In the United States, it is customary to tip anywhere between 18-25% for "regular" service in restaurants (though from experience, people - myself included - usually aim for 20%). In extreme cases, tips may be significantly reduced - even absent - or increased; this question does not concern such cases.

My (fairly stubborn) father lives in a country where tips are usually around 10%. The tipping culture there is significantly different: people will usually leave a tip, but may not leave a tip at all for various reasons.

I've explained to him how waiters are often paid less than minimum wage (which is legally allowed in many states), and how most of their income comes from tips. It seems to be impossible to dissuade him from his idea that 20% is an exorbitant amount for a tip - in the past, I've often added to his tip with (my own) cash.

In fact, I nearly consider this to be a question of decency - he's shafting someone (the waiter) who has no hand in what he considers to be the problem (i.e., the tipping culture in the US) and sees no wrong. To me, there is a significant difference between ignorance (e.g., first time in the US and didn't know tipping 20% was the custom) and making a point (which is what he's trying to do and won't accomplish anything, anyway). Refusing to comply (or at least trying to) with local customs is, in my mind, very inconsiderate and extremely disrespectful to those around you.

I've been living in the United States for a few years now and I've grown used to adding a tip to how much I'd expect to pay (which is one of his complaints - he's not used to doing that).

How do I convey to him that regardless of his ideals and opinions on tipping, he is expected to tip waiters more than he likes to?

I hate sitting at a table and having someone cover a check if they're going to leave a terrible tip.

  • 1
    Did you have a look at those very related posts: one and two? Can you tell us why those posts do not answer your question? How is your situation different from the ones depicted there? Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 6:26
  • @theSameTime Yes I did - how are they even close to answering this? One is about covering tips (which I mention in passing, but is far from the point of this question), and two is a rant from someone who doesn’t like to tip, whose first answer says only what I already said in the question body.
    – osuka_
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 15:07
  • Is minimum wage a law in the country your fathaer lives? In USA tips are a must due to low pay. In many other countries tip is a bonus to worker for exceptional service. Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 8:01
  • From reading a few tip related questions, I was under the impression, that in the US if tips don't cover minimum wage the employer would have to add to it, so that it covers the minimum wage?
    – kiradotee
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 12:54
  • 2
    @kiradotee The laws about minimum wage are largely irrelevant - as the question states, the expectation here (even in fancy restaurants, where they're surely being paid more than minimum wage) is that you tip around 20%, and not doing that is considered rude.
    – Em C
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 16:23

1 Answer 1


Background: Western Europe : in my early years, during college, I used to work evening/night shifts as a bartender/waiter to make extra money. We had a decent minimum wage by law, and tipping was just that, extra money for great service.

Right after this, this job helped me move to the USA to visit the country while working as a waiter (international setting, with many customers from Europe and South America). There, we had no minimum wage (that was legal at the time because of "maritime contract" twist around. We had free food and accommodation, that's all). Only tips. No need to say we desesparately needed help to have people outside the USA/Canada culture understand that "tipping is not a city in China" (our private joke at the time...)

Help came from our director. At the end of the trip, on the last day, he would kindly explain to people how that was important to us. He would explain that, in the USA, the system worked differently. For instance, in your country, when you buy a good or service, VAT or sales taxes are already included. But not in the USA. He would rely on people kindness and tell them that, no matter what they think of the system, they should consider paying the tax, and around 10% tip was a very decent/nice amount (official sales tax was 6% IIRC). So, $2 per meal per person would be the right amount.

Believe it or not, but at the end of the day, we would often get the minimum standard amount of money, 10% of the time, less money, and up to 50% of the time, more than the recommended money.

I'd recommend using the same tactical approach. Don't blame, don't argue, just show the cultural differences using an example from your country of origin. And just tease the human part of the person. I've seen that working great, people then realize that they can choose to be nice, or not. But they more than often choose the good part of their personality, especially when they don't feel like pressured.

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