round up to the nearest euro. It might be a mere 30 cents, but it will relieve the server from fishing around for change (and they’ll be thankful).
One joke I heard from an expat about her dating experience with the Dutch summed it up pretty well: “The Dutch are like birds… cheap, cheap, cheap!” Alright it’s not that bad, but most Dutchies know they have a culture that leans on the thrifty side of life. The term “going Dutch” has a hint of truth, although many locals will say this view is long passe.
Regardless, I’d be fibbing if I said I’ve never split the bill with my local buddies. That’s how it usually goes even on dates, even for one round of Heineken. I’ve even received emails and Facebook messages with bank account details so I could transfer them an easy €10! So, relax and don’t be afraid to split the bill!
Simply put, go easy on the tipping. If you really want to impress a server with generosity, cover the entire bill for your party, and have someone else worry about the tip!
Note: This goes for tipping in drinking and dining establishments only. Hotels, tour guides, taxi drivers and the like have their own tipping tradition, which will be covered in a later post.
For additional “tips” on what to see and do in Amsterdam, click here.