My post provoked two or three quite passionate responses which disagreed with my assessment of whether or not you should tip in Spain.
So, to clarify my assertion that the Spanish tip 'rarely, and then not very much', I took a straw poll among ten of my Spanish friends and colleagues about when they would tip in specific situations. Here are the results:
Would you tip in the following situations in Spain and how much would you tip?
- Two coffees at a small cafeteria costing 2€
- One menu del dia that cost 6.70€
- Four menu del dias, each costing 9.90€ (the bill comes to 39.60€)
- A small beer in a normal bar (1€)
- A large beer in an expensive bar (5€)
- A whiskey and coke in a nightclub (7€)
- A meal for four with wine and deserts in a medium priced restaurant, costing (84.50€)
- A meal for 8 at an expensive restaurant, costing 400€.
Answers: No tip; no; no; no; if it is a net of 2 euros - nothing; 0.2; 0.10-0.20€; no; no; no.
Only 20% of those asked would tip for two coffees. Said JL from Madrid: "If the coffees costs 2€ in total, probably 80% of people wouldn't tip, but if the coffees came to 1.80€, maybe 50% would leave the extra 20c."
This directly contradicts this article on the BBC about tipping in Spain.
Answers: Yes, the 30 cents left after giving 7 euros; no; 30c if the service was good; make it 7; no; probably the 0.30 cents remaining if the service was good; 0.2-0.3€; €1.30; 30 cents; no.
When there is conveniently small quantity of change that can be left, most do so. Only one of those asked would put more money on the table.
Answers: a euro or two plus the extra 40c; Business lunch - YES (around 1-2 €) but with friends - no tip; no; pay 10€ each; 1.40 euros if service was good, otherwise nothing; no; 0.1 € x 4; 0.5-1€; 2.40€; 40 cents.
Similar to above, even though the meal is a little more expensive and there are more people eating.
Answers: no; NO; NO; no; nothing; 0.1; 0.1; no; no; no.
Virtually no one would tip for a small beer.
Answers: no; NO; NO; no; nothing; 0; 0; no; no; no.
Interestingly, those who would tip in a small bar wouldn't in a more expensive bar (presumably because they expect the staff to be paid more or because there is likely to be more friendly service in a small bar).
Answers: Only if the barmaid is attractive; no; Normally there is no tip on drinks in nightclubs; NO; never; nothing; 0; 0; no; no
Not one respondent would tip in a nightclub.
Answers: Yes, a couple of euros; YES, around 3-4€; pay 85€ plus 5€ OR 10€ if the waiter was really nice; 5% if good service; probably the 6.5 euros remaining; if services was good, otherwise nothing; 5€; 5€; 5.50€; 3.50€
The more expensive the meal, the more important it seems to be that the service is good.
Answers: Yes, about 4€; yes, up to 10-15€, particularly if is business and I can expense that bill; possibly, always depending on how well the waiter treats you; 5% if good service; 10-20€ if the services was good, otherwise nothing; €20; 15-20€; 10-20€; €20; service included.
When the price of the meal increased, the tip didn’t necessarily increase relatively. Most would tip about 5% for a large meal, though some would tip less (or not at all). And many added the proviso ‘if they service was good’.
The Final Word on Tipping in Spain
So, what is the bottom line about tipping in Spain? Despite the backlash I received on my blog, the results of this admittedly small survey suggest the Spanish indeed do not generally leave tips for drinks and they do not feel compelled to always leave a tip for food. If they do, it isn’t as much as in other countries.
If you come from a country where tipping is normal and you feel you ought to tip, I’m sure it would be appreciated (though tipping for drinks will always make you look like a slightly clueless foreigner). But don’t feel like it is a necessity, especially if the service was bad.
Luis Ferrer, a Spanish citizen and representative of the Spanish Tourist Office in the US, had this to say on the subject:
"The fact is that in Spain, it is not usual to leave a tip. Many Spaniards are puzzled when they first come to the US and need to leave a 20% tip – this cultural difference leads to many funny situations in restaurants. Some argue that it is the owner of the business who should give a proper salary to their staff just like any other job.
"You usually leave the coins of the change, which is usually less than 10 or 5 EUR. If you are going with friends and pay separately, you usually leave the money that can't be divided, so it is not much.
"In Spain, waiters have traditionally been provided with a good salary and health coverage like any other professional. There are even waiting schools, where you learn about dressing a table, serving wines, clean the fish, etc. In this sense, waiters have been paid accordingly, so you don't tip them as well as you don't tip, say, an architect for his work."