Please, leave your restaurant culture with you at home.
Before you get mad, take a hot second to acknowledge the fact that things are not the same everywhere in the world.
Outside of North America, things actually work very differently, even though you're typically not aware.
I'm a Canadian living in Portugal. Have been here since 2018. And no I'm not a tourist, I live here, fully.
And before that I lived in the UK with my husband. Not as a student, I was gonna stay there forever, but then Brexit happened and we switched gears and decided to leave.
So I've been around the block as a local enough to know that things are never as they appear.
And when you're coming to a new country with your hometown's perspective, things just don't click sometimes until they're explained to you. So I'm here to explain.
Now you have to understand that Europe is not at all like America when it comes to food culture.
You know how Europe has all these crazy rules and regulations about foods that can be sold in the grocery stores? None of those artificial dyes and no Round Up sprayed on our produce? Yeah our restaurant culture is as dramatically different as our grocery stores are from yours.
You might think I'm exaggerating. I'm not. And when it comes to tips - a sticky point for you guys - I promise you, things are so different here, we are not being assholes, but you guys need to stop with your tourist tipping ways.
Cause it's destroying the really good system we've got going on here - and screwing over the very people you're trying to help.
In Europe, servers are paid fair wages. I would go on, but I need to say that again.
In Europe, servers are paid fair wages.
They get paid monthly salaries. They get paid if their service is good, if their service is bad, heck even if no one shows up to eat at a restaurant.
They are being paid. This is not like America.
But you don't care. You want to point out, you're used to tipping, it's no big deal for you, you'd like to tip - cool. But do it the right way please.
In Europe, our version of tipping is buying drinks.
Why? Drinks have a high profit margin. The markup on what it costs the restaurant to make drinks and what it costs you to buy them is pretty much outrageous. So if you want the restaurant and everyone who works there to profit (I'll get to this later), you tip.
The drinks you buy don't have to be alcoholic. Any drink will do.
And if you don't know what to buy - if you are ever in Portugal, I need to recommend literally any fruit juice.
Every restaurant in Portugal I've ever been to has mean juices, cause they're made from freshly squeezed fruits. And our fruits are fresh. Cause they're mostly all local.
Okay so let me explain again: if you want to do the European equivalent of leaving a tip, purchase more drinks for your table.
Alright, let's talk about your insistence on leaving a dollar amount at the end of the meal, and the only real equivalent in Europe.
If you tip, in Europe, it's usually only for outstanding performance, and you'd often only give what's called a "Pourboire" which directly translates as "to drink/in order to drink" from French.
This essentially is like saying "have a beer/coffee/drink on me."
Did you catch that? A beer/coffee. Meaning you're not leaving a lot of money, only a few Euros, usually rounded up whatever's on your bill to the nearest 5 or 10.
Not 10-15%. Not even 5%. That's madness to leave.
Tipping isn't necessary at all, and it's uncommon for restaurants around Europe to ask you for tips. Except in recent days...
The only reason tipping has become "a thing" in Europe at all is because of American tourists travelling abroad and bringing their tipping culture here.
So what's the problem? Why not reward these restaurants? Give the wait staff tips the same way you would in America?
Well it's a damn slippery slope. And it's already started to happen.
If Europeans adopted tipping culture the way Americans do it, I have a feeling it's pretty likely that most restaurants, especially around where I live, would go completely bust.
If restaurants start expecting tips from locals - and boy are some starting to as I spoke about in a recent restaurant review - they'll probably see a massive drop in clientelle.
Let me clarify. Because you probably think this means the restaurants are underpaid. They are not.
See, it works like this:
Since no one tips here, eating out is far more affordable, and because it's far more affordable, everyone eats out all the time.
I am not talking, "We all go out once a week to eat with our families." Ha. That's like saying you're a shut in if you're in Europe.
I am talking, "I eat most of my meals in a restaurant, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every single day, and so does everyone else I know."
I. Am. Not. Exaggerating. When I say people eat out a lot. I. Swear. It. They do.
But that's why this pricing works. Because volume.
Let's imagine a bunch of Americans come and start going out to a bunch of restaurants, tipping hand over foot, so often that these restaurants who are getting regular tourists start expecting everyone to tip.
Now Americans go home. Because no one is on vacation 24/7.
Are the locals going back to those restaurants that expect tips? Heck no.
Alright imagine everybody doing it. Expecting tips. Essentially increasing prices for consumer 10-15, heck even 20% as I've seen some of you Americans tip, for the end consumer.
Anybody going to go out and eat all the time?
Heck no, they're gonna stay home.
Don't worry, we'll keep those businesses afloat, we'll just keep coming by on vacation and leaving those oh-so-helpful tips.
Now imagine something like C-VD strikes again, no tourists, no locals, bye bye restaurants.
Bye, bye restaurants means that poor waitress you really liked lost her job, and so did all the others because so many restaurants are going to go bust the same way all at the same time!
That waitress suffered. The chef suffered. The restaurant owner suffered (who here is just some guy legitimately obsessed with creating good food and not often turning over much of a profit - because again, here, that culture is different, but that's a story for another day).
The clients all suffered. Who didn't suffer? I don't know because the American didn't need to tip so technically they suffered, needlessly, too, all the while "trying to help."
It didn't help.
And so it broke. The whole concept broke. Eating out religiously, enjoying low pricing at restaurants essentially with an invisible social contract that we will eat out more often, poof, vanished.
Do you need me to re-iterate again, because I really hope you heard me.
Your tipping culture makes it less affordable to go out to eat.
You wouldn't have to tip so much if your servers were paid liveable wages.
Ours are, and if you keep tipping here, you generate expectations that are impossible for locals to live up to, even though restaurants grow to expect the tips.
You make restaurants less affordable because of this expectation, the locals stop being able to go out and eat as often. Restaurants close.
Stop. Tipping. In. Europe. On. Vacation.
It's very bad. Very bad.
Now go splash out as tourists, eating at our affordable AF restaurants, and spoil the restaurants by buying plenty of drinks.
That's the way to do it.