Whenever I go out with local friends, no one seems to tip and I find this hard to get used to. What is the common practice here when it comes to tipping?
One of the aspects of life in Spain that many foreigners find difficult to adjust to is the local notion of tipping. Practices vary from nation to nation, with North Americans generally accustomed to leaving the most for the widest variety of services (the question often becomes who not to tip), while the Spanish make no bones about their disinterest in the custom. This is not out of a lack of concern for those employed in the service industry, but rather an assumption (which is, more often than not, founded) that the tip (propina) is included in the bill price. Generally speaking, restaurants, hotels and cafés do add a service charge of 15 percent along with the seven-percent IVA (VAT) to their prices, which is indicated on a bill by the phrase servicio incluido. But even when these magic words don’t appear, Spaniards shirk the highly formalised tipping practices of other countries and opt instead to leave a few coins, more in the spirit of a gesture of thanks than a standard payment.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, there are some exceptions: tips are often left in more upscale establishments, though more to the tune of what diners deem appropriate rather than a fixed percentage. Large tips are considered ostentatious and in poor taste, but a little something (one or two euros per person) may help to guarantee a good table the next time around.
At Christmastime, while monetary tips for employees and service people are not customary, gifts of wine, cava or Christmas hampers (which may include a whole leg of jamon) are often given in their lieu.
To be sure of when and how to tip, it’s generally best to ask your Catalan and Spanish friends and neighbours about their habits, as it’s a subject that does draw varying opinions.