Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tipping Etiquette for ESL Students

One of the cultural differences that many of my ESL students have to deal with in the U.S. is the concept of "tipping." "Tipping" is when you pay a service worker (waiter, waitress, parking valet, doorman, haircutter, etc.) an amount above the regular cost of the service they perform. The most common tipping scenario for most people is tipping a server (waiter or waitress) at a restaurant. The standard tip amount for servers is 15 to 20%.

Apparently, in some countries, like Korea, food servers are not tipped. The gratuity (another word for "tip") is included in the cost of the food. I suppose servers in other countries may be paid more than the servers in the U.S.

Americans are very, very familiar with the custom of tipping in restaurants. We learn this in childhood from observing our parents in restaurants.

Some of my ESL students accept this custom and "when in Rome..." I had one ESL student who was in the U.S. for over a year and he still only grudgingly paid tips.

The topic of tipping comes up for me today because I am expecting a furniture delivery any minute. As furniture deliveries are not frequent in my life, I am unsure of the proper etiquette for tipping, or even if a tip is expected. So I searched online.

Apparently, Americans (or at least those who write online) are divided on the issue. Some say you should tip, others say it's not expected. I still haven't figured out the final word; and the amount to tip is even more a mystery. I guess I'll wait and see how the delivery goes and make my decision then.

As an ESL tutor, I don't think I'll be able to answer this question very well if it ever comes up. Apparently this "cultural difference" is even different in my culture!


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