We all know that America is a tipping culture. Leaving anything below 15% is wildly inappropriate, and generally we go as far as to leave 20%+ As much as people like to gripe and moan about it, la verité is that if you’ve ever had a waitressing or bar tending job, you understand the meaning of a tip. I myself worked as a cocktail waitress for years, and was admittedly upset when on the rare occasion, I was not tipped for my services. There’s always the one customer who’s all “oh sorry I only have enough for the drink” to which you’ll politely smile and tell him not to worry. Guess what buddy: you should definitely worry. C’est mal élevé! (it’s rude). So, you can imagine my surprise when I got to Paris and discovered the tip is virtually non existent.
It’s not that I’ve never been to Paris before. I have- many times. I am, after all Française. But, I’d never been without my maman in tow. Being une adulte, sadly, means footing your own bill.
Let me break it down for you:
Cafés: Let’s say it’s 4PM and time for l’apéro. You order un café without realizing that a Parisian café is really an American espresso. Note: if you’d like regular coffee, ask for un café allongé, ou tres allongé for those of you that like it weak. This will probably be anywhere between 2-4euros depending on how high brow your coffee establishment tastes are. Let’s say its 2.85euros. It is absolutely not necessary to leave a tip. If your waiter was particularly lovely (unlikely as this is Paris- I once was mercilessly mocked by my waiter) then you should plop 3euros on the table and call it a day.
Les Taxis Parisiens: Those adorable little black cars lining the streets of Paris? Yep, taxis. Keep in mind this isn’t New York- it can sometimes be extremely difficult finding a cab. Like all taxis, they charge by base fare plus however much per minute. They can get a little pricey, but are totally worth it when you’re stranded and don’t know which métro to hop on. In the wee hours of the morning, they’re particularly difficult to get a hold of. Once, on a boat soirée I attended on the Seine, it was absolutely miraculous to have gotten in a cab at 6am. Exhausted, I threw myself into the car… right next to him in the front seat. Total accident, but we had a good laugh. I’d like to think it inspired a nice camaraderie in the early hours. Note: at 6am, you want to be careful alone in Paris. Please ask your driver to wait until you have entered your apartment building. They usually will. If your taxi is 8euros, it’s nice to round up to 9-10euros. It’s not expected, but a courtesy. Especially if he waited, or carried your luggage.
Les Bistros/Restaurants: What do you do when it’s time to sit down for a full meal? It’s fine to leave around 1euro for every 20euros on your bill at a bistro. If you’re feeling particularly generous, definitely leave more. While your waiter may not be the most charming (he also may be), serving is an art in Paris, and they are well trained. So tip him. In a nicer restaurant, it’s perfectly fine to leave more, especially if the service was exemplary. If not, stick with the 1euro per 20euro rule. When in doubt, creepily lean over to the table next to you, and see what they’re leaving.