Currently, I am again travelling. I ride my bike in Italy. Almost a week ago, on Sunday morning, we exited the night train with the endearing name LUPUS from Munich to Rome in Orvieto. Starting from there, we rounded the beautiful Rome on our way to a congress in the south-east of Rome in three days. Our first overnight stop was in Viterbo, the next night we slept in Tragliatella.

castelcardinaleThe congress was in a wonderful congress hotel Castel Cardinale high above the Albanian Ocean, facing Castel Gandolfo. Now we spend two more days vacationing with friends before another nice round trip is to get us back to Rome. From there, we will go back to Munich – again in the night train – on Wednesday.

Well, the typical question is again to be asked:
Do you tip the sleeping compartment conductor?

Whenever I go abroad, what about tips? Who knows all the customs about tips in Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria or even North Africa, Turkey and many other countries?

Do some countries know a difference between, for instance, eating out and staying in privately led quarters? I am often unsure: what is the custom? Will I perhaps even hurt someone’s proud feelings if I leave a tip, even though I certainly meant well? Or am I behaving shabbily if I refrain from leaving a tip?

As we all know, there are some countries where leaving a tip is an absolute “must do”. Among those countries is the USA, where the tip is part of the actual salary and you cannot leave without having given something. Well, that makes it pretty clear what to do and what not to do. But even in Germany, I am not always sure. How is it possible that leaving a tip is not obligatory and yet there is a generalized tax rate for the restaurants?

Now I am riding my bike through Italy. As far as I know, it is totally unusual to leave a tip in this country. Consequently, I do not have a problem.
But what to do about the conductor in the night train from Germany to Italy?

My solution was: I leave a tip that is a little more than just symbolic. On the way out, it was 5 Euros for the two of us (i.e. for the compartment). And I told him that this was supposed to tell him how I appreciated his work. Later, I heard that, basically, night train conductors used to receive tips as a matter of course. Only it got less and less fashionable.

As I see it, leaving a tip makes sense if a) it is in accordance with the rules of the country and b) the “gift” is also clearly communicated as a symbol of your appreciation. And I am quite glad whenever my thoughtfulness gives me such clear results that make life look a little more joyful to me.

(Translated by EG)

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