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Did you know about France's New Year's tipping custom?

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Did you know about France's New Year's tipping custom?
Photo: Splendia
08:48 CET+01:00
They may have a reputation for being the tightest tippers in the world, but the French have a New Year's tradition which could well put your generosity to shame. Ever heard of the "etrennes"?

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 France to gift workers like post deliverers, firefighters, rubbish collectors and caretakers/janitors 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.

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 mail deliverer: 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.

The cleaner: At least €50. Remember the times your flat was a tip and how the cleaner left it looking sparkling before you hosted all those guests. That and the fact that they are likely underpaid, anyway.

The garbage workers: A €5 bill for France's rubbish collectors, 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's244,900 fire-fighters are volunteers, so they've definitely earned more than just a pat on the back.  

If however, you prefer the raunchy firefighter calendars then we have something for you too. Happy New Year. 

French firefighters calendar to provoke global palpitations

Another version of this article was published in 2014.

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