Tipping in Spain

ingrid-hofstra-527954-unsplash
A little queso and some jamón, nothing better!

Tipping in Spain, or anywhere in Europe for that matter, is a topic that causes angst for many North Americans. It can be hard to adapt to a different culture when your own tipping habits are deeply ingrained. Even worse, you don’t want anyone to think that you’re rude or don’t appreciate their service, or are being disrespectful by not understanding and following cultural norms.

I’ll walk through specific situations in more detail below, but in a nutshell, you just don’t tip in Spain.

Now, don’t anyone panic, there’s a reason for this! Waiters, cab drivers, and others who might traditionally get tips in North America are paid liveable wages in Spain. They also have health insurance, so full access to quality health care, and a retirement pension. Because of this, tipping is just not part of the culture.

Restaurants, Bars, and Waiters

shops-2897328_1920
Restaurant on a narrow street in Mallorca

As mentioned above, you don’t need to tip waiters, bar tenders, or anyone else who serves you in a restaurant or bar. However, you can leave a bit of change behind at the end of a meal or after a drink or coffee, which is usually done by rounding up.

What does this mean?

Let’s say after a few beers and a tapa or two at a bar,  your total is 10.65 euros, so you give the waiter 15 euros. He’ll bring you back your change, or put it on the bar if you’re standing at the bar, usually on a little dish with a receipt. It would be fine to leave the small change that would round up to the next whole number, so in this example, the 35 euro cents that make the difference between 10.65 and 11 euros. You can leave it in the little dish on top of the receipt.

This is not at all required and no waiter would ever be offended or shocked if you picked up all your change and left. For example in the scenario above, if you give the waiter 12 euros, so maybe a 10 euro bill and two 1 euro coins and he brings back your change of 35 euro cents, no one will be remotely shocked if you take that change with you. Among Spaniards, taking the change would be the reaction more often than not.

What about a very nice meal at a very nice restaurant?

The protocol is maybe a little bit different, but basically the same. If you want to show gratitude and appreciation for an excellent meal and service, you can leave a bit more. My advice in this situation would be to leave a few euro coins, maybe between 3 and 5 euros total, to show your appreciation. It’s fine even if this is a tiny fraction of the cost of the total meal. The point is not to leave a certain percentage behind, but to make an extra gesture to show how much you enjoyed your meal.

Here’s an example:

Over the Christmas holidays in Spain this past year, my family went out to lunch to celebrate Three Kings day, the twelfth day of Christmas known as the Epiphany in English. It is very common in Spain to celebrate this day by going out to a nice lunch with family, especially after many families have cooked several very large meals at home.

There were eight of us total and we ate at a very nice restaurant known for excellent, unfussy cooking. We had several appetizers, each person had a main dish, we drank at least four or five bottles of wine, and had dessert and coffee after the meal. The total was between 200 and 300 euros which, for a meal of this quality of the food and wine, is an extraordinary price as compared to anything similar in North America. When paying, my mom wanted to show appreciation for the excellent food and personal service (the restaurant owners are also friends of many years of my aunt and uncle), so she left about 5 euros as a tip.

The key here is that it’s not about leaving some percentage of the meal’s total; if my mom had tried to even leave 10% of the total, the waiter wouldn’t have wanted to accept that much money and it probably would have lead to confusion.

My uncle though this was too much to leave and told her to only leave 2 or 3 euros. Even though he thought it was too much money for a tip, the difference was small, only a few euros, so it didn’t matter. The point, which was to express gratitude, was expressed successfully.

This said, you do not have to leave a tip ever. It would have been fine to pay and leave without leaving any change behind, but if this makes you very uneasy especially after a nice meal (which I totally understand!), then leaving several euro coins to recognize the quality of the food and service is the appropriate way to go.

Taxis and car services

anton-chernyavskiy-553692-unsplash
Meep, meep!

For taxi situations, I would follow the same parameters as for a bar. You do not need to tip at all, ever, under any circumstance. This is the norm and what taxi drivers are used to. As mentioned above, they make liveable, fair wages, and have access to health care and pensions.

If you want to round up the cost of your taxi ride to the next whole number and leave that change, this is just fine, but it’s best to do this by telling the taxi driver to keep the change so as to avoid any confusion.

For example, if your taxi ride is 14.40 euros and you give the driver a 5 and a 10 euro bill, you can tell her that you don’t need any change back. This will be understood and seen as something fairly normal. It’s a small amount and the taxi driver will appreciate not having to make the change and the nice gesture.

For a driver who you hire to take you to different vineyards or to transport you to different sights, I would say you can follow the example of leaving behind a bit more in a nice restaurant. Again, this is not necessary, but is a gesture of appreciation for someone who has spent a significant amount of time with you, maybe a half or full day.  Again, you don’t need to calculate a percentage as this is a gesture of thanks and appreciation.

Guides

patrick-baum-202786-unsplash

For guides, I tweak my actions and recommendations a bit. I think it’s nice to tip guides a small amount to show thanks for their personal attention. It’s an especially nice gesture for a guide you hire for a full day or several hours and who gets to know you a bit or who really goes out of his or her way to cater the tour or talk to your interests.

Keep in mind again that guides make liveable wages and are not expecting tips as part of their income. This means that a tip doesn’t need to be a percentage of what you’ve paid them, but is more a gesture to show your appreciation for their work.

For guides, I would say the amount you tip depends on how long you hired the guide for, how much they catered to your group’s interest, and the general level of knowledge and how enjoyable the experience was. If you’re part of a big group, or a group with varied ages, interests, and activity levels or anything else along these lines that might make the guide’s job more challenging, you can factor that in as well.

Here’s an example:

It’s fine to tip a few euros. I recently did this and the guide was surprised, initially tried to give me my full change, and then thankful. I hired a guide to take friends and family around the historic center of Leon the day before my husband and I renewed our wedding vows. We were a varried group in all senses — multiple different countries and languages were represented, the ages ranged as did the activity level. Our guide was lovely, she was warm and engaging, tailored her historic tour of the city to our interests, and kept the group moving at an appropriate pace. When I paid her, I gave her bills knowing that she would have to make change and went she went to give me change, I told her to keep it. I think I tipped her around 7 euros.

If you loved your guide and he or she was the greatest guide you’ve ever had and they went out of your way to make sure you had an amazing experience and for these reasons want to tip more, I would say go up to but not above a 10% tip. Again, your guide will be touched that you liked their work enough to give them a tip. Guides who work with North Americans may be used to tipping, though they won’t expect it. If you get a guide who works mostly with other Europeans, they may be surprised and not at all expecting of a tip.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply