Tip Jar

Tipping in Russia

Our Rusuk Blog writer Sergey

Tipping was something generally unknown in the Soviet Union, but there were not so many restaurants or cafes then. It was known in Russia before 1917, though.

In modern Russia tipping is a part of everyday life. The good thing about tipping in Russia is that it is not as stern as in America where waiter will probably call the police if you don’t leave a tip. Moreover, in the States, as I recall, you must tip around  20% of the bill. I am sure Dean will talk more about it in his blog.

Thankfully, in Russia there is no fixed rate. Theoretically, it must be 10-15%, but, in fact, you can walk away leaving less or with no tips at all. I have done it several times and not because I was some greedy jerk. The reason was extremely bad service, like long delays in taking an order, or delivering it, for example, as restaurant service now in Moscow is not stable, to say the least. So, I have to punish stupid waiters leaving no tips in hope that next time they will learn from this experience and rectify things. However, it may not be a working approach as you may not come back to that venue.

But there is also a bright side of the story. Sometimes waiters are really nice and attentive, and I am glad to leave more than usual to encourage folks.

I don’t know when I will travel to America next time but the only thing I dislike there, is their tipping culture.

I don’t know when I will travel to Japan next time, and I love many things there, including Japanese tipping culture because there are no tips. Officially.

So, I’m stuck in Russia and our tipping culture is in between.

Keep the Change

Roger Bara

In Britain, it’s generally considered polite to leave a tip for waiters, taxi-drivers, hotel porters, hairdressers and others, even if you consider the service only adequate. Obviously, if that service goes above and beyond, the larger the tip. Our favourite saying is “Keep the Change”. As a matter of course, we usually leave around 10 per cent of the total bill, and that usually satisfies the recipient.

The first time I went to America, in the late seventies, I couldn’t believe how cheap the meals were in the first restaurant I visited, so I left a handsome tip. The next time I went there, the waiters were literally falling over themselves to serve me. That’s when I learned how little they got paid, and they had to rely totally on their tips to survive.


It’s said that waiters in the U.K. don’t need tipping so much because they are on a decent wage. That’s certainly not the norm. In any case, most of us Brits would still leave a minimum of 10 per cent on top of the bill.

In an increasingly cashless society, it is sometimes difficult to leave a tip on your card when you don’t know if the server will actually get it. At least when they pick up your cash tip, you know to whom it has gone. I do believe there has been legislation approved to prevent businesses from stealing their employer’s tips.

So, in my country, tipping is second nature to most of us, and indeed when living abroad, like I do, the ex-pats generally take along with them their tipping etiquette. 

As it Should Be?

Photograph of Dean Lewis

In the US tipping is no longer an optional extra given for a job well done. I’m not sure why it’s still called a tip when it’s not a tip at all. See many, many small businesses in the US are able to get around paying minimum wage by putting staff on tips. A lousy $7.25 an hour is too much so we pay $2.13 and say that position relies on tips. Yes, the US Government says employers only need to pay $2.13 an hour if the position gets tips.

Of course, just abusing employees is not good enough. The US Government wants to be sure to rub salt in those wounds. There are various requirements so cash tips don’t go unreported for taxes. Billionaires may not need to pay taxes but a single mother hustling tables damn well better.

In fairness, things are improving in the US. The largest private employer, Walmart, raised their minimum wage to $14 an hour last week. They had no choice in the matter, Americans are tired of being abused and refuse to work for free.

US dollar symbol $

It seems to me that thirty years from now tips will be on their way out. But not for the reason you may guess. No, employers will not suddenly have a rush of morals. It’s the opposite, a restaurant may only have a couple of human employees. If a small, automated cart delivers your meal in a restaurant, you will not leave a tip on the table. Roger and I have this running debate about driverless cars. Think about it; if a driverless Uber picks you up, you’re not going to tip. Your Great-Grandchildren will probably never tip anyone, ever.

I shopped at Kroger for years (an American supermarket chain). They still have Bag Boys, a man will help you to the car with your groceries. Obviously, that’s a tipping situation. I always thought that was a great service, although I didn’t use it. Another so-called service was anything but. They hung this big blue sign saying, for my convenience, they would let me scan and bag my own groceries. I made it a point to always use the human cashier. Apparently, these jobs pay well, no tipping expected.

In Europe people get paid for the work they do and tipping is what it was in the US fifty years ago. In most parts of the world you are not required to tip for every little thing. That person gets paid by his employer. This is as it should be.