Custom | How to Pay Tips in the U.S.?

This is my first time to live in an unfamiliar city as a foreigner, so I often feel curious about some interesting phenomena which local people all take for granted. Paying tips is definitely one of the most pressured behaviors for most Chinese newbies like me.


It is really common to pay tips to service sector workers in America which will absolutely never happen in my hometown China. I have heard of this tradition before, but sometimes I still feel confuse about how much should I pay?and should I give tips to all the staff in every service department?

As it has been over 5 weeks since moved to NYC, I have already payed tips in  various circumstances for service, such as in  a sit down restaurant offering authentic Italy pizza, in a cab from airport to downtown and in a fashion hair salon owned by a Cantonese woman. However, When I intended to pay to other service providers, including tailors, decoration workers, uber drivers, some of them told me that is not customary to require tips from customers. The amount of tips also varied from 1 dollar to 40 dollars since I have no idea on what number or portion is most moderate in different industries.

Most of tips are payed in cash which is easy to understand and learn as you can just leave it on the table before leaving. Some restaurants wrap tips into the bill along with tax when a credit card is handed to waiters. However, last weekend after enjoying a wonderful dinner without carrying cash and swiping card in Burger Heaven, I found that the tip should be payed in cash for waiter, it was awkward to leave my only inadequate coins on table and slip out the door.

Then I searched some information and history of paying gratuity. As far as I know, the tradition could trace back to 1706, and different countries have their own background and custom about gratuity. In terms of the Unite States, a tip means a customer’s satisfaction degree about services. In some regions, tips are the most important source of income for serving staff because they only earn a basic wage every month. Under normal circumstance, the rate of tips is 15%-20% such as table service, delivery service and driving service, but when the tips are already included in your bill, you need not to pay for it.

Along with the solution of my questions, I realized that study the tradition and culture from a foreign country is the fastest way to get involved in it. And do you also encounter some embarrassing moments in America as a fresh foreigner? Would you like to share some interesting experiences with me?


4 Comments Add yours

  1. rrsn says:

    Really interesting article for foreigners as me!! During my first week in here, I didn’t know about this and a waitress followed me in the street because I didn’t gave her a tips… I was SO ashamed, fortunately she realized that I didn’t know about it…

    1. catherineqiu0408 says:

      haha~~~To live in a new country, there are really a lot of things for us to learn and get used to.

  2. gwang12 says:

    In terms of tips, I heard of the amount of tips are the double taxes. But I also felt embarassed sometimes whether should I leave the tips or not. Your blog is useful for the new person in NYC.

    1. catherineqiu0408 says:

      Yeah~Maybe we need more practice to handle every circumstance and we will feel get used to them someday!

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