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U.K. Tipping Protocol, U.K. Gratuities, & U.K. Culture

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Do's and Don'ts in U.K.


Clothing

  • DO wear conservative clothes, even though business dress codes are typically fairly relaxed in England.
  • DON'T wear a men's shirt with pockets. If the shirt does happen to have pockets, don't put anything in them.
  • DON'T wear striped ties. Solid or patterned ties are preferred.
  • DON'T wear loafers, if you're a man. Wear shoes with laces instead.
  • DO dress formally if invited to tea.


Food/Drinks

  • DON'T slurp your soup or lift the soup bowl off the table.
  • DO smash your peas with the back of your fork.
  • DO eat most of your food with eating utensils. However, the following food is usually eaten with your hands: sandwiches, potato chips (called "crisps" in the U.K.), corn on the cob, and fruit. Also, food served during Low Tea is also often finger food.
  • DON'T talk with your mouth full or chew with your mouth open.
  • DON'T put your elbows on the table.
  • DON'T pour tea from the teapot right after it's been made. Wait for it to steep for a few minutes.
  • DO cut a scone in half with a knife, spread jam and clotted cream, and eat the halves open-faced.
  • DO know the difference between "High Tea" and "Low Tea." Low Tea is in the afternoon, at 4 PM, and High Tea served around 5 or 6 PM. Low Tea has declined in popularity over the years.
  • DO RSVP as soon as possible if invited to tea.
  • DO order both food and drink at the bar. A barmaid or barman will bring your food to the table.
  • DO order beer. Mixed drinks, such as margaritas, are virtually unheard of in England.
  • DO finish up your drink if a barmaid or barman rings a bell. This means that they are preparing to close. The first ring is for "last call" and the second means the bar is closed, but you have twenty minutes to finish up your drink.


Visting Someone's Home

  • DO give your host a gift. Flowers, a bottle of wine, or chocolates all make a nice gift.
  • DO arrive on time. If an invitation says "6:30 for 7", it means you shouldn't arrive any later than 6:50. Don't be too early, though, because your host may not be ready yet.
  • DO write a thank you note to your hosts following your visit, or at least call them to thank them for their hospitality.
  • DO let your host know of any dietary restrictions in advance, if you are invited to a meal.


Business

  • DON'T bring a gift. It is usually not a part of doing business in England.
  • DON'T rush a business decision.
  • DON'T sit with your arms folded during a meeting. This could send the message to your colleagues that you are disinterested in the meeting.
  • DON'T ask personal questions, such as asking about income, occupation, or background.
  • DON'T be late. Always call if you expect to be more than five minutes late.
  • DON'T move to a first name basis until invited.
  • DO send a letter after the meeting that summarizes the meeting, including the final decision and what the next steps to be taken are.


Other

  • DON'T make the "V for victory sign" with your palm facing yourself. It's considered to be an offensive gesture.
  • DO tap your nose if you are saying something that should remain confidential.
  • DO be aware of keeping personal space when in public and do not touch others in public.
  • DO shake hands with someone upon greeting them.



U.K. Tipping Customs


Tipping throughout the UK is usually expected at restaurants and always in London taxis (black cabs). The practise is also relatively common for some other services, such as hairdressers.


Tipping a policeman, fireman, nurse, doctor or other public-sector workers is prohibited and in the case of the police may be considered attempted bribery. For other public servants, however, a box of chocolates, flowers or possibly a bottle of wine may be considered appropriate as an expression of special gratitude. Some private companies may require their employees to refuse tips for various reasons. For instance, the John Lewis Partnership states to employees that customers should not be expected to pay more for good service, and that any tips that are received should be handed in. In private members clubs tipping is often forbidden to avoid embarrassment for both staff and patrons.


In many table-service restaurants - and 'gastro pubs' - a 'service charge' is added to the bill, usually (but not always) when the party exceeds a certain size e.g. six, in which case there is no expectation to tip further. It's worth checking the menu when ordering, for information on service charges. A service charge is not legally binding and will be removed from the bill on request.


As in many other countries, there is a percentage perceived to be 'correct' when tipping, of something between 10% and 15%; 10% is a considered a good minimum within the restaurant industry and is generally considered the default. In self-service establishments, tips are not usually given, except in exceptional circumstances. Many restaurants will allow tips to be added to a credit card bill, but it is generally considered better to leave cash at the table. The reason for this is that cash is deemed to have been given to the waiting staff directly, whilst credit card payments and cheques are legally payable to the restaurant. While a tip given by credit card or cheque will almost always be passed on to the waiting staff, it is legal for restaurants to pay their staff less than the minimum wage if the amount given in tips via the restaurant management augments their wages to the level of the minimum wage.


Tipping the delivery person upon arrival of a take-away is also quite common especially when delivery is fast.


It is not normal to tip for drinks in a pub or bar, although offering to buy the bar tender a drink is considered acceptable and they may then take (money) for the value of a drink (which is in effect taking a tip). In cases where the pub is also a restaurant, the serving staff may be tipped. It is less usual to tip in cafes and coffee shops than in restaurants.


In some establishments, tips are kept individually by the waiter or waitress, whereas in others they may be pooled and divided amongst all the staff (a 'tronc'). In other instances, tips may be set aside for some other purpose for the benefit of the staff, such as to fund a staff party or trip.


London taxi drivers customarily expect a tip, again of between 10% and 15% of the metered fare. Licensed taxi and minicab drivers elsewhere do not expect tips, though it is not unusual to offer them.



Our U.K. Tipping Recommendations


  • Taxis and Limos: Recommended in London only, otherwise optional, 10-15% in London, GBP 1-2 elsewhere


  • Airport Shuttles: Not required


  • Hotel Shuttles and Carpark Shuttles: Not required






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