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Is Tipping In France really a 'no-no'?

Updated 18 May 2024 by Leyla Alyanak — Parisian by birth, Lyonnaise by adoption, historian by passion

One of the worst moments of going out is usually when you have to pay – not only because of the amount but because of the tip. Tipping in France is a complicated affair, made worse by falling salaries and over-tipping tourists. Here's how to tip in France.

You know that moment? The one that involves the silent battle you fight when deciding whether to tip? Well, tipping in France is no exception.

After a delicious meal at your favorite restaurant, you'll call for the bill.

What happens next can, in some cases, be anxiety-inducing, especially if you're from a country with relatively set tipping practices.

Don't worry: in France, the fine art of gratuities doesn’t have to keep you up at night.

So, do you tip in France or not?

The short answer is... it depends.

In general, it is not required to tip (some exceptions do exist), and overall there isn’t any expectation to do so. You see, in France, the amount you see on the bill is the exact price you need to pay — tip included.

Under French law, French service industry workers – such as waiters and bellhops – earn a monthly living wage, plus paid holidays and other benefits.

The French government says it clearly (on its French-language site): tipping is an option, not a requirement.

In many other countries, for example the United States, those who work in the hospitality industry may depend on tips as their only source of income — this is not the case in France.

Even so, if you've been served particularly well, leaving a tip is a nice gesture of appreciation.

There is a new reality, however: the rising cost of living, with which service industries have not kept pace. Salaries have remained steady in the face of escalating prices, and it's becoming harder to find service staff as a result.

Rents are often sky-high, especially in tourist areas, and other costs are rising fast.

This means adjusting our tipping habits slightly upwards. I tip a bit more now than I used to, but nowhere near what Americans tip in the US.

But how much to tip in France?

A reasonable amount.

Now that you've decided you'll add a tip to the bill, you'll have to decide how. If you’re paying with a credit card, there is no extra line on the bill allowing you to insert an extra amount.

However, a number of French restaurants have taken to giving you an option to tip at the end when paying by card: a screen pops up asking whether you want to leave a tip of 0%, 5%, 10% and so on – with the waiter usually hovering.

I dislike this approach and will always press 0%. If the service was good and I decide to leave a tip, I'll leave it in cash on the table.

Cash for tipping in France

How to tip in France: tipping etiquette 101

Yes, tipping is an act that involves some level of tact, not to mention understanding the etiquette that surrounds it.

Is it rude or not?

In France, leaving a tip swings both ways.

If you don't tip, that's fine – no one will think you're particularly rude. Pressuring you to leave a tip is rare and I've only seen it happen in establishments that cater almost exclusively to tourists.

The alternative: can it be seen as rude to leave a tip? In some countries, it  is insulting, but not in France. Feel like leaving a tip? Please do.

Daily menu on a chalkboard in a French cafe

Tipping in France’s restaurants

While it may not be expected, it is usually common practice to leave a tip at a café, bistro, bar, or restaurant.

If you're in a café, small change is fine: round it up to the nearest euro rather than trying to calculate what percentage to leave.

Did coffee cost you €1.80? Leave €0.20 for a total of €2. If drinking in a bar with a far higher tab, leave a little more. Your bill is €18-€19? Leave €20. The same in a restaurant. Your bill is €43? Leave €45.

In case of great service, leave €50. That would be considered huge.

Restaurant tables at opening timeGetting ready to open for business

Be aware that in restaurants, the tip is already included in the bill, which you'll see as "15% service compris", or service charge. (You'll usually find this phrase just above the TVA, or value-added tax.)

Of course you can add a bit to that if you wish, but 5% is ample, and 10% is very nice indeed.

Recap of tipping in France

  • Wait staff in cafes and restaurants: around 5% for good service
  • Gastronomic or nicer restaurants: 5%-10%
  • Deliveries: a few euros, especially if the delivery is complicated
  • Tour guide: €10-€20 if it's a "free" tour; otherwise €5-€10 but not obligatory
  • Hairdresser: €1-€2 for shampoo assistant, €5-€10 to the stylist, or 10%
  • Hotel staff: €1-€2 to bring up your suitcase, a little more for valet services
  • Hotel housekeeping: €1-€2 per day of stay
  • Usher: €1-€2
  • Taxi driver: €1-€5 for a regular trip, a bit more if they help with luggage, or 10%-15%
  • Beautician: €3-€5

But what if your bill is €45 – should you then leave €50? In my opinion, that's too much. Leave €2-€3 on the table (a good rule of thumb is to leave €1 for each €20 spent – but again, this is very flexible).

By the time you reach €100, your tip can increase proportionately. I would leave €5 if my meal cost €100, possibly a bit more if the level of service was exceptional.

But here's the good news: you won't go wrong. If you leave what you think is too little, relax: it won't be. French waiters and waitresses will be pleased with even a small tip.

Leaving a big tip may even be seen as presumptuous, or an act of showing off. French people don't like to talk about money, and a huge tip is just that, making money an issue.

Now, if you're eating in a Michelin-star restaurant with all the wine and trimmings, you should leave a generous tip, but only for exceptional service. In this case, showing off your wealth is fine.

What is "tip" in French? Un POURBOIRE, pronounced poor-BWAHR.

Now, where exactly do you leave that tip?

Some place it discreetly under a saucer or plate, but it’s fine to leave it in the open as well.

If your bill comes in a folder, possibly leather in some better establishments, open the folder, look at the bill, then deposit your cash or credit card in the folder with the top bit sticking out. This will signal to the waiter that you're ready to pay. When your credit card or change comes back, that's when you leave your tip, in cash, inside the folder.

A few more popular or family establishments will ask you to pay when you leave. Check to see if they have a tip jar at the cash register; this is a pool for all staff to share equally.

Tipping in Paris?

The city is an international destination, so servers are more accustomed to foreigners who do not know the tipping culture or who tip lavishly.

In Paris, some servers might even tell you it’s necessary to leave a tip. This is a simple scam to get more money out of you. Flee the establishment and do not return: it's a tourist trap and there's every chance the quality of food will be as poor as the service.

Remember: only tip if you feel you want to.

France Belle Epoque pin

Tipping at hotels, salons, theaters, and miscellaneous tipping

Now, about those exceptions to the general rule...

Hair and nail salons and hotel services do expect tips, so make sure you have a few coins for the bellhop who handles your luggage, the manicurist who buffs your nails, or the assistant who washes your hair. I leave the assistant €1-€2, the stylist about €5, or even €10 if it's a major salon or a complicated visit.

When it comes to room service, you could give the attendant a Euro or two when your meal arrives, but it's not obligatory. When you leave the hotel, please do leave something for the housekeeping staff – I tend to leave a couple of Euros per day of stay on the pillow or the night table just before checkout.

If you’re visiting one of the many theaters in Paris or the rest of France, tipping the usher who shows you to your seat is expected. The same goes for tour guides, especially walking tours, and always when the walking tour is "free" – these are often run by students who live off the tips.

Taxi sign on top of taxi in Paris

You should also tip your taxi driver a few Euros, even more if you've been caught in traffic or it's a particularly busy time of day. 

What about bad service? I would leave no tip at all.

Finally, keep an eye out for signs that state “pourboire interdit”. This means that tipping is forbidden. You won’t find these signs in many places, but if you do, stick to it and ignore the urge to leave a gratuity.

Final verdict on tipping in France

The good thing about tipping in France is that the rules are relatively flexible: tipping isn't compulsory, nor is it even expected, but a small amount is always appreciated.

Always carry some cash to use for gratuity, but beware, as pickpockets in Paris (and other highly visited cities) know that most visitors tend to do this.

And remember, some French will take you and your tipping skills far. C’est pour vous (this is for you) is your safest bet for ensuring your tip is noticed and appreciated. Pronunciation? say-poor-VOO!

Before you go...

The ins and outs of French know-how and etiquette are often obscure, and even being French, I'm not always 100% sure I'm not transgressing some unwritten rule.

To learn a bit more about these and the French psyche, here's how to find out whether all the stereotypes about the French are true, along with some interesting facts about the French!

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