Tipping in the UK

Today I went to the hair salon for the first time here in London. My hair looks FABULOUS but that’s not the point of this post. Before heading out to the salon I decided to look up what’s customary for tipping in the UK. See, tipping here isn’t the same as it is back home. In the US, tipping is something that is not mandatory but is certainly expected – regardless of the level of service you received. You can get shitty service at a restaurant, hair/nail salon, spa, etc and still be expected to leave a tip.

Here it’s different. Most restaurants will include a “discretionary” 10% service charge on your bill (it’s called a bill here, not a check!). You can think of the service charge as the gratuity. Some restaurants won’t add this and then it’s entirely up to you whether you want to leave a tip or not however it is customary to leave at least something (just not all of your copper coins!). To my understanding, servers in Europe are paid at least minimum wage and, therefore, do not look at tips as a way to “top up” their pay hence why they aren’t expecting you to tip them.

But this was information that I already knew. Do I need to tip my hairstylist? Will she expect a tip from me? THOSE are the questions I really wanted to know. So I did some digging around and decided to share with you some scenarios in which tipping is appropriate/appreciated and scenarios when it’s not required.

RESTAURANTS

As stated earlier, most restaurants would have already included the service charge on the bill. If the service was crappy, you can ask for this charge to be removed. If it was not already added to your bill, you’ll see “Service not included” printed somewhere on the bottom of it. That’s the restaurants nice way of asking you to tip. 10% is customary unless you’re at a fancy dancy place where 12.5% is more appropriate (I think).  If you are paying by card, ask the servers whether they actually get the tips left via card. If not, leave them cash.

If you are not happy with the service, do not leave a tip. I apply this rule to places here and at home. Because I don’t tip for bad service (hang me, tell me off and curse me out but I don’t).

Tipping is not expected or appropriate at fast-food places. In places like Nando’s (my favorite place to eat here in London!) where you order at the counter and have the food brought to you, you’re not expected to tip. However, you can leave a few pounds if you’re feeling generous.

COFFEE SHOPS

At coffee shops here, tips jars are usually found close to the register (called the till here). Feel free to leave something if your beverage was amazing. If you don’t, no one will judge you.

PUBS/BARS

This is one I struggle with. Apparently, tipping at a bar here is neither expected nor appropriate. My research says that if you know the bartender well, you can offer to buy him/her a drink in lieu of an actual tip.  When in Rome, do as the Romans do so I don’t leave tips for bartenders here – although it feels weird to me.

HOTELS

Tip as you would back home. It is not appropriate to tip front desk staff (unless they go above and beyond for you and then a small gift might be more appropriate than actual money). It is ok to tip porters and housekeeping staff (a pound per bag carried is good; a few pounds for longer stays/messy rooms) however room service does not expect a tip.

TAXIS

Tipping your driver is not required however it wouldn’t be a bad idea to round to the nearest pound and ask him/her to “keep the change”. If your driver helps you with your bags, provides great tips for seeing the city, shares awesome stories and/or gets you somewhere super quick you can leave an extra pound or two which they’ll really appreciate.

NAIL/HAIR SALONS

Tipping is not required nor expected but certainly appreciated. I’ve read that custom is 10% of the total bill but I’ve also read that most hairdressers will genuinely appreciate the gesture and not be overly concerned with how much you actually tip (it’s the thought that counts). Tip your hairstylist/nail artist in cash to be sure he/she actually gets the money.

As for me, I loved my hair and the service I received from my stylist so I tipped her £5. No where near 10% of my bill but I can’t afford 10% so I gave her what I could. She genuinely looked surprised as I handed her a small envelope with her name on it and I could tell she really appreciated it 🙂

So bottom line, tipping is not expected here and sometimes it’s not appropriate. But when it’s ok to tip, it’s usually very much appreciated.

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