What is the tipping culture in Australia? A guide for visitors

someone putting money in a tip jar

Tipping is the act of giving money to someone who has provided you with a service, such as serving you at a restaurant or taking your suitcases up to your room at a hotel.

Although tipping is customary in some countries such as the US, it’s not nearly as common in Australia.

If you’re visiting Australia and wanting to find out what is expected or you’re an Aussie who is just confused about the custom, here we cover some helpful info about tipping.

First, what's the history behind tipping?

According to Time Magazine, the act of tipping started in Europe in the middle ages where servants would receive an extra reward for hard work and excellent service.

Tipping was then brought back to the US in the 1800s by wealthy Americans wanting to seem aristocratic.

Amazingly, tipping was boycotted in Europe soon after because it was deemed condescending and classist. This was actually the initial response in America, however it grew in popularity after the Civil War when slavery ended. Freed slaves were limited in their work choices and pay, so there was an expectation from some that they’d earn tips instead.

The tipping culture has continued in the US and is now relied on by workers who are paid extremely low minimum wages and need tips to get by. In Australia, however, the minimum wage is currently $21.38 per hour, which is very high compared to $7.25 an hour in the States. This explains why tipping is less common here.

When and how should you tip in Australia?

Tipping is therefore voluntary in Australia and is most commonly used to show appreciation for good service. Tipping is most common in the hospitality industry, especially at high end restaurants and bars.

If you choose to tip, the general rule is to add 10% to the bill or to round up to the nearest $10. But these rules are just guidelines -  feel free to tip however much or however little you feel comfortable with!

We should note that with technological advances changing the way we pay, the nature of tipping has also changed. While some people choose to still use cash, many people opt to pay with a card or a digital payment method. Because of this, it’s common for businesses to offer a tip option on their Eftpos machines. This allows customers to manually enter the amount they wish to tip when they pay. 

Another common way is via a “tip jar.” Some businesses have a jar on the front counter to encourage customers to leave small change as a form of gratitude. This is generally seen at smaller establishments such as cafes.

Additionally, food delivery and ride share apps such as Uber now offer the option to tip your driver or delivery person once they arrive. Bear in mind that despite all these opportunities to tip in Australia, it’s not expected that you do it and it’s unlikely that anyone will judge you for choosing not to.

Who gets paid tips?

If you do choose to tip, it’s also important to be aware that the employee you give the tip to may not end up with all the money. Depending on the business, they may let the individual worker keep their tips but could also divide the tips among all employees.

For example, Uber’s tipping policy is that there are zero service fees applied to tips which means that drivers receive the total amount. If you’re concerned about where your tip will go, you can always ask before tipping.

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