The million-dollar question, do you tip in France, is one I’m hearing more and more. Is tipping in France expected and are there rules and etiquette around it?
Having lived on three different continents I can quite honestly say that the rules of tipping change dependent on the culture.
When I lived in America, for example, you pretty much tipped everyone. From the bellhop to your server in a restaurant.
In Australia and the UK, the tipping culture isn’t quite the same, although tipping is more commonplace than it used to be.
But what about France? To tip or not to tip, that is the question.
QUICK GUIDE: DO YOU TIP IN FRANCE
☑️ Tipping in restaurants is not mandatory.
☑️ You aren’t required to tip your waiter or waitress.
☑️ A service fee of 15% is automatically included in EVERY restaurant, café and bar in France.
☑️ Serving staff in France are paid a full wage with paid holidays, health care etc. They don’t rely on tips as part of their living wage.
So do you tip in France or not?
You’re not going to like this but there isn’t a simple answer to that question. It really does depend on how you view tipping normally. Let me explain.
For my American friends who have grown up with the tipping culture, and are used to tipping anyone who offers a service, then the answer is no you don’t tip. At least not in the way you’re used to because tipping in France is very different.
For the Aussies and the Brits where tipping is a little more reserved and not for all services, then yes, you do tip in France. However, it isn’t that cut and dried.
As a Brit myself, I’ve always reserved tipping for restaurants, my hairdresser and the postman and other service people at Christmas.
But in France, things are a little different.
Why French people don’t always tip in France
Unlike in some other countries serving staff in France are paid a living wage. They aren’t expected to supplement their income with tips.
The SMIC, “Salaire Minimum Interprofessionnel de Croissance,” is the legal minimum wage that employers must pay to their employees in France. It’s determined by the government and adjusted annually to reflect changes in the cost of living and inflation.
Some French people, therefore, don’t believe it’s necessary to tip because waiters, like any other profession, are being paid a wage for their service and that doesn’t warrant extra pay.
The history of tipping in France
Laisser un pourboire, to leave a tip in French, has a little history all of its own. And I do love a good history story. So here we go….
Apparently, the famous Parisian café, Les Deux Magots, had its own version of tipping. Legend has it that the café was named after two Chinese figurines that sat on the counter, which were believed to bring good luck to those who left a tip in their hat.
The two figurines are still there surveying the restaurant, so you know what to do if you want a little bit of luck, leave a generous tip.
And then there are the famous cabarets of Paris, such as the Moulin Rouge and Lido. In the early 20th century, these cabarets were often frequented by wealthy Americans and other tourists, who would leave extravagant tips for the performers and staff. This tradition continued throughout the 20th century, and today, tipping remains an important part of the cabaret experience in Paris.
Two fun facts about tipping in France.
The government’s take on tipping in France
One thing you’ll come to understand about France is the government have an opinion on everything, even tipping.
There is an entire section on the official government website about tipping. Their take is that it is completely optional and should be given by the customer if they feel they’ve received good service.
They go as far as to say, in bolded text, that “no profession can demand it.”
Is the tip included in France?
Ask any waiter or waitress if the tip is included and they will say no. Why? Because in France a tip really is a tip (or “pourboire“).
The service charge of 15% you see included in your bill (“15% service compris”) goes towards paying the wages of the restaurant staff. It isn’t an extra paid to them as a tip.
And, unlike in other countries, credit card machines in France don’t have the tipping option built in. This means it’s usually cash tips left on the table rather than on a credit card.
Do you tip in France in a restaurant, cafe or bar?
This is where things really do get confusing, even the French can’t agree on the etiquette of tipping in hospitality.
Before the minimum wage laws came in things were different and people did tip more. Waiters in restaurants relied on tips to top up their wages and some professions, such as shoe cleaners, were paid by discretionary tips with no wage at all.
Even the famous Coco Chanel got paid in tips when she sang in concert halls before she made it as a fashion designer.
So the tipping culture was alive and well in France and a 15% tip in a restaurant was something you would see. However, as I said, with the implementation of the minimum wage law things changed.
Tipping at a restaurant in France
In the UK and Australia there is no hard and fast rule about the amount you should tip in a restaurant. However, in America, it’s very different.
When I lived in California I nearly always used the base percentage of 10% on top of the bill as the tip. But in a nicer restaurant, you could expect to add 15-20% to the bill for good service.
Tipping in a French restaurant is more nuanced. There are no rules or percentages. For an average meal in France of up to €50 I’ll leave a handful of coins on the table.
The most I’ve ever seen as a tip in France was €10 left as a note. But that was from a group of 8 people where the bill came to a little over €200.
My friend told me this was quite a generous tip for what she considered very average service. She also said she would not have left that much if it were up to her – and she’s French.
Tipping in a French cafe
Sitting in a cafe with a coffee and croissant is very much part of French life, and I for one love it.
There’s a whole cafe and coffee culture in France which you can read about here >>>
General consensus in this type of situation is “keep the change”, but not if you have a €50 note of course. I’m talking about leaving a few centimes on the table. That’s it.
Is tipping a bartender in France normal?
If you’re just standing at a bar having a drink then it’s normal to leave small change on the bar. Again though, it’s not obligatory and big tips aren’t expected.
I’ve never yet seen a French person say, “And have one yourself”, as you might see in an English pub.
General tipping in France
The other place where you’ll often find the French tip is at the hairdresser’s. Again, we’re not talking 15% of the bill here, just a few euros. I tend to round my bill up to the nearest zero and that seems to work just fine.
Tourists will often tip tour guides and luggage handlers at hotels but again, it’s not expected or required.
In some public places, such as cloakrooms at theatres you might see a sign saying “pourboire interdit (tipping forbidden)”. That’s because it’s illegal to request a tip in any format.
The same rules apply to municipal workers; again, it is illegal for them to go door to door asking for holiday bonuses.
But where there’s a will there’s a way. The firefighters and posties have got around this by selling calendars at Christmas.
And I kid you not, you better make sure you buy a calendar from each, and be generous with the amount if you want good service throughout the year.
Every year we give each €10 for a calendar that isn’t particularly great and I never normally use. But it’s the done thing and our post lady is absolutely lovely so I’m happy to do it.
In Conclusion: Do you tip in France
So there you have it, a guide to tipping in France. There is no simple answer but just remember that here in France tipping is more about the service received than an obligation.
Keep that in mind and you can’t go too far wrong.