When in Paris: To Tip or Not to Tip

Pascal, a Paris-born Frenchman who’s lived in the U.S. for over a dozen now, still has a very Parisian sensibility. This applies to tipping in restaurants. When he does out for a bite to eat with friends, Pascal is famous for not wanting to leave a tip. “Why should I tip this person for doing their job?” he’ll ask. “I can’t go into the kitchen to retrieve my dinner. That’s what they are paid to do.”

Waiters in many of the U.S.’s most popular tourist areas have come to dread serving Europeans. In fact, many restaurants in these destinations have prepared for European travelers by adding a service charge onto the bill. It’s not that Europeans are cheap. They’re not. They just don’t realize that waiters in the U.S. are paid less than minimum wage because they make their living on tips. On the other hand, waiters in Paris are salaried employees. They earn actual decent wages. As such, Parisians tend to leave them the coins left over from rounding up their bill, just as a show of gratitude for good service.

Needless to say, French waiters LOVE Americans, because many will still leave behind a 20% tip. The truth, through, is that most restaurants in Paris apply a service charge to your bill that contributes to the waiter’s salary. The proper thing to do is round up to leave a tip. If, for instance, the bill comes to 13 Euros and you give the waiter a twenty, leave a Euro or two. Of course, if you really want to leave a big tip, go ahead. They’ll love you for it.

What about Paris hotel staff?

Everyone knows to tip a porter for carrying your bags to your room (I stick to the dollar a bag rule of thumb), but what about other hotel employees in Paris?

Clearly, you don’t have to tip the front desk clerk for checking you in or out. But if you use the concierge to make restaurant or event reservations, I’d leave that person with a fiver at the end of your stay. If she/he did something extraordinary, tip proportionately more.

The most overlooked hotel employee is the housekeeper who cleans your room every day. Tip that person! They have to make your bed and pick up your dirty towels after you’ve done Lord-knows-what in your room. They deserve a little extra loving, particularly if you’re a frequent guest to that hotel. I always leave a dollar (or a Euro) for each night of my stay, more if it’s the holidays. 

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