How To Not Be A $h*!!y Tipper As An International Student In The US

Every country has its own customs and traditions. They have different ways of interacting and behaving with one another. Unwritten rules that you are expected to abide by. Tipping in the US can be extremely overwhelming. Do I tip my barista? Do I tip at Subway? Do I tip everybody that provides a service to me? How much do I tip? What if I don’t have any cash? It’s a lot. But we’re here to help make it a little easier.

Restaurants. The standard tipping amount for sit down restaurants in the US is 20%. I know for a lot of international students that seems very high but you have to understand – servers in the US tend to make less than $3 an hour so their take home pay is mostly made out of tips. Don’t be cheap.

Coffee Shops. You don’t have to tip your barista. But it’s always nice to tip your barista. If you buy a $4 coffee then 20% is $0.80.

Fast Casual. Whenever you go to “grab and go” type of restaurants like Chipotle or Panera where you don’t necessarily have a server, it’s hard to determine whether you should tip or not. In most cases, especially at larger chains, tipping is not expected (and sometimes there won’t even be a tip line on your receipt). If you’re at a smaller local place and want to tip for extraordinary service, you can.

Juice Bars. My favorite juice bar in Nashville uses an iPad with Square on it where the tipping amounts are broadcasted to everyone around you. It’s easy to feel the pressure to not be a horrible person in public and select $0. I normally tip $1 on a $7 juice.

Ice Cream Shops. It gets really overwhelming when you have an ice cream cone in one hand and are trying to pay with the other. There’s mixed reviews on this one so I will leave it as – up to you!

Valet. You should always definitely tip your valet. In fact, if I don’t have any cash I will not valet my car. It’s standard to give the tip to the attendant that brings your car back. $3-5 tip is normal but you can tip more if the weather conditions are bad.

Hair/Nail Salon. 15-20% is standard but I know it’s hard to want to pay an extra $30 for $150 highlights so it’s okay to stay on the low end of that range.

Again, tipping is always up to you and what you can and cannot afford. But always know that many workers in the service industry make their money on tips. Imagine how much it would suck to spend 1.5 hours serving a table for two where you only end up with a $5 tip. And of course, it’s always okay to ask! When I doubt, I always ask the person at the register , “what is standard”? If I will be coming back to that same place in the future, I don’t want to be remembered as a lousy tipper.

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