A travel writer who's crisscrossed the world for 20 years has reassuring advice for Americans abroad -- stress way less about tipping.

Last year, Americans ventured abroad for their summer vacations in record-breaking numbers. Industry insiders expect this season to be just as busy. That means a whole lot of Americans will be battling the crowds (and the heat) in the likes of Italy, Greece, and France. It also means a lot of them will be stressing out about when to tip and how much.

I sympathize. I've lived abroad in Europe for 15 years, and I still stress about whether I am offending people or giving Americans a bad name when I venture into new countries or new situations. I know the world thinks American tipping culture is insane, but I'm often stumped at what exactly to do to blend in with the locals.

Google can help in a pinch. Friends from whatever country you're traveling to are also an excellent resource. But sometimes you haven't thought to research in advance, and you're left watching the bellhop approach, frantically wondering if you have small bills in your wallet and whether you should get them out.

In these instances, I point uncertain entrepreneurs abroad to a recent post on travel blog View From the Wing. It draws on the extensive global travel experience of Gary Leff, who has been writing about the industry for 20 years. His reassuring takeaway can be boiled down to just six words.

Why you should worry less about tipping abroad

Leff's main advice to American travelers worried about tipping is just to "not worry so much about it."

The rest of the world puts a whole lot less emphasis on tipping and generally leaves smaller amounts. If you err, it will likely be on the side of leaving too much. And who's going to be super annoyed about that?

"Outside of Japan, where tipping is historically an offense, you can pretty much tip in most countries, even where it's contra the culture and traditions. When you do, folks just figure 'you're American,'" Leff explains.

And on those are occasions when Americans undertip, locals are likely to think you simply didn't know you were supposed to leave more. The whole issue generates way too much anxiety on what is supposed to be your chill summer getaway.

Even his detailed tipping advice is super simple

Still, if you're determined not to be one of those "bad tourists" Europeans are often moaning about, Leff offers slightly more detailed advice. His five rules are still incredibly simple, though:

  1. If there's a service charge, a tip isn't required. "Where places add a 'service charge' to the bill, you shouldn't feel obligated to tip, although if paying cash you can round up to the next major bill if you'd like," instructs Leff. If you're not sure if they've added a service charge, just ask.

  2. Know the difference between a tip and a bribe. "Just because 'tipping' may not be a customary practice, it doesn't mean that bribes aren't. Many cultures that haven't had tipping in their past do have a history of side payments for services, not like getting your bags or bringing you your meal but if you want anything productive or 'official' done," cautions Leff. This is unlikely to be a factor in major European destinations, and the chances of your needing to do something "official" or bureaucratic while overseas as a tourist is low, but the distinction is still worth noting.

  3. Round up, and try to tip modestly where it's easy and natural. "Wherever I go outside North America, I'll round up cabs, figure on 10 percent-ish at restaurants, and have small amounts ready for folks who help with baggage but not worry about it if they walk off not realizing I was ready to tip them," reports Leff.

  4. Tip less abroad than in major U.S. cities. Seriously, the rest of the world thinks Americans are bonkers with how much and how often they tip. Do not use what you do at home as a guidepost.

  5. Do what feels natural to you. The situation, and your gut, can also offer valuable clues. "I do what feels right and I do not worry if it is right. For instance, do they appear to be waiting around after dropping off my bags, or do they run off immediately?" suggests Leff.

You can check out the complete post for lots of fun tipping anecdotes from Leff. But the bottom-line actionable insight is simple -- worry less, and also probably tip less too. No one cares about this nearly as much as Americans.

This post originally appeared at inc.com.

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2024-06-11T11:22:15Z dg43tfdfdgfd