To tip or not to tip? The ins and outs of tipping in Spain

Spanish people tend to get confused when they travel abroad and find out that the cultural norms regarding tipping are different there. Conversely, it is common for tourists travelling to Spain to apply the social norms of their own country. As a rule, it is advisable to learn about the customs of the country we are travelling to in order to avoid being perceived as rude or disrespectful. Keep reading and find out everything you need to know about tipping in Spain.

Tipping in Spain: is it mandatory?

Tipping in Spain

Do you know what it means to tip in Spain? | Shutterstock

In many countries, tipping is mandatory and it is even fixed in the bill. However, that is not the case in Spain. Spanish people see tipping as a bonus reward for exceptional services. The wage of waiters and other staff does not depend on bills, so usually they just consider it an extra income. It is important to know that, as a general rule, they do not rely on tips from customers to pay rent, and that is why they do not consider it rude to tip a small amount of money or not tip at all.

Hence, people in Spain usually tip at restaurants when the waiting staff is particularly kind or efficient. For them, it is a personal reward rather than a social norm. It is a casual, friendly gesture, something like “Hey, you were nice to me today so you can keep the change”. Sometimes, restaurants just have a jar or a tip box for anyone who wants to slip in a couple of coins to show gratitude for the service. Of course, there are also people who always tip out of courtesy, but it is not the majority.

When and how much do we tip in Spain?

Tipping in Spain

A restaurant bill in Spain. | Shutterstock

The services where one can be expected to tip in Spain are quite similar to other countries. The most common scenarios here are bars and restaurants, followed by hotels and other food and accommodation services. Besides that, one might also tip taxi drivers or tourist guides, among other things.

We know that in the United States, the average tip in a restaurant is usually 15% to 20% of the total cost of the meal. We discussed that tipping is not mandatory in Spain, but if we do tip, the percentage rate is usually 10% or so. However, it is always optional and it varies depending on the type of service and how much we are spending.

When people from Spain or other European countries travel to the US, Americans find it extremely rude that they tip low or do not tip if they are not compelled to. On the other hand, many tourists overtip in Spain because they are not familiar with the Spanish etiquette regarding tips, and some of them behave poorly with waiters because they think that makes them superior. It is important to understand the reason behind all these different perspectives and to be aware of the situation of the country we are travelling to, including the working conditions of the staff and all that entails, before acting one way or another. At the end of the day, travelling always involves adapting, learning and understanding other worldviews, and it is essential to be respectful towards different people and cultures.

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