The English word ‘tip’ was originally an acronym for ‘To Insure Promptness.’ Innkeepers would write this on a box by the door, later simplified to ‘T.I.P.’, to enable customers to show their appreciation of good service. The French word ‘pourboire’ means ‘in order to drink’, as the original intention was of course for the ‘tippee’ to have a drink on the ‘tipper’.

In France, bars and restaurant are required by law to include and display the service/cover charge. Tipping is strictly optional as ‘service compris’ ( SC) , ‘service et taxe compris’ ( STC) or ‘prix nets/toutes taxes comprises’ ( TTC) all mean that the service charges (usually 15%, even 20% of the price of the meal) are included. In fact, when you leave a tip, you are really paying twice for your service.

Of course it is  customary to reward good service, but when questioned, most French people in this region were shocked at the idea of leaving more than a couple of euros,  feeling  that a tip was an occasional reward for really good service, and insisted that two or three euros was enough, no matter how large the bill. The  British ‘10%’ was considered  way over the top

What the tippers say…..

Christian  (retired garage owner)
“Le service est très important. Pour un bon accueil, je donnerais deux à trois euros. Dix pour cent, ça fait beaucoup trop ! »

Eve, housewife
« Je donne aussi des pourboires au plombier, (plumber) livreur, (deliveryman) déménageur (removal man)…. s’ils ont été efficaces »

What the tippees say…..

 Céline (restaurant owner)
C’est vrai que ça fait plaisir mais ce n’est pas du tout obligatoire. On ne doit pas se sentir obligé de donner un pourboire – on donne ou on ne donne pas. »

Christine (Hairdresser)
« Bien sûr les pourboires ne sont pas obligatoires  mais si un client ne donne rien,   peut être qu’il  n’est pas content. Nous, on met une  boite à coté de la porte. Un à deux euros suffit. Les pourboires vont toujours aux employés, pas au propriétaire ».

Hélène (Taxi firm owner)
Les anglais trouvent que c’est cher de prendre un taxi en France mais c’est l’état qui décide la tarification, pas nous. Recevoir un pourboire est toujours agréable. Combien? Ah, ce n’est pas important – c’est le geste que compte !

Of course, Christmas tipping  for the postman, (facteur) rubbish collectors ( éboueurs) and firemen ( sapeurs-pompiers) when they come round with their Christmas calendars, is always advisable to ensure smooth post delivery,  rubbish collection or  house-fire help. A contribution of  €5 to €15 euros is much appreciated, and probably a worthwhile investment on your part!

Useful Vocab
On ne doit pas se sentir… one shouldn’t feel…
Un – deux euros suffit  – one or two euros are enough
un bon accueil – a warm welcome
on met – we put
efficaces – efficient
L’état – the state
la tarification – the pricing
c’est le geste– it’s the gesture

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