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How to Tip Like the Locals While You Are Traveling Abroad

A thoughtful gift and a generous tip are two of the best ways to win over the hearts of the locals.  Who doesn’t appreciate unexpected presents or extra money?  We all do, and the best part is that the people you are generous with will do their best to make you feel at home in their foreign land.

As I was traveling with my grandfather, I picked up a lot of my ideas about how we should be tipping and gifting while we are abroad.  He is great at using tips and gifts to build relationships with the locals, and in this article, I will pass the knowledge that I learned from him onto you.

Do They Even Tip?

The first question you must research is if the people actually tip in the country you will be traveling to.  You may assume that, because we give big tips at restaurants in the U.S., it is the same all over the world.  However, that is not the case at all.  Out of all of the countries I have stepped foot in, the U.S. is the most generous when it comes to tipping in restaurants.  If you are in Europe, they may tip an extra euro or two,  while in some Asian countries they do not tip at all.  In countries like Japan for example, it is especially important to be aware of their tipping practices.  A tip in Japan is not only unwanted, it can also be considered an insult.

How Do They Tip?

Researching how to tip will also be helpful as you are traveling.  Not all countries give their tips in the same way.  For example, in the U.S., we typically leave our tip on the table at the restaurant.  But, if you are in Germany, this would be a no-go.  As you are paying the waiter or waitress at the table, you should tell them how much your tip would be before they give you the change.  Therefore, if your bill is 16.73 and you hand them 20 Euros, you can tell them “give me two euro back,” meaning their tip will be what is leftover, which is 1.27 Euro.  If you do not practice tipping this way in Germany, it may come across as rude.

Tip for Extra Services

In certain countries, particularly the ones that are not considered First World, giving a tip is an excellent way to guarantee exceptional service or extra help.  I have many examples of my grandfather doing this.  I remember in one hotel that we stayed at in Mexico parking was quite limited, which meant that if you arrived late you had to leave your car unattended in the more unsafe streets.  So, instead of worrying about not having a parking place, my grandfather just tipped the parking attendant six dollars and the attendant reserved a spot for us with one of those orange cones.  Every time he saw our truck pull up, he would remove the orange cone and we would slide right in.

I have many stories like this where my grandfather used tipping or gave small gifts for extra help, better services, or to simply be generous with the locals.  Don’t underestimate the value of a few dollars or small presents while traveling abroad.

What Do They Want, But Don't Have?

Not all countries around the world have similar products.  For example, when you go to a grocery store in Europe, you may be thinking where all of the cereal is after seeing a mere six or seven varieties on the shelf.  It is similar in Latin American, and in Asia the difference can be even more extreme.  This gives you a great opportunity to bring gifts from your home country that the locals would never have access to otherwise.

My grandfather told me a story about when he was younger and traveling throughout Asia.  In those times, it was especially difficult for Asians to find apples.  They were considered a luxury and the Asians loved them.  So, every time my grandfather was there, he would be sure to have extra apples on hand and for the natives.  This generosity helped him to create new friendships while he was so far away from home.

Even in the global society we have today, there are still so many products that don’t seem to escape a country’s border.  When my Mexican friends come to visit, I ask them to bring Mexican sweets that I cannot find in the U.S.  Or, when I travel to Europe, I will bring some of the favorite American sweets that are not sold in stores there because the Europeans love them.  Bringing gifts for the locals is always a great idea.  But, bringing unattainable gifts is an even better idea, because everybody loves something special.

What About Giving Gifts?

This point is particularly important if you are planning to meet with some of the country’s native people and you want to know if you should bring them a gift or not. I remember when I was living in Finland, the family I stayed with believed it was rude not to bring a gift.  Anytime we went to someone’s house for dinner we brought flowers or wine with us to give the hosts.  If we showed up empty handed it would not of been well-received.

Another important detail to know is: what are the best types of gifts to give?  For instance, if you are in a Muslim country, a bottle of wine may not be an appropriate gift, because drinking alcohol is prohibited in their religion.

Giving gifts is one of the first impressions that people have of you, and if you do your research and give a fantastic gift, the locals that you are with will be even more motivated to make sure your trip is amazing.

It's Good to Help People

There are times when you are traveling in a foreign country that is quite a bit poorer than your own.  In these instances, it is good to keep in mind that a few dollars really goes a long way.  In some cases, a good tip may equal an entire days pay for some workers.  So, let’s try to be good Samaritans.  If you have enough money to travel, you probably have enough to spare a bit of it and make someone’s day.

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