Tipping in France 101: How to Not Embarrass Yourself

Should you leave a tip in France?

Despite what you find elsewhere online, you should never feel pressured to leave a tip in France. Since a service fee is already included in your meal and all of the employees are paid a living wage, tipping in France is not required. Here’s why you should only leave a tip after a job well done. 

Tipping In France: Etiquette Guide 
For Travelers

I was a little surprised when reading through what others think about tipping in France. A few different English language sources claimed you should always leave a tip in a restaurant if you have good service.

Another said you should always tip one to five euros in a hair salon. I’ve been living in France for over three years and I have rarely seen the French give tips.

One French article went as far as to quote a study saying that 96% of French people give a pourboire, or tip. But when I explored the study, I found it was about French people who visit countries where tipping is expected.

In those countries, 96% of the French gave a tip, but in their own country, the story is much different. So here is the truth about when and how much to trip in France. 

French for tip: "Pourboire"; to give a tip: "laisser un pourboire".

Should You Tip in France?

Luckily, like with most subjects in France, the government always has an answer. The official Minister of Economy website actually has a whole entire guide on whether you should tip or not.

Here they share that tipping is always optional. It is left up to how much the client appreciated their service. And in bolded text they make it clear that no profession can require it

Other French sources state that the pourboire is for moments when you’re really impressed by your service. And even in instances like this, it will only be a few extra euros. The only place where you might tip as a tourist in France is in your hotel. 

Here, the French view it as more acceptable to give a little something to whoever brings your luggage up to your room or a helpful concierge. You could also leave a few euros for the housekeeper. Both of these are completely optional. 

All of the French who work in the service industry must make at least minimum wage and have paid vacation. So the tip is really an extra thank you rather than something they’re depending on.

I would also be wary of giving a tip to hairdressers, estheticians, and masseuses in small, local businesses as it might be perceived poorly.

History of Tipping in France

Pourboire literally translates to “to drink” or “in order to drink.” Tipping began in the 19th century in France as a way to share gratitude for a job well done.

Patrons would give thanks by buying their server or barman something to drink. Or they would just give them enough money to buy themselves a drink later, hence the name pourboire. In German, they call a tip Trinkgeld, which similarly means “money to drink.” 

The moral of the story is you do not need to tip in France. The French do not require nor expect it.

If you feel particularly cared for or called to leave a tip, you may do so. But learning how to order your food in French will definitely be as appreciated by French servers as a tip would be.

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About Calli Zarpas

Calli Zarpas, blogger, producer, and content creator, is a lover of all things travel, wellness, and French. Having begun traveling in her teens, Calli visited 30 countries before settling down in France post-college. When she's not writing French-language content for French Learner or traveling the world, you can find Calli creating content for herself and others on InstagramTiktok, and her blog, Wooish.