First-time visitors to Paris often wonder how much to tip servers at restaurants, bars, and cafes in the French capital. Many travelers are watchful to ensure they do not overtip—but many tourists can feel a bit uncomfortable with tipping as little as Parisians often do.
While for many visitors—especially from North America—not providing a hefty tip at the end of a meal seems rude, but it is actually the reverse in France. Overtipping a server is considered to be somewhat vulgar and showy.
Here are some basic guidelines to help you decide on a reasonable amount to add to your meal or drink, and advice on how to tell the difference service that is actually bad and a common misunderstanding between cultures.
Tipping in Paris or anywhere else in France is not an obligation, so what you leave is entirely left to your discretion. If you receive rude or subpar service, you may decide not to leave a tip at all. However, we encourage travelers to remember that what constitutes "rude" service is, to some degree at least, a matter of cultural perception and local norms.
In Paris and much of the rest of France, speed, attentiveness, and an ability to quickly brief you on your menu choices are considered more important factors in judging good service than wide smiles, personal questions, or lots of small talk. Servers in Paris will rarely come to ask "how things are going" to the table.
The most important factor related to tipping is to be aware that in France, a 15 percent service charge is added automatically to your bill. The service charge is typically found near the bottom of the check and will be written as "servis compris” or if the bill shows "VAT (IVA)" that would also be an indication.
However, servers in France do not customarily receive this service charge as extra wages. You might think otherwise since the term "service charge" suggests it, but this is misleading. If the service is particularly good, you may want to add a little extra (around 10 percent) to show your appreciation. Anything between 15-20 percent is considered extraordinarily generous in France, even though it's standard to leave that much for basic service in the U.S. and around North America.
Bars and Clubs
At a bar or night club, most locals won't be tipping. If you do feel like showing your appreciation for the bartender, you can leave your change. There is no need to tip the bouncer at a club, but if there's a coat check, you can tip €1 per coat.
At a cafe, you can leave your change in the tip jar if there is one. Just be careful with those €1 and €2 coins. It's very easy to overtip if you're not paying attention!
Take Your Time
It's customary for French servers to leave you ample time between courses and to assume you'll take a while to get through each course. The French custom is to savor the meal, not rush through it, so what is considered bad service in America, is considered good in France.
Only in very touristy restaurants will the check be dropped off at the table; everywhere else the bill only appears when a patron explicitly asks for it. In French culture, dropping off the check without prompting would be rude and considered a sign they're trying to push you out to let other patrons take your table.
If you know you'll need to take off as soon as you are finished eating, mention to your server at the beginning of the meal that you have an event to attend and ask whether the check can be brought to the table as soon as the final course is served.