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Steve Douglas

Tipping is in the culture

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In my 5 visits to PNG, gratuities were as welcomed and maybe even as expected as they are at Del Frisco's in Dallas.

 

 

I'm not at all surprised - everywhere that tourists habitually tip, local people in that area will get used to it and start to expect it. But this is a case where we tourists have modified the local culture, and if we're not in the resort or on the liveaboard then giving a gratuity can be viewed very differently than in the little slice of America that we have grafted onto the local culture.

 

Exactly the same thing has happened in New Zealand - waiters and other workers in large international hotels have become accustomed to Americans tipping and now expect it, even though they're paid sensible wages.

 

I just don't see this as a positive outcome, that's all.

 

Richard.

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"I'm not at all surprised - everywhere that tourists habitually tip, local people in that area will get used to it and start to expect it. But this is a case where we tourists have modified the local culture, and if we're not in the resort or on the liveaboard then giving a gratuity can be viewed very differently than in the little slice of America that we have grafted onto the local culture."

 

Respectfully I disagree. Tourists cannot modify the local culture. They can only create exposure that the local culture either accepts, denies or in some form makes an accord with. It is totally encumbent upon the local culture to determine what they find acceptable and what they find unacceptable. This is precisely what defines a standard of behavior as a cultural. The world has gone flat. The ends of the world are no longer distant or culturally uncontested, and you cannot blame the visitor for what the local culture determines to assimilate.

 

I also don't believe you can treat any country or peoples as duty-bound to live your interpretation of what their culture should be or remain as. Unless your name is George Bush ;)

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I also don't believe you can treat any country or peoples as duty-bound to live your interpretation of what their culture should be or remain as. Unless your name is George Bush ;)

 

Bingo Manaul! It's not the interpretation of the local culture, it's the intrusiveness of tipping culture. I'm not saying tree people should stay in the trees for eg. It's the fact that knowing where your money goes and how it affects the local attitude vs blindly giving money thinking the "market' will sort itself out.

The lack of local cultural sensitivity is the point. As flykiwi said, some cultures don't like tipping and is seen as an insult. Big tips by foreigners "who have more" also make it difficult for local customers to keep up, making a distinct level of service between locals and foreigners (prime example: I've seen resorts feed the foreigners who pay more and tip more with better food than the locals). Many places I've been to over the years have changed because of heavy gratuities from certain countries. Where it use to be a great thing to serve with a smile, now more than a few places ask for the tip because you're an american and is expected. And other tourists get the cold treatment because they're not american.

Ever seen kids beg for money in the streets and fight over what is given? Yet tourists continue to give cos they feel like bettering their lives, feel better etc. It's none of our business how the local culture evolves, but it is our business how we give our money.

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I do find the tipping culture a little onerous irrespective of which part of the world it is in.

 

Coming from a non tipping culture I have found having a tip bucket placed in front of you when settling an account on a boat is down right offensive, if not insensitive to someones position.

 

I was recently on a boat where each passenger had a short thankyou note along with an empty envelope from the Captain and crew placed on their bed at turndown on the final evening - at least it was discrete.

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"some cultures don't like tipping and is seen as an insult."

 

I have seen that comment made 4 or 5 times here so far and I do not know which cultures it is, that provide diving services as a form of business, you are referring to.

 

Where is it you have been where tipping the crew on the boat, or the workers at the dive resort, the photo pro who helped you out of a bind, or the workers who toted your bags was seen as an insulting, offensive act?

 

It seems to me, because of the fusion between wages and tips upon which the entire scuba destination industry from the beginning has been premised, and that includes the PNGs, the Vanuatus, the Solomons etc., that the contrary is closer to the truth.

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Manaul

What I'm saying is there is a bigger picture of local culture besides just the dive industry in any particular place. Tipping is a cultural trait. It allows someone to show gratitude for some special service in certain cultures.

However in the general culture of say southern western pacific islands, tipping is seen as an insult. They just do their jobs. The Ozzies and Kiwis don't have a huge tipping culture and they've been the backbone of the dive industry in that area. They are not tipped a standard 10-15% by the general tourists. That only occurs with a certain few nationalities.

Gratuity is a cultural thing. It's just nicer to be sensitive to the local cultural system of gratuity giving, that is what I've been saying. More isn't always better.

As for which countries with diving have I seen my tip looked at with a certain amount of disdain (and yes it was ample enough)?

Indonesia, Thailand, PNG, Mozambique, Tanzania and Australia to name a few. Many times, doing a good job is reward enough (now where that credo came from is another cultural issue) ;)

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We dropped into a pub for a meal the other lunch time and the serviced was non intrusive and prompt. the food was good and the beer was excellent.

 

The bill came (£22) and we paid by credit card without thinking of adding a tip because we always do that in cash...

 

Horror of horrors the only cash we had was 5 pence :D

 

I felt really bad as it was all so good and the pretty young waitress even gave us idea's about what to do in the area we were visiting.

 

I went to the bar and told her our situation, but she said not to worry it was not compulsary and she was glad we enjoyed our meal. Then she joked that she'd have to stay in and eat her cats food tonight ;)

 

Dive safe

 

DeanB

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"What I'm saying is there is a bigger picture of local culture besides just the dive industry in any particular place."

 

I understand that as well as the remainder of your comments, but I was speaking to, and I thought you understood, the suggestion premised on the scuba workers made earlier in this subject. There are two different issues and the discussion becomes somewhat muddled if the distance is not maintained.

 

On the subject of tipping as an ugly American behavior, the non-American may want to consider that "our" culture is one of personal largesse. We are raised to be unreliant on the system. So as opposed to some countries where the social mechanisms are the source of some relief, assistence ownership or care, and everyone shares in the same bounty, we live in an "eat what you kill" environment and if you have a mind and a heart you recognize the inequality this impresses on a fair number in our society.

 

In my opinion our government gives very little to others, but as individuals we give in high multiples that which Washington allows to leave the US coffers. It's just the way we do it. And it is why so many independent relief, assist and medical agencies work the US population so fervently. From this is borne the notion of personal largesse and tipping is a rather natural extension.

 

It is not the same kind of giving, but rather a sharing borne of the same personal dynamic. It is quite natural and unassuming for us to share in this way. So while it appears to some on this forum that tipping is an arrogant gesture, I think it is important to understand our culture and how the entire concept of remuneration and giving is seen. For us gratuities are somewhat a cultural responsibilty, rather than some indicator of our desire to haughty and superior posturing.

 

Yes, our habit of tipping must be applied appropriately or appropriately held back, but within a situation where tips are inoffensive I see nothing wrong with the American desire to leave some money along with their bubbles. And i see nothing wrong with an Asian, European or New Zealander leaving nothing if that's their choice.

 

Honestly, it sometimes appears to me that the suggestion it was always offensive anywhere and everywhere outside the United States, until we came along and sullied the local culture is something of an excuse.

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I believe that the trick to tipping is to give the amount that is customary in that place. Too much is as bad as too little. I was once so pleased with the efforts of a little boy who cleaned my shoes (renovated might be a better word) in Instanbul that I gave him $10 tip. He looked at it, snatched it and ran leaving his cleaning kit behind. Why? Because he was pursued by his colleagues who probably beat him to a pulp in order to take it from him.

Largesse can often cause unhappiness. However, if you want to send some dollars to my children, please feel free - although I might snatch it from them!

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;) John, that's a good one. This is one subject I fear is more controversial than digital vs film, superman vs the hulk or worse canon vs nikon. As for pilfering from your kids, my father always kept money I was given by other adults... I haven't seen a single cent yet!

 

Yes, our habit of tipping must be applied appropriately or appropriately held back, but within a situation where tips are inoffensive I see nothing wrong with the American desire to leave some money along with their bubbles.

 

Manaul, that's all I've been saying.Being culturally aware is something that is lacking in many cultures, plenty to pick on, tipping just happens to be the subject of the day. And I personally believe that the onus of learning the local culture is not the locals but the tourist's burden.

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"Largesse can often cause unhappiness."

 

Nah, only the improper application of it can....as your example indicates. It doesn't appear the act of tipping was at fault, but rather the amount for the locale it was given in. And recognizing when a tip is appropriate is part and parcel of recognizing what amount is neither harmful nor offensive.

 

Why were you tipping in greenbacks by the way?

 

"However, if you want to send some dollars to my children, please feel free - although I might snatch it from them!"

 

You wouldn't expect me to believe that an Englishman who throws dollars around Turkey like a Culture-Slayer from the US would, doesn't provide the same generosity to his own :D

 

Besides, I keep being told that no culture other than the deviant one I live in, has any regard or acceptance for expressions of giving or appreciation in the form of money.

 

Perhaps I could instead send some pencils, paper and crayons? ;)

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"And I personally believe that the onus of learning the local culture is not the locals but the tourist's burden."

 

It is the comment above that illuminates my difference of opinion.

 

I believe that cultures which invite visitors and tourists have an obligation to not change their beliefs and cultures, but to have a patience with those who cannot possibly injest centuries of cultural mores disparate from those in which they live and were raised. For sure we must make every attempt to learn what is appropriate and to act thusly, but unless one believes we impose ourselves on these countries, towns ,villages and societies univited and largely unwanted, to suggest that they have no understanding and patience is to sell them far to short of the graciousness I have experienced almost anywhere I have been.

 

In 2002 I visited the East African Savanah to run for a few days with the Masai. They are, without a doubt, the most culturally rigid society I have ever been with or around. No one else in my experience compares. But my every faux pas was met with neither humor, which would have been rude in their sense, or taken as an offense. They understood I didn't and couldn't know it all. In most cases I came to be told they overlooked them, but in some I was advised of the difficulty it presented with a wave of a hand or a shake of the head. But they understood intent, and recognized mine was not to offend and therefore they were gracious in the face of my impolitic actions.

 

If the Masai understand patience when a visitor like myself is in error with their culture, well.. I simply believe that within reason that is what a host country/culture does.

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Manaul, I'm fully aware of where your opinion is from. And I respect that. Nor is it my business to convince you otherwise. This discussion brings out very interesting points about travelling to foreign places.

To expect someone to overlook cultural faux pas because they are making money off those misinformed people can be perceived as insensitive or even rude, in fact very GW. Then there's the reason why many of us travel to other places in the first place, to see and experience different land, culture and people. What's so hard about reading a bit about the culture, esp in common things like greetings, gestures and even tipping? It broadens the mind and makes the locals feel like their culture means something to someone other than themselves. To say the foreign culture is too intricate to fathom for whatever reason is trite and , as you put it, too convenient an excuse.

You are right, however, that being in the business of tourism, host countries must take the bad ugly tourist with the good. I just want to be one of the good ones. ;)

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To say the foreign culture is too intricate to fathom for whatever reason is trite and , as you put it, too convenient an excuse.

You are right, however, that being in the business of tourism, host countries must take the bad ugly tourist with the good. I just want to be one of the good ones. ;)

 

When I have traveled to a place for the first time I am never, ever, completely in tune with each and very local custom or social more. I try, but it has proven quite impossible to cover it all. If stating that as the truth seems trite or convenient to you, well I'll just allow your insult to stand.

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Manaul

I apologize if you took my opinion to be an insult directed at you. It's not meant to be anything but a statement of my take of cultural awareness, which I feel very strongly about. It is of course impossible to be knowledgeable in all the local social norms. That said, finding out simple things like greetings, tipping and major dos and don'ts, like dress codes etc, BEFORE going to a place, goes a long way in discovering the local culture and also showing the respect to the hosts in each respective country and culture.

I'm sure you'll agree that isn't too much trouble for the privilege of visiting another country. As was said before, the dive industry may have multinational roots but in the end you are in another country where tips may not always be a simple percentage but requires a bit more research and understanding, which isn't always easy to do.

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Moved to Dive Destinations forum.

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Being originally English I used to be more reluctant to tip than I am now. It was not that I was being mean, just it never really crossed my mind unless I received exceptional service or it was a memorable experience.

 

Now I work in the service sector of diving tourism the boot is on the other foot and my atitude has changed. I nearly always leave a tip unless the service is so terrible I leave vowing never to return again! I even tipped the guy servicing my truck the other day because he went out of his way whilst doing the job.

 

The DMs that work for us get about US$40 per day which is a good rate of pay for Belize but they do appreciate being tipped and will work hard to try an earn that tip. Often I hear complaints from them about this or that nationality never tipping but I try to remind them that it is a gratuity and should not be expected every time.

 

Most usually we get US$20 per couple for a days diving which is split between captain and DM. There is never any tension about it so long as it all kept up front and no one is seen to be hoarding the tips.

 

We used to service a cruise ship visited this area once a week. The tipping was low to non existant, once one of the guests actually tipped me 5 mexcan pesos (about $0.50)! I was quite suprised to recieve foreign currency (we have Bze $ here) and the value was almost an insult but I smiled and said thanks. We often relive the moment at the end of a day over a beer!

 

One final thing, I recomend tipping to be in cash (US$ or local currency), adding it to the bill and putting it on your credit card usually means the intended recipient will not get it. It's not that the operator or hotel is trying to steal the money it's just an accounting nightmare to make sure it all goes to the correct person.

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I am British and grew up with a real no tipping policy, I changed my attitude once I started to travel, then even more when I was in the service industry myself.

 

Many of the places divers go to, are places where the dive crews rarely get a decent wage for the work and time they put in for servicing divers. Consider the amount of hours that a crew puts in a live aboard dive vessel. There are always crew on hand to help, well always on the boats that I work with anyway! These live aboard crews really do work hard. What I say, is if the boat you are on, resort you at, is clean, the service you receive is good, like no need lifting of your own dive gear etc, if you have a very helpful crew, then the tipping should be worth what you think it is worth, there should never be any set tipping fee. I mean what if the service is bad, why should you feel you should tip - simple don't tip at all - tell the manager, cruise director or who ever you need to that you are not tipping due to the poor service, no problem! I would never be offended if a group had a valid issue over not being serviced well enough! If it was on one my trips I would quickly realise that things have been slack and need to get my act together and fast. I fact I have even recommended that a group give little tips as a result of a really poor crew I once led a trip on, I told the crew why they would not be receiving a good tip as well.

 

Tipping is something that is personal, something which shows your gratitude for the service you have had. Your tip should be based on the quality of the service given to you on that particular trip. For me, if the crew I am working with work well, I am happy, if I am happy the guests are always happy. This shows, as the groups I have taken have always tipped the crews very well indeed. I have been told by local crews in Indonesia, that they too enjoy my trips, because we all have fun and yes the divers who join tip well because they have just had a fantastic well serviced dive trip.

 

So what is good tip for an Asian dive crew? This should never be based on their monthly wage, this is just keeping the locals down, the live aboard industry over here is already trying to set dive crew wage standards and this really bugs me. I know many operators over here who will not even give their top local dive guides a fair wage for what he does. If we all have this really shit attitude towards Asian people they are never going to progress. I think it is often the Great White Warrior, colonialist attitudes that hold back many Asians from progressing. I think if you get great service on your trip, then depending on what you paid for your trip $10/day or 10% of your trip price sounds like an OK tip, more is obviously great!

 

Here is a note to some of the pro’s and divers who go free of charge out there, “you too should be tippingâ€! Yes I have seen professionals not leaving a tip at all, even some who went along for free, had the same service as other guests and never left anything at all -- very sad indeed! Gladly this has not happened on any trips of mine recently, these incidents happened while I was working for other operators. And please don’t promise to send things as a tip for the crew if you don’t actually plan on doing it. How many times I have heard that one, I too have been told I was going to be sent books in return for my service tip… I’d prefer be given a brief letter of thanks, or even just nice comments in the comments book rather than bullshit! Now I have my own business I don’t need or expect tips. When I lead trips with local guides, I ask that the guide tip is given to the guides and not to me!

 

I also think that there are many times when the guide should be tipped separately, especially if the guide stays with you during dives, finds you and brings you to see his latest find, educates you after dives and helps with general service as well. Why should the office person receive your tips as well, why should the owner be taking your tips? Yes! I know for a fact that this happens over here. I know it is a team, though I think the reason you just had great diving was mainly due to the guide who showed you all that cool stuff. If the food was outstanding mention it and maybe tell the cruise director you want to give the chef a separate tip. If there is one crew member who you think was outstanding at service -- not just the one who sat and chatted with you most – ask about giving them a separate tip!

 

Next time you go diving, ask about the tipping policy, do the owners or office staff take part of your tip? I know this happens, no names mentioned, though just ask where your tip is going before you hand it over! I know of groups who have gone against the usual tipping policy and gave tips direct to the crew as they found out about poor tipping policies.

 

I definitely agree not to tip with your credit card, the crew will probably never see this tip!

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a reasonnable tip is ok if service provided is within the expectation or better. but the "Amercian-Percentage-Tipping-Policy" is rather awkward IMHO, especially on a liveaboard trip. I recently was on a 10 day palau trip for $3000 and a tip of $450 (15%) is way out of realism and none of the guests did so. I never pay a tip of 15% e.g. on a Hilton or other hotel charge, except for the service provided during eating in the restaurant.

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But then you're swiss. :D

I think $450 for 10 days of good service, whether it's 10%, 15% or whatever, is a bargain.

I assume it's divided up between 4-6 people at least - wow, $75 -$100 per person for good or great service for 10 days, maybe adding $7-10 per day per person (less than a dollar an hour), quite reasonable I think, even if there are 12-16 passengers on the trip.

In general service industry folks are paid less than those in retail etc, and retail folks usually have an opportunity to earn commissions.

I'm all for others earning as much money as possible as long as I got my value in return.

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I am British and grew up with a real no tipping policy, I changed my attitude once I started to travel, then even more when I was in the service industry myself.
Graham, I went back and read this entire thread so I had some idea of it's origins as well as evolution. I hate to be the one who tells you this but according to some who have posted here, you my man, are inciting the systematic breakdown and eventual total destruction of Indonesian society. You should be quartered for even suggesting that an expression of gratitude, premised in currency, could in any way be, in terms of cultural integrity,......nominal.

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This is a really interesting thread. I grew up American, and thus I tip 15% in restaurants and 10% on dive boats, but I really hate the fact that a tip is not really a tip, and if you tip less than whatever the expected % is, then you're marked as "cheap."

 

There are some more issues that I like to think about:

 

1) in some countries, employees are actually paid for their hard work. they work hard, even though they don't get a tip.

 

2) some week-long trips cost $1500, and some cost $4500. is the crew of a $4500 trip working harder than the crew of a $1500 trip? maybe. maybe not. why do I tip the first crew $150 and the second $450?

 

3) on many boats, the crew gets really nice on the last 2 days of the charter. it's obvious that they're sucking up for tips, but i don't like this because it's transparent.

 

#2 in particular is a big issue. Tipping $450 for a 1-week trip is ridiculous, in my opinion, unless you managed to bag that amazing shot that is going to make you famous. I tend to tip around 10%, but I push tips on lower-cost trips up and tips on higher-cost trips down. It's difficult for me to tip more than $300 on a 1-week trip. That is about max for me, and it has to be an excellent trip for me to tip that much.

 

I'm basing this on 1-week trips, and it has to be scaled for shorter and longer trips, obviously.

 

I'd much rather have crew paid for their hard work by the people who run the operation. You know how hard your crew is working. Why push the burden onto your clients, most of whom are just out to have a good time? You're stressing everyone out. That last day, everyone is asking, "how much do I tip??". Some operators put in working like, "we suggest a 15% tip," but I've even seen this on trips that cost $4000 for a week, and 15% of that is ridiculous.

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liveaboard i used to work on had a note that we would give to guests suggesting a 5-10% tip.

 

Costs on the boats ranged from $2300 to $2600 per week on the different locations.

 

A good tip was $200, an average tip was $150, a low end was $100, a really good tip that made everyone happy was $250 or more.

 

A European typically left $50 or less... :D not pointing that out to be rude, but as the title states, its in the culture and thats the way it was.

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3) on many boats, the crew gets really nice on the last 2 days of the charter. it's obvious that they're sucking up for tips, but i don't like this because it's transparent.

 

As a former liveaboard crew member i think (and hope) that this is not true in the majority of cases. Firstly, in my experience what often happens is on the last night of a charter the crew have a few drinks with the guests, and a few more with the rest of the crew after the guest have gone to bed, and if the vessel runs back to back they usually start the next charter with a sore head and a lot of cleaning to do! :D

 

I also think in a lot of cases that the crew are more sociable at around halfway through the week because they are adapting to the dynamics of different groups- week 1 might be a bunch of British divers, week 2 Russian, week 3 American. Also, iit can often be quite difficult to change gears from an older, quiet group who have travelled together for 5-10 years to group of enthusiastic photographers who have just met for the first time the next.

 

Crew members who don't take pictures underwater may not have a clue what we're talking about between dives, especially if there's a bunch of photogs - they might just leave you to it for the first few days and then try to get to know you after the ice has been broken over meals etc. I know for sure that when i go on diving trips these days i am messing about changing lenses and stuff between dives, so i look very busy all day, much to the amusement of the crew.

 

That said, if a specific crew member didn't make any effort to eat with the guests, talk to them between dives or do anything remotely service oriented and they suddenly appear start to be your best friend on the last day then there is clearly something wrong there.

 

We all have bad days/weeks in the office due to lots of varying circumstances, but i think overall the dive guides out there love their jobs, and meeting new and interesting people, and certainly don't do the job for the tips.

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As a former liveaboard crew member i think (and hope) that this is not true in the majority of cases.

Yes, you're right, of course, and I'm not trying to generalize across the entire industry. I was only trying to say that I've seen it happen, and it would all be much easier if it didn't have to be the case that tips were so important in the lives of crew...

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