Tipping in America: A Comprehensive Guide for Expats

Tipping is a cultural practice that can vary significantly from one country to another. As an expat living in the United States, it’s essential to understand the customs and expectations surrounding tipping to avoid awkward situations and ensure you’re providing fair compensation for services. This comprehensive guide will cover various service industries where tipping is customary, explain the standard tipping rates, and provide helpful tips for expats navigating the American tipping culture.

While I know some of you may question why we should tip and why it is not incorporated into the service fee/price. The truth is that many of the servers, bartenders, etc… depend on tips for a significant portion of their total income, so we should learn to tip appropriately.

Tipping in America: A Comprehensive Guide for Expats

1. Restaurants and bars:

  • In the United States, it’s customary to tip servers and bartenders at restaurants and bars.
  • Standard tipping rate: 15-20% of the pre-tax bill for servers; $1-2 per drink or 15-20% of the tab for bartenders.
  • Tips for expats: Always check your bill for included service charges, especially at high-end restaurants or when dining with a large group, as this may affect the amount you should tip.

2. Fast food and takeout:

  • Tipping is not generally expected at fast food restaurants, but it’s appreciated if you receive exceptional service or have a complicated order.
  • For takeout orders, tipping is optional but appreciated, especially if the staff goes above and beyond to accommodate your request.
  • Standard tipping rate: A small cash tip or rounding up to the nearest dollar is appropriate.
  • Tips for expats: Use your discretion and consider the level of service you received when deciding whether to tip for fast food or takeout.

3. Coffee shops and cafes:

  • Tipping is common at coffee shops and cafes, particularly for baristas who prepare specialty drinks.
  • Standard tipping rate: $1 per drink or 10-20% of the total bill.
  • Tips for expats: Look for a tip jar near the cash register, as this is a common way to leave tips at these establishments.

4. Delivery drivers:

  • Delivery drivers, such as those for food or grocery delivery services, should be tipped for their service.
  • Standard tipping rate: 10-20% of the bill, with a minimum of $3-5 per delivery.
  • Tips for expats: Consider tipping more during inclement weather or for deliveries that require extra effort, such as carrying heavy items or navigating difficult locations.

5. Hair and beauty services:

  • It’s customary to tip hairstylists, barbers, nail technicians, and other beauty service providers.
  • Standard tipping rate: 15-20% of the total service cost.
  • Tips for expats: If multiple service providers assist you (e.g., a shampoo assistant and a stylist), consider tipping each individual separately based on their contribution.

6. Hotels and accommodations:

  • Hotel staff, such as bellhops, housekeepers, and concierge, should receive tips for their services.
  • Standard tipping rates: $1-2 per bag for bellhops, $2-5 per night for housekeeping, and $5-20 for exceptional concierge services.
  • Tips for expats: Leave housekeeping tips in a clearly marked envelope or use the provided tip card to ensure it’s clear the money is intended as a tip.

7. Taxis and rideshare services:

  • Tipping is customary for taxi drivers and even rideshare drivers, such as Uber and Lyft. It used to be that you didn’t need to tip when using Uber or Lyft but that is changing.
  • Standard tipping rate: 10-20% of the fare, with a minimum of $1-2 for short rides.
  • Tips for expats: Be aware that some rideshare apps include the option to tip within the app, while others may require tipping in cash.


Understanding the tipping customs in the United States is crucial for expats to navigate social situations and provide fair compensation for services. By familiarizing yourself with the standard tipping rates and practices in

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