Money etiquette: from tipping around the world to gift giving

Anna Allgaier

Step 1) Book your flight

Step 2) Pack your bag (don’t forget your teddy)

Step 3) Check in online

You’re all sorted…

No you aren’t, you fool. You forgot about mystery Step 4. Meticulously research tipping and money etiquette abroad so you look like you know your stuff. Where’s it rude to tip? Where will you be shunned if you don’t tip? When’s it outrageous to give coins instead of card? Overwhelmed? Don’t be. We’ve got your back…

Tipping began in Tudor, England where servants would receive a few coins as a “thanks for cleaning up the wild boar scraps at my banquette.” Now, it’s evolved and we’ve got different customs around the world. I could easily just list where you should tip and how much you should leave, but that wouldn’t be fun. So I’ve selected the weird, the wonderful and the whacky from across the globe.

By the end of this article you’ll also be an expert in money etiquette and the art of global gift giving. Look at you, you global citizen.

P.s if you feel like taking me on holiday with you as a thank you for this knowledge, I’d be ok with that.

❤️Show your money some love❤️

Tipping around the world

Ok, so I lied. We are going to give you a small look into tipping etiquette. Just so you don’t look like a total plonker when you reach for the bill. A study of 238 across the world looked into where tipping is mandatory and how different cultures come into play when you’re counting your coins.

It turns out tipping isn’t the go-to in nearly half of the world's countries and territories but it isn’t turned down. The global tipping average is about 21% if you’re wanting to play it safe, with leaving extra money behind its most expected in the Americas, Africa, most of Europe and in parts of the Asia-Pacific. But, the best bet is likely within the 10% range, unless you’re in the US.

If you’re having a rough month financially and your bank account is begging you to stop (speaking from experience, sorry Anna’s non-existent pension), then pop off to the 26% of the world where tipping etiquette means not tipping at all… but more on this later.

Now for some fun facts and suggestions.

How to spot a decent tipper

  • It turns out that women are higher tippers than men. Get your act together boys.
  • Baby boomers tip more than other generations and millennials tip the least (probably spending too much money on “Avocado toast”).
  • If you’re waiting at a table with some big dogs, don’t expect a larger tip. High earners actually tip the least

Money etiquette around the world

So, where is tipping a huge no-go?

Japan is a fascinating country. Where sleeping in public or in meetings is a sign of a dedicated hard-worker, where people get paid to shove you into a subway cart and where leaving some money behind for a server isn’t just rude but insulting.

Following good tipping etiquette also means avoiding it entirely in most of China (but not Hong Kong), Kazakhstan, Papa Nugenia and most of the island nations in the South Pacific Ocean. You can tip in New Zealand but it isn’t always expected.

Now for some travel tipping tales from our Wisers:

  • Always have cash on hand in South Africa. A lot of people have jobs where tipping is their main source of income. Hit the ATM or Bureau de Change before you land if you want the help of an airport porter or car guard.
  • Going to Venice for a romantic getaway? Do your research beforehand. Some restaurants and cafes charge you for sitting under a gazebo they supply or for soaking in the music they’re playing in the background. No, you can’t have this charge removed by popping in some earplugs.
  • Berlin’s a notorious party city, but the one thing most places don’t get down with is cards. Expect to pay with cash in most places.
  • If you’re heading to the Caribbean Sea to live out a Cuban fantasy you should be leaving a 10-15% tip in most establishments. That being said, read the room first. One of our Wisers attempted to tip a taxi driver and it was…not well received.

Money gifts and and traditions

I couldn’t write a piece about money etiquette without looking at the art of gift giving. Take note if you want to splash the cash on something other than a sad pair of socks or a gift voucher. Family, if you’re reading this, please take the below into consideration for Christmas.

Can’t afford a gift? Fear not. There are also some snippets on how to financially prosper like a local when abroad.

Red envelopes for Chinese New Year

Every Lunar New Year it’s customary to give and receive a beautiful red envelope filled with cash. Gorgeous inside, and out. This is traditionally referred to as Hongbao and is said to bring luck and ward off evil spirits.

“Golden dreams” in Turkey

Want to be successful? Want to secure money without having to go full Tinder Swindler or work 24 hours a day? Of course you do. In Turkey, folklore recommends going to sleep with a handful of gold so you can manifest a prosperous future.

The Tooth Fairy

If you’re hunting down a pretty penny, all you have to do is place your tooth under your pillow when you go to sleep and wait for the Tooth Fairy to do her thing (no peeking). But if you’re in Korea or Haiti, chuck it on the roof. Please don’t ask me why, I don’t have an answer.

Keeping your pockets full in Greece

In Greece, it's considered bad luck financially to keep your wallet empty or to be gifted a piggy bank with nothing in it. So it's customary to give your child a piggy bank or access to their first bank account with a little bit of cash in it beforehand.

Money in your Christmas Pudding in the U.K.

Much like Lunar New Year, the U.K. gives out money on a holiday for the sake of luck. Unlike the Lunar New Year though, it’s only “sixpence” (which technically stopped being made in 1967.) Back in the day, you’d pop a silver sixpence in your Christmas Plum Pudding mix and each member of the family would take a turn stirring it in. Whoever found the coin once the cake was made and served would have a year of money and good luck to look forward to.

Gold at the end of a rainbow in Ireland

Last but not least, we say hello to the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. In Ireland, folklore states that if you see a rainbow and reach the end of it, you’ll be met with a pot of gold that a cheeky little Leprechaun has placed there. Sure, it technically isn’t possible to reach the end of a rainbow, but let’s ignore that little detail for now.

There we have it, you’re ready to spread your wings and fly free across the world like the global money-giving guru you are.

Now, that’ll be a 12% service charge for this article. Thanks

Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

Money without borders

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location