France has less of a tipping culture than other countries, but the concept of un pourboire (a tip – literally ‘for a drink’) does exist, although whether to tip is more of a personal choice.
This is what readers of The Local told us about their tipping behaviour.
Do you tip?
In France, service is included as part of the bill, so – strictly speaking – it is not necessary to add a bit extra. Even so, 93.5 percent of those who responded to our online questionnaire said that they tip at least some of the time.
But although almost every tips at least some of time, only a third (34.8 percent) said that they tipped every time they have drinks or go out.
More than a quarter (28.3 percent) said they tip sometimes (if they fell like it or had spare change), while almost half (43.5 percent) said they would reserve tipping for those times the service had been particularly good.
“At a café if I pay in cash or have a few extra coins I will leave the spare change … [but] I often pay with a card and do not tip. However, if we have a really nice experience with great service we will tip nicely to show our gratitude, usually around 10 percent of the bill,” wrote Strasbourg-based Lauren Lever.
As well as tipping servers at a café or restaurant, hairdressers and taxi drivers were regularly mentioned in reader responses – as were cleaners, guardiennes, nail technicians, and concierges. One reader also mentioned staff who service his bicycle.
“I asked my hairdresser about this. She said it was the thought that counts, and that a few cents meant as much as a higher tip,” wrote Kate Mears, from Bergerac.
But, she added: “She may have been being polite, as who doesn’t like a large tip, but I think she was stressing that there’s no pressure at all to tip, not to tip, or how much.”
That is very much a matter of personal choice. Most respondents said that they would round-up a bill to include a tip, while others said that they would give some spare change. Most agreed that they added between 5 percent and 10 percent to a bill at a time.
“Usually at least enough to bring the total service amount up to 20 percent. I worked in food service once upon a time. Interestingly, some of my French friends tip generously, others not at all,” wrote Rebecca Brite, who lives in Paris.
Taxi drivers, meanwhile, could expect an additional euro or two, especially if they managed to avoid the worst of the city traffic. Hairdressers, too, may see their bill rounded up a couple of euros for a cut well done.
Christmas is a time for giving – and, in France, traditionally a time for les étrennes – the seasonal tip given to certain groups who help you out throughout the year.
You may also get a visit from your La Poste delivery person, or the local firefighters, selling a calendar. Your local refuse collection staff may also still call, though these practices are on the decline. There is no set price for these seasonal calendars, you give whatever you want and it’s seen as a fundraising exercise and way to say ‘thank you’.
Kate Mears wrote that she and her family were relatively new to France and still getting to grips with tipping conventions here, but added: “I give between €5 and €20 to the Christmas calendar people such as the pompiers who call at the door – three different ones last year.”
It seems, also, that Covid-19 has led to some generous tipping. Thomas wrote that the concierge in his building received a “very generous tip”.
“She does a lot of extra things for me, including shopping if I have to quarantine! She is a real gem!” he explained.
Nicholas Bouler, who divides his time between Birmingham, Alabama, and Orléans wrote: “Our apartment has a guardien,” who received a Christmas tip because “he was especially helpful when we were moving in. “
Readers, especially those from the US, said that they had noticed a change in their attitudes towards tipping since coming to France.
Lauren Lever said: “In the States we always tip 20 percent of the bill because the servers depend on that money to earn their living. In France I have definitely lost that habit and do not feel bad if I don’t leave a tip, or leave a small tip, in most circumstances.”
Stephanie, from Poissy, agreed: “I’m from the US, where you always tip everyone. Since I know it’s not the culture in France, I’ve stopped tipping.
“It’s easier this way and I am saving some money. I think it’s great that they pay servers a higher wage here, that way the customers aren’t covering it all by their tips alone. Plus it’s less expensive for us to eat out because we just pay for the food and that’s all. It feels like a win-win for both customers and servers.”
One, Rebecca Brite, told us that the difference in attitudes towards tipping had, ironically, prompted her to tip more at US restaurants.
Another respondent said that Covid-19 had made them more likely to tip “ because people missed out for so long and to encourage a solution to staff shortages”.
But others said they were more likely to tip less in France, or even not at all, because service is routinely included in the bill.
“I used to tip 10 percent but locals said there’s “Service a compris” … so there is no need” a reader from St Tropez who preferred to remain anonymous told us.
Kate Mears added: “I tip less often as I’d heard it was unFrench to tip and now I live here I’m trying to act like a local and not a tourist!”
And Fiona Rennison, from Lot-et-Garonne explained: “We tipped more in the UK. Here we tip less because it’s not expected and we know people are paid a decent living wage – but we happily pay more for better quality food.”