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Dining with Americans and Canadians
Tipping correctly

You never need to tip at fast food places such as Taco Bell.

However, in Canada and the United States, you are expected to tip after receiving service from wait staffs in regular restaurants.

Service charges in lieu of gratuities are nearly never added to bills in North America.

What to tip in restaurants

In both Canada and the U.S., tip 15 to 20 percent in regular restaurants, depending on the quality of service and calibre of the restaurant.

Sometimes the service may be so outstanding, you may wish to tip 25 percent, especially if you expect to be a regular patron of that place.

In buffets and cafeterias, tipping is determined by whether or not you receive service at your table—for example, whether or not someone replenishes your drinks.

In these situations, you need not give more than 10 percent, unless the buffet or cafeteria attendant provides some special service. The servers in the queue, however, get nothing.

Round up

Do not tip coppers or pennies to anyone.

Always round up, e.g., $1.58 becomes $1.60 or $1.75 or sometimes even $2.00.

Morality of tipping

Canadians tend to be more parsimonious when tipping.

"What's the difference between a canoe and a Canadian?" goes the bitter joke in the Hawaiian tourist trade. "The canoe tips."

Dr. Voyageur received a very reasoned and polite letter from a Canadian reader asking that he remove the canoe joke citing the high taxes in Canada and the weakness of the Canadian dollar, etc.

But, that is not the point.

Dr. Voyageur, a Canadian citizen, is not just picking on Canadians. His focus is on anyone who does not appropriately tip.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to afford to travel the world—if you have the resources to be able to relax on beaches in Hawaii—you, regardless of your country of origin, should be able to find enough money to tip the lowly paid people who serve you.

The tipping system is not their fault. They depend on you.

Throughout North America and elsewhere in the world wait staffs need gratuities for a significant portion of their income.

In some parts of the U.S., for example, restaurant servers do not even qualify to receive the government mandated minimum wage, small as it is.

Do not try to change the system or protest against it by punishing these hardworking people.

And, do not penalize servers for the crimes of a chef. Tipping is based on service, not food, as the chef receives no portion of your tips, which seems unfair.

Hotel and taxi tipping

Hotel bellhops get $2.00 - 5.00 per bag, depending on how swank their joint is and how much they try to make us comfortable.

Taxi drivers receive around 10 to 15 percent or sometimes more if the service is truly outstanding. Again we round up.

Hand $1.00 to the door person in Chicago, Montreal, New York City, or Toronto who hails you a cab. More if it is raining or snowing heavily and vacant taxis are hard to find.

Hand over the money folded in your palm. You do not want to make a spectacle of your generosity.

If you are staying at a very luxurious hotel or resort, one of the best in the world, or are dining in a super deluxe restaurant, the tipping guidelines here are too low.

Go to >> Eating "correctly"

Go to >> The next lesson: The best budget food in North America

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