The classic issue of tipping

March 31, 2008

Photo by: Aubreyarenas

In Denmark I would only tip if I had eaten in a restaurant more fancy than a café and if the service was worth paying for. Perhaps that makes me cheap, but it also makes me pretty typical Danish. I read an article about an investigation of how tourists from different countries were looked upon – the Danes were, sadly enough, some of the tourists that behaved worstly.

Thanks to my travel guide – Lonely Planet Montreal I knew before coming that tipping is custom here in Montreal. So in every restaurant I go to people might wonder why I’m sitting with a strange look on my face, when I get the bill; I’m just trying to figure out how much 15 percent of the amount is. I will be embarrassed, if I do not to give enough and I’m living on a student’s “salary” so I can’t afford to give too much.

The tipping can still sometimes make me feel uncomfortable, because, as I wrote earlier, I’m from a country, where tipping is given only for the good service and there are no rules about the amount. Here I find it difficult to tell by the expression of the waiter’s face when he or she takes the money, if I tipped ok. An example could be if I should pay 21 dollars including the 15 percent tip, but I just round the bill up to 20 dollars because it’s easy, should I then really break a 10-dollar note to get the last dollar for the tip?

I heard somewhere that the reason why tipping is customary here is because the salaries for waiters, bartenders etc. are very low and the tip is a big part of their earnings. I tried to find out what the average salary of waiter in Montreal is, but I had no luck. The average monthly salary for a waiter in Denmark is 4,529 dollars (remember we pay around 50 percent in taxes of the amount) I wonder how big a difference that is to the salary of a waiter in Montreal?



  1. Believe it or not, waiters in Montréal normally get minimum wage, or something very close to it. That’s why they’re so eager for our tips!

  2. But what is the minimum wage?

  3. We’re from New York and my husband tends to be a very generous tipper. Once we were in Spain in a small village at a coffee stand, and he tipped 1 euro for a 2 euro coffee. In the USA, tippers will generally not leave less than a dollar, and he just “rounded up.” The woman at the coffee stand looked bewildered at being handed an extra euro. So I simply explained to her that “this is our custom.”

    To avoid your match challenge with the bill, here’s what I do: I quickly figure 10% and 20%. One is too cheap and one is quite generous. Then aim for something in between depending on the quality of the service. For bad service, 10% can be generous.

    My daughter was once a waitress in New York earning $10 per night, plus tips. However, she also had to pay from her own pocket when a couple ran out of the restaurant without paying. Apparantly this is not the case in Montreal, and I’m sure it’s not the case in Denmark from what you say.

  4. Thanks for the math-advice, I will use that in the future! But as you say 10 percent for bad service can be generous, and this is where I get confused. Are you obliged, no matter how bad the service and/or food may be, to tip?

    In Denmark the waiter/waitress would never be held responsible, if someone runs out of the restaurant without paying.

  5. You have to tip, bad service or not. But you also have to let know the waiter of his wrong doing(s).

    Also, when ordering drinks at a bar, general rule is to tip 1$ per drink. The 15% rule is implicitly ignored.

    Waiter salary is 7,25 $ an hour plus tip…

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