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Tipping: When and How much?

Different countries have different cultures and different ideas about tipping. How does it work in Switzerland?By law all restaurant bills must also include a service charge in lieu of a tip. However, whether the waiter actually receives any of this money is a moot point. Many people also tip with cash to make sure the waiter gets something personal. After all, it’s a personal business, and its nice to reward good service.

In general terms tipping more than 10% is unusual. For really great service, a tip is really sensible. You never know when you will come back again, and if you are a good tipper they do remember you. If the service has been pretty mediocre, but not bad, then a 5% or so tip – small, but not insignificant – is perhaps a bit like throwing money in a wishing well, but you never know. Next time you visit, they may really give you great service. Anyway, it’s like spreading a little cheer around.

The Irish have a saying – “shake the hand of a lucky man so some of it will rub off on you”. Spreading a bit of good feeling out there in the world will come back to you one way or another. Anyway, you probably earn more than the waiter or waitress does so put yourself in their shoes for once and think how you’d like to be treated.

Another thing to consider is that many waiters and waitresses are students. Perhaps they are future Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers, or Court Officers. Do you really want them to remember you because you were a lousy customer? What goes around, comes around, as the saying goes.

If you are a regular at a place, don’t tip every time you visit, you don’t want them to take you for granted. Of course, there are also some pretty rubbish waiters here, too.  But thankfully they aren’t all like that.

There are many times though when tipping is frowned upon.  If you are invited to an apero, never tip the waiters: you are a guest of your host and it shows disrespect to them to tip. Similarly, never tip at any event to which you have been invited and where the bill is paid by somebody else.

With Taxis it is probably a good idea to use the same firm over and over again. That way they arrive more promptly at your door. Rounding up the fare is useful as it means you can generally get out of the car more quickly.

If you order a Take Away a small tip of a single coin, either a Fr. 2.- or Fr. 5.- piece depending on the size of your order is good for the delivery person if they are quick, but if you pick it up in person, then no tip is needed as no extra service has been provided.

So, three tips on tipping in Switzerland:

  1. 10% for good service
  2. 5% for average service
  3. Never when you are a guest.

And remember, if you really find the food inedible, you do not have to pay all of the bill – but if when the waiter came around and asked you if everything was OK and you said “yes” even when you were thinking it wasn’t, or if you ate all the food anyway, you can’t claim it wasn’t good enough to eat and do have to pay.

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