Tipping is no mark of civilization

By Summer Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-21 22:38:01

A Global Times reporter shared the embarrassment she felt on her honeymoon trip in an article published a few days ago. The vexing question "How much should we tip" kept complicating the poor author's honeymoon with her husband to Thailand.

It's true that tipping, which is not a common practice in the Chinese mainland, is a headache for many Chinese tourists. Caring too much how they are seen by locals, they tend to tip too generously and causally. As a result, Chinese tourists easily fall prey to the "enthusiastic" and "helpful" local service staff.

In fact, there is no need for us to be too concerned about being negatively labeled by locals. Just as the author argued, "over-prudence could also have exactly the reverse effect."

Chinese travelers are always big spenders on luxury overseas, which gives local service staff the false impression that all Chinese are rich. This is another reason that we are targeted for soliciting tips.

But the majority of Chinese have never traveled abroad at all, and most of the urban middle-class, who are occupied with work, only travel abroad once or twice a year. For them, travel is a reward for a year's hard work.

It is understandable that they want to spoil themselves by spending their savings on luxury items. As a result, local waiters, expecting juicy tips, have diverted their attention from Westerners to Chinese tourists.

Tolerating the solicitations of waiters will only make them more confident of getting a tip out of the under-confident travelers, and encourage them to target other Chinese travelers. Our sensitivity on the tipping issue will be figured out and then taken advantage of by local service staff.

Under this situation, flatly refusing excessive demands may be an ideal choice to help prevent more Chinese tourists from falling prey to certain calculating locals. It takes time to curb such unfair treatment of Chinese.

Tipping is a cultural phenomenon that is unfamiliar on the Chinese mainland. Given the cultural differences, not being in the habit of tipping does not mean Chinese are ill-mannered.

We are used to expressing our gratitude to staff by frequently visiting the restaurants, hotels, and shops where they work. In addition, in many Chinese stores, a service gratuity is habitually included in the bills.

It is unfair to criticize Chinese mainlanders as impolite and rude based on whether they tip or not. Mutual respect is fundamental to cultural exchanges.

While we respect foreign cultures by complying with the local etiquette and paying a gratuity for excellent services, we should also be confident to refuse those soliciting waiters overseas. Tipping has more to do with culture than civilization. More confidence may save more Chinese from being solicited.

To avoid embarrassment, it will be wise for us to do some preparations ahead of the trip. In some cultures, certain service staff, for instance, waiters and taxi drivers, rely on tips, which compose a large part of their wages, for a living. In many parts of the US, there are different minimum wages for tipped jobs. We should figure out how much we should tip them before leaving. Research, which is also a way to show our respect to local cultures, can make our trip more comfortable.

After all, cultural differences will affect our travel experiences. While striving to adapt to local cultures, we should not let calculating locals lead us around by the nose. But we shouldn't be afraid of being labeled "uncivilized" for not tipping; it has more to do with us being perceived as easy marks than any deficiency of character.

Summer, an interior designer based in Beijing

Posted in: Letters

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