I am writing to you today from the beach of Nice, where I have sat myself with a glass of wine and the most incredible view.
But! Enough about the view. Today I’d like to talk about what happened yesterday, a ridiculous fiasco in the Principality of Monaco that has taught me, more than anything, to stick to my guns.
So let me lay the scene out for you here. Yesterday I took a tour to the village of Eze and to Monaco, an all day affair that showed us around some really beautiful places. I happened to be with three fantastic women from Philly, who ended up adopting me into their group and spending the day with me.
We had a great time wandering throughout Monaco (which I will write about later), minus this one, ridiculous, affair. You see, we stopped off for lunch at a nice, touristy, restaurant, where an insistent waiter urged our group inside. (He actually thought we were French at first, and spent several minutes coaxing us in with French, which obviously failed). I ordered the pumpkin soup, which was ah-mazing, and everything generally went over really well until the bill came.
We were mid-conversation, the women having asked me about tipping in Europe, when the waiter arrived with the bill and presented it with a flourish to one of the women (she had offered to pay for me, as thanks for my military service. Generosity is found everywhere!)
Upon presenting, he told her, “the service is not included in the bill.”
Now, I don’t know how much you guys know about tipping in Europe. I know for us, in the US, tipping is essentially required and at a minimum of 15%. This isn’t so in the EU. Here, tipping is not only optional, the amount you tip (if you do) generally spans from a few Euro onwards.
At this point, the woman told him to add five Euro extra onto the bill, to which he repeated “the service is not included in the bill.”
Ok, so maybe he was confused? Could he not do math? I myself turned around and explained to him that there was additional already added into the amount to be charged….at which point he emphasized, again, that service was not already included.
He emphasized insistently and very, very, rudely. At this point my jaw was hanging open, wondering what sort of waiter would address patrons like this. (Obviously the kind that preys on tourists).
Upon being asked, he told our party that tipping was generally at 15%-20%, at which point we folded and added a full 15 Euro to the bill, an altogether ridiculous amount in a society that doesn’t ever rely on tipping.
Now this is the first time I’ve ever been harassed for a tip, and I think it had a lot to do with the company I was in. I myself look vaguely like a down-on-her-luck college student (ok, high school), an image I have carefully cultivated so as not to be robbed of my earthly possessions. But the rest of us, who were obviously well-off enough to travel all the way to Monaco, weren’t quite as shabby as me. Thus, the waiter felt entitled to ask for, nay, demand, more money.
When we told our guide later what had happened, her jaw also dropped.
“This,” she declared in her amazing French accent, “is absurd. If someone spoke to me like this I would give them nothing.”
So. Lesson learned. All the things people tell you about tipping in Europe are true. Don’t overpay just because some pushy asshole is lying to you about how things work in their country. What a poor ambassador for Monaco, and most especially, what a terrible impression to leave on people who are naturally very generous. Tipping in the future? I think not.