If service is included, this should be indicated by the words service compris ( SC) , service et taxe compris ( STC) or prix nets/toutes taxes comprises ( TTC), which means that prices are inclusive of service and value added tax ( TVA). If service is extra, service non compris ( SNC) or service en sus may be indicated.
Service is now automatically included in all restaurant bills, although you may still leave a tip if you’ve had exceptional service. In hotels a 15 per cent service charge is usually included in the bill. In bars and cafés, prices usually include service when you sit at a table, but not when you stand at the bar (it should be shown on the menu or bill or the tarif des consommations). It’s normal to leave your small change on the bar or in the dish provided.
Those who are usually tipped include porters (€0.80 to €1.60 per bag, which may be a fixed fee), tour guides (€0.80 to €1.60), taxi drivers (10 to 15 per cent) and hairdressers (10 per cent). In top-class hotels it’s normal to tip a bellboy, porter, chambermaid or other staff members if you ask them to perform extra services. In public toilets where there’s an attendant, there’s usually a fixed charge and you aren’t required to tip, although when no charge is displayed, it’s usual to leave €0.15 to €0.30. It’s usual to tip ushers ( ouvreuse) in theatres and concert halls and sports stadiums (€0.30 to €0.80), as they may rely on tips for a good part of their income.
However, this custom is dying out, and ushers at many cinema chains (e.g. Gaumont, Pathé and UCG) no longer expect tips. In fact, at many modern cinemas, seats aren’t numbered and there are no ushers. It’s unnecessary to tip a petrol station attendant ( pompiste) for cleaning your windscreen or checking your oil, although they’re poorly paid and are pleased to receive a small gratuity.
Christmas is generally a time of giving tips to all and sundry, including the postman, rubbish collectors ( éboueurs) and firemen ( sapeurs-pompiers), who will often call in early December or November (sometimes as early as October!) ‘offering’ you a calendar, for which you’re nevertheless expected to pay – unless you don’t want your post delivered, your rubbish collected or any house-fires extinguished for the following 12 months!
The size of a tip depends on how often someone has served you, the quality and friendliness of the service, your financial status and, of course, your generosity. Generally tips range from €5 to €15, although you may wish to give more to the gardienne of your apartment block (it pays to be nice to them). Large tips are, however, considered ostentatious and in bad taste (except by the recipient, who will be your friend for life). If you’re unsure who or how much to tip, ask your neighbours, friends or colleagues for advice.
This article is an extract from Living and working in France. Click here to get a copy now.