There’s a lot of confusion among travelers about how much one should leave as a gratuity (or tip). For example, last year in Japan, I paid my fare and tried to give the driver the change as a gratuity. He winced as though I had insulted him and, to my surprise, he insisted on giving me change.
In the U.S., you’re a louse if you leave less than a 18-20 percent gratuity in a restaurant. That’s because the minimum wage for food service workers is painfully low in places such as New York City — just $2.13. Workers are expected to live off the tips.
When in Australia
In Australia it’s less clear: some people say you do leave a small gratuity of 10 percent, others say you don’t. And if you use the word “tip” down under, locals might even think you’re referring to a garbage dump. Also, Australia has treated its hospitality workers well, by protecting their rights to a basic wage and overtime.
Tipping isn’t mandatory in Australia, therefore no automatic gratuity will appear on your bill. However, in restaurants, for larger parties, it’s just good Karma to leave something for the staff. If the service is showstopping, a 10 percent tip is always appreciated. Don’t be confused by the government’s cut of your bill, they levy a 10 percent Goods and Services Tax (GST). Just know that doesn’t go to the wait staff.
You don’t have to tip for your pint of beer at the bar or for a cab ride either, but it certainly won’t make them unhappy if you do. It never hurts for a traveler to leave a good impression.
Australian service can be more casual than in many countries, even in expensive restaurants and hotels. But there’s certainly no place for dismissive or rude service. Most Aussies, however, rather than raise a fuss, will let their feet and wallets do the talking, and simply never return again.
Above all, Australia is a friendly place to visit and enjoy oneself, so any expression of appreciation, be it a 10-percent gratuity or a sincere “thank you,” will help brighten everyone’s day.