Who are you supposed to tip in 2023? Here’s what Americans and Europeans say

Jamie BallardData Journalist
Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
June 12, 2023, 6:23 PM GMT+0

The expansive American tipping culture is a commonly cited difference between everyday life in the United States and other parts of the world.

Nevertheless, many Americans would like to change that, with a recent YouGov poll of what foreign ways of doing things Americans would like to adopt showing that 56% of Americans would prefer for wait staff to be paid a higher minimum wage if it would mean people are not expected to tip.

But in the meantime, the culture remains as it is — so how do American practices on tipping compare to those in Europe?

Who do Americans and Europeans tip?

In every country surveyed, the kind of worker most likely to receive a tip is a restaurant waiter or waitress. Americans and Germans are the most likely to tip waitstaff, with 77% and 78% of diners in each country, respectively, saying they normally do so.

British diners come next, with 59% who ever go to restaurants generally tipping waiters, as do 47% of Spaniards. Diners in France (37%), Sweden (34%), Italy (27%), and Denmark (24%) are much less likely to leave a tip as a matter of course; however, more than one-third in each of these countries (35%-40%) say that although they do not typically tip, they might sometimes do so.

In fact, only between 5% and 33% in each country surveyed say they “never” tip restaurant waitstaff, with that figure highest in Denmark (33%) and Italy (32%).

Americans and Germans rank at the top of the tipping tables across all nine of the services we asked about. Among Americans, most who are ever in a position to tip the following groups of workers will normally tip them: hairdressers or barbers (65%), pub or bar staff (65%), takeaway delivery drivers (61%), taxi drivers (55%), and Uber drivers (54%).

Fewer than half of Americans who might ever tip the following typically do so: hotel staff (43%), baristas at coffee shops (38%), or car mechanics (15%).

Americans 65 and over appear to be better tippers than their younger counterparts when it comes to most services. Nearly all (96%) diners 65 and over in the U.S. usually tip their waiters and waitresses; fewer 45- to 64-year-olds (89%), 30- to 44-year-olds (67%), and adult diners under 30 (49%) say the same.

This trend largely holds true across eight of the nine services YouGov asked about. The notable exception is car mechanics. Among 18- to 44-year-olds who ever hire car mechanics, 22% say they typically tip their mechanic. People 45 and older are far less likely to do so, at 6%.

Why do Americans and Europeans tip?

Despite the very different tipping cultures across the countries, the main reason people give for why they tip is the same: that they are rewarding good service. This ranges from 56% of tippers in the U.S. to 71% in Denmark.

Others say it is because they feel like they have to, for example because of social pressure: from 9% of Spanish tippers to 21% in Sweden. Giving tips because people don’t feel like staff are paid enough is lowest among Nordic tippers (8-9%) and highest among American (24%), French (23%), and Italian tippers (also 23%).

One-third of Americans have held jobs where they regularly received tips, which may affect their motivation for tipping. They’re more likely than those who have never had a tipped job to say they tip because they believe the staff aren’t paid as much as they should be (32% vs. 20%).

Americans are more likely than Europeans to tip terrible or poor restaurant service

While the point of offering a tip is supposed to be as thanks for good service, the results show that many Americans will leave a tip if they receive “poor” or even “terrible” service at a restaurant.

One in five American diners who ever tip, and who have ever received “terrible” service at a restaurant, nevertheless say they gave a tip “every time” or “most times” that happened. This includes 15% of those who specifically say the main reason they tip is “to reward good service.” By contrast, less than 10% of diners who ever tip in each of the European countries polled have always or most times left a tip upon receiving terrible service.

Only 32% of American diners who have experienced terrible restaurant service say they “never” tipped for it (including 39% of those whose main tipping motivation is to reward good service), in comparison to 57% to 78% in the European countries polled.

Given that Germans and Americans are about as likely to leave tips as standard at restaurants, these figures highlight a fundamental difference between the two nations’ tipping cultures: In Germany, tips appear to be tied directly to good service, whereas in the U.S. they are not.

Many Americans frequently encounter situations where the service provided was minimal, but the customer is still given the option to tip. Scenarios like ordering a bottled beer or picking up takeout food can leave people wondering if it’s really necessary to leave a tip.

If you order a bottled or canned beer from a bartender, 45% of Americans feel it’s necessary to tip while 41% say it isn't. Fewer think you should leave a tip if you order drip coffee from a coffee shop (31%), order food at a quick-service restaurant with no waitstaff (21%), or pick up a takeout order (23%).

Do Americans think they’re asked to tip too often?

Many Americans (36%) feel people in the U.S. are prompted to provide a tip for services too often. That said, 41% think this happens about the right amount, and a few (12%) even think it isn’t happening enough.

Americans 45 and older (41%) are more likely than 18- to 44-year-olds (29%) to say they’re prompted for tips too frequently. Among people who have ever held a tipped job, one-fifth say Americans should be prompted to leave a tip more often. Far fewer people who have never had a tipped job agree, at 8%.

But are people actually tipping too often? Americans don’t necessarily think so. While one-quarter (24%) think people in the U.S. tip for services too frequently, far more (44%) think people tip about the right amount. One in five (20%) say people don’t tip often enough.

How much do Americans and Europeans tip in restaurants?

Among people who ever give tips, the most common tip amount for restaurant waitstaff in Europe is either 5% or 10%. Spanish (55%), French (53%), and Italian tippers (46%) are most likely to say they give a 5% tip, while 10% is the most common tip among British (61%), German (52%), Swedish (49%), and Danish tippers (39%). Few (7% to 16% in each European country polled) say they would normally give a tip of more than 10%.

Americans are much bigger tippers, with 67% of Americans who at least sometimes tip restaurant waitstaff saying they would tip an amount higher than 10%. The most common tip amount is 20%, which 26% say would be their normal tip. After that are tips of 15% (by 18% of Americans) and 10% (also by 18%).

— Linley Sanders, Taylor Orth, and Carl Bialik contributed to this article


See the results for this YouGov poll


The U.S. poll was conducted online on May 8 - 11, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.

The YouGov Eurotrack survey — in Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden — was conducted online May 8 - 23, 2023. Respondents in each country were selected to be representative of all residents.

Image: Adobe Stock (luckybusiness)