11 November 2014

Friendly America

The last time I talked about America, I said that they were rather loud. But not every thing I noticed about Americans are negative. There are also positive things. Like for example the fact that they were friendlier than what I was used to. It all started when I was in Buffalo, and it continued when I was in Boston and New York City.

See, whenever we were in restaurants, people were friendly, and the service was great. Of course, I immediately thought that they are friendly because they want my tip. After all, Europe isn't a tipping culture, but a rounding up culture: instead of tipping 15-20 percent, they just round it up to the next large number. It's because the wait staff and servers in Europe can live properly even with their normal wages, and they don't rely on tips that much, unlike in America. So I guess there is no reason to give tips, but that also means that there is no reason to give a good service, from the point of view of the servers.

Anyway, I noticed it immediately, and I guess that is a sign that I have been living in Europe for a while. People were friendlier, and people were quick. You want something? They immediately approach you. And they also smile. Who knows, it might be fake, because they want your tip, but then again, it still makes for a better dining experience.

But that is not always the case: even in places where tips are not expected, people are still nice. I was buying some desserts because my sister was cooking dinner one day, and I found myself at a patisserie near the Flatiron district in New York City. The lady behind the counter was so friendly, and was taking her sweet time explaining to me what pastries they had. It was such a nice buying experience. And she didn't expect me to give her a tip, because after all, I wasn't eating in, but just buying something from the counter.

Anyway, I guess what I want to say is that I still cannot make up my mind which system is better. On the one hand, European waiters have a good life, and they don't rely on tips to make things meet. But that also means that they don't have the incentive to provide good service to their customers. On the other hand, American waiters earn little, so they rely on tips to make ends meet. Hence they provide good service (although it might be fake). I honestly don't know which one works better.


  1. I don't mind tipping in the food industry, I'm so used to it... but sometime I feel tipping is out of control. I mean, you can't tip everyone you are interacting with! Maybe I'm biased because I have never worked in a tipping position.

    1. Zhu,

      Never have I either. I guess what I don't like about the tipping culture is that it creates this expectation of tipping, and sometimes, people even take it for granted, so when you don't tip, or when you tip too little, they get grumpy. Why not make everything official and include it in the price?