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Think the French don't tip? They do at New Year

The Local · 30 Dec 2014, 12:44

Published: 30 Dec 2014 12:44 GMT+01:00

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The French might be among the stingiest tippers in the world but that reputation does not take into account a longstanding New Year's custom.

A week after Christmas day, present giving in France is far from over. After digging deep into their pockets to spoil their families, on January 1st it’s time to thank the "man on the street".

It’s tradition in l’Hexagone to gift postmen, firefighters, rubbish collectors and caretakers/janitors (there may be some other hard-working professionals we’ve missed out) an envelope with anything from €5 to €50 as a token of your gratitude.

These little financial shows of gratitude are called "Etrennes".

Etrennes can also take the form of a Christmas box or a New Year’s gift.

You may be asking yourself: “What, everyone they bump into?” to which we think the correct answer is “usually the people who have offered you a service before”.

France has the Romans to thank for this selfless act. They worshipped Strenua, the goddess of the New Year, purity and wellbeing, and as a result they exchanged gifts as good omens.

The tradition has lived on in France despite being banned after the French revolution and nowadays some firefighters even knock on people’s doors offering up calendars in return for "etrennes" donations.

Thinking of joining in? Here’s who you should tip and how much, according to France TV Info:

The Concierge: If your building’s caretaker has been particularly helpful and polite, anything from €30 to €50. That way they can buy a few books to help them kill the hours they spend all alone downstairs.

The Postman: Postal workers should get between €5 and €8, France TV Info argues, especially if they come round to yours armed with a rival calendar to that of the fire-fighters.

Story continues below…

The Cleaning lady: At least €50. Remember the times your flat was a tip and how she left it looking sparkling before you hosted all those guests. That and the fact you probably don’t pay her enough.

The binman: A €5 bill for France’s dustmen, please. They’re doing the job none of us want to do, they get up at an ungodly hour and they rake it in literally but not metaphorically.  

Fire-fighters: €5 to €10 for the sapeurs-pompiers.  Some of you may have expected those calendars to feature raunchy pics of their muscular bodies, but they usually don’t. However, 78 percent of France’s 244,900 fire-fighters are volunteers, so they’ve definitely earned more than just a pat on the back.  

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