Tipping is one of life’s conundrums. Wherever you travel in the world, there is always that awkward moment when you’re not 100% sure whether you should leave a tip or not. Here in New Zealand, tipping is definitely not expected in any sector but like most places, if you receive some truly outstanding service, a tip will definitely always be appreciated.
In this post, we carry out a quick rundown of when and where you might like to leave a tip and also talk about the reasons why tipping is not a huge part of the culture here in New Zealand.
Why is tipping not customary in New Zealand?
The first thing to say here is that whilst tipping is not customary, it’s still a very nice gesture and one that will be appreciated by anyone in the service industry here in New Zealand. The reason tipping is not a huge part of the culture is because we have a very fair wage system here in New Zealand. At the time of writing (27 July 2021), we have three types of minimum wage here in New Zealand – adult, starting out and training. The adult minimum wage is currently $20.00 an hour before tax if you’re 16 years or older.
So, if you’re over 16 years old and you have been employed in the same role for more than 6 months, you are guaranteed $20.00 per hour, no matter what sector you work in. Compared to other countries around the world, this represents a very good wage within the service industry (for comparison, this would be the equivalent of US$13.99, GBP10.12 or AUD$18.96 per hour). Staff don’t typically rely on tips to ‘make up’ for a lower base salary so there is not the same expectation.
Tipping in restaurants and bars
Whether you are eating at the local bar or in a fancy restaurant on Auckland’s viaduct, your wait staff will not expect a tip. For many customers, if they receive exceptional service, you might be inclined to leave a tip and 10% would be considered a very good tip here in New Zealand – one which would indicate you had received outstanding service.
Typically, in local restaurants and bars, you might find a tips jar on the counter or bar and many customers will drop in their loose change or possibly a $5 or $10 note if they have received good service all night. These tips then get shared out between all the staff working that night including the kitchen and bar staff who may not necessarily interact directly with the customer.
Tipping a bartender
In the US in particular, tipping your bartender is very much expected. Here in New Zealand, it would be very unusual to tip your bartender. Whilst bartenders undoubtedly do a great job, they will often form part of the team working on the night which includes table staff and kitchen staff so they will appreciate any tips left in the staff tips jar.
Another sector where there is often some confusion is hairdressing. In some countries, it is customary to tip your hairdresser (sometimes whether they have done a good job or not). Here is New Zealand, hairdressing is a professional trade and most hairdressing salons will pay their hairdressers accordingly. There is certainly no expectation of a tip, although you will occasionally find a tips jar sitting on the counter. If you have had the best haircut of your life, feel free to leave a small tip but it is not expected.
Like hairdressing, guiding here in New Zealand is a profession which people train hard for an are usually paid according to their experience and expertise. Tours can be expensive in the first place and your guide will customarily be paid according to the price of the tour. It is unusual for people to tip guides here in New Zealand although of course, with so many international visitors to the country, it’s not uncommon for visitors from overseas to tip their guide. These tips may sometimes be turned down – not out of disrespect, but because it’s not part of the culture.
Continuing the trend, there is no expectation to tip your taxi driver here in New Zealand. Ridesharing apps like Uber have actually made this cultural awkwardness much easier as all payments are handled directly in the app, however, if you do find yourself paying with cash for a taxi, don’t feel you need to leave a tip. Sometimes, people will round up simply to make the payment easier. If your taxi ride costs $8.10 for example, you may just round up to $9 to save ending up with lots of change in your pocket.
Taking service above and beyond
Sometimes there are occasions when the person serving you – whether it’s in a restaurant, getting your haircut or grabbing a taxi somewhere – when the person just goes above and beyond what is expected.
You might be running late for an appointment and a taxi driver knows a short cut that gets you there on time. It might be a special occasion and your wait staff goes the extra mile to make the night extra special. Whatever the situation, you can always leave a tip here in New Zealand when you feel you have received some exceptional service. If in doubt, however, don’t feel bad if you don’t leave one – no one will chase you down the street!
Updated: 27 July 2021