Did You Know Tipping is Rude in Japan and China?

Posted on Monday, 24 July 2023

Whilst many of us are used to tipping in the UK, when it comes to travelling abroad, it can prompt some UK travellers to hurriedly look up the etiquette of giving gratuities in certain countries.

Should you tip? How much should you tip? Do taxi drivers expect it? What about bellboys?

It's worth finding out about a country's tipping culture (or lack of) before you fly out.


Tipping etiquette

Tipping etiquette is a common concern for travellers as customs can vary hugely by country.

In some nations tipping is very much expected, while in others, it is considered extremely rude.

Wondering in which countries is tipping seen as offensive? Read on to find out…


Tipping in Asia

Tipping expectations in South East Asia and the Far East can differ greatly.

When it comes to tipping in Asia. in most Asian countries tipping is not expected. However, if you receive exceptional service and want to leave a tip, you’ll generally find this to be appreciated.

There are however, a few countries that lay exception to this rule…


In what countries is it rude to tip in Asia?

If you’re planning a trip to Asia, it is good to know advance, the etiquette for tipping.

Whilst in much of Asia tipping is not expected, tipping is actually considered rude in the following countries:

  • Japan
  • China
  • South Korea

A survey by TravelBag revealed two thirds of UK holidaymakers did not know it was rude to tip in Japan, while almost 80 per cent of those surveyed were unaware the Chinese could also take offence to the practice.

There are some scenarios in China however, whereby it wouldn’t be considered rude to tip.


But why is it rude to tip in some countries?...

Waitress in restaurant

Tipping in Japan

Tipping in Japan is not customary.

Indeed, as stated in many Japan travel guide, attempting to tip staff can be offensive.

If you do try and tip in Japan, you will find in most cases that the tip is politely refused as tipping is not part of the Japanese culture and not expected. Simply thanking the staff for their service is deemed appropriate enough.


Why is tipping rude in Japan?

It is in the Japanese culture to take pride in your work. As such, employees have the highest standards when supplying a service and don’t feel the need to accept tips to feel appreciated.

To the Japanese, attempting to give a tip suggests their employer does not value them enough to offer sufficient pay.


Tipping in China: Is it rude to tip in China?

Just as in Japan, it is not customary to tip in China.

Tipping in China is generally uncommon and can even be considered rude or embarrassing in some circumstances so when taking a taxi, enjoying a refreshing drink or tucking into a delicious meal there’s no requirement to leave any gratuities.

Gratuity is even illegal in airports and some establishments in China!

Tip in restaurant in China

When is tipping appropriate in China?

However, there are a few exceptions to the rule, where tipping is likely to be expected in China:

  • Tour guides & drivers - In China, it is expected that you give a tip both to your tour guide and your vehicle driver.
  • High-end China restaurants - Tips in the high-end restaurants in the big cities of China are seen to be acceptable. It’s important to look carefully at your receipt, though as sometimes a gratuity is already added.

Gifting in China

If you opt to present someone with a gift of appreciation, don’t be offended if they leave this to one side unopened.

Whilst gifts are very common in Chinese culture, opening gifts in front of the giver is actually considered rude,

Remember, use both hands for giving and receiving. 

How to tip in China

Whenever you choose to leave a tip, never wave your money around or in general make a big deal out the fact that you are leaving a tip. Doing so is considered bad manners and is perceived that you are more important than the person serving you.

Leaving a tip in Thailand

Tipping in Hong Kong, tipping in Macau & tipping in Taiwan

Because these areas of China have heavy western influence, most tipping rules still apply.

Eating out? Don’t tip

When eating out in restaurants in Hong Kong or Taiwan, you can expect that there will be a 10-15% service charge added to your bill. Therefore, there is no need to leave a tip.

Tips at your hotel?

Tipping in hotels in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan is not expected, with the bellman or porter being the exception.

You are not expected to tip your housekeeper, but if you are happy with your housekeeping services and would like to tip your housekeeper, your gesture will be appreciated. Alternatively, you may choose to give them a small gift of appreciation instead.

Should I tip a taxi driver?

Taxi drives do not expect to be tipped in Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan. However, it is customary to round up your fare to an even number and let them keep the change.


Tipping in South East Asia

In Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia for example, tips are often welcomed, though not required. In some jobs, however - such as working in bars - tips do augment otherwise low wages.


Do your research: When to tip in Asia

Spending twenty minutes researching a destination's local customs could pay big dividends once you arrive - and save many blushing faces.

Here are a few service-related things to research, to know when to tip during your holiday or overseas business trip.

  • restaurants
  • hotel staff
  • taxi’s
  • tour guides
  • Spa and resort staff
  • Hotel cleaning crew
  • Bellhops
  • hairdressers and barbers

It’s also worth researching where to get the best deal on your foreign currency, to ensure you get the most from your holiday money, to cover those tips and your spending.


Top travel etiquette tips

As well as knowing when tipping in Asia, or other destinations is appropriate, having an understanding of acceptable behaviours can also be of benefit.

Slurping Noodles

Etiquette in Japan: Top tips

  • Slurping your noodles is OK - it shows you are enjoying them
  • Take off your shoes before entering temples and Japanese homes
  • Don't cross your chopsticks - or leave them upended in your rice (this is only done when rice is offered to the spirit of a dead person, or in other funeral-related rites)
  • If you're offered tea or another drink - accept it

Etiquette tips for trips to China

  • Use your whole hand to gesture at someone or something – Don’t point
  • Never leave your chopsticks upright in food
  • It’s ok to burp in China

Heading to China on a business trip? Here's 11 tips for a successful business trip to China.

Trips to Asia can often result in jet lag. Be prepared with these 9 ways to cope with jet lag.

Heading to one of the other popular destinations for UK holidays? Find out more about tipping etiquette in Spain, France, USA, Italy and Ireland.

Get a Quote