Unlike the US, Hong Kong staff are on a salary that isn’t set artificially low with the expectation it will be bumped up by tips. This salary is built into the cost of your food, drinks or whatever other service you are using.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of how much you should tip and where it’s important to mention face. This is a cultural element present in much of the world but especially important in Asia. Essentially it involves respect and making sure that you don’t cause anyone you interact with to lose face by your actions.
Face is too large a concept to dive into in an article about tipping but suffice to say that it does mean that you shouldn’t wave money around in front of anyone you are tipping or make a big deal of the tip generally. This highlights the fact that you are more important that the person serving you and is considered extremely bad manners.
Tipping in restaurantsMost restaurants in Hong Kong will slap an extra 10% service charge on to your bill. This is usually flagged in the menu and you don’t really need to contribute more than this 10%. That said, if the service really has been excellent, drop a few more notes above the service charge as that’s the only way to ensure that your actual server gets the reward for their hard work rather than the company.
Tipping in bars and pubsIt’s not expected to leave a tip in a bar or pub unless you are seated and receiving table service from a waitress. If you are, you will, as at restaurants, usually find 10% added on to the bill as a service charge. Leave more if you receive excellent service.
Tipping your taxi/cab driverTaxi or cab drivers don’t expect to be tipped but it is the norm to leave any small change. So if the ride comes to HK$46.30 and you pay with a HK$50 it’s customary to leave the change.
Tipping in the bathroom
One of the more unexpected places to find yourself reaching for coins is hotel and upscale restaurant bathrooms. In a slice of the roaring twenties, several Hong Kong establishments continue to have attendants in bathrooms ready to hand you towels to dry your hands and douse you in a mist of aftershave or perfume.
It’s customary to offer these attendants at least a few coins for the service although those unfamiliar with this level of contact inside a bathroom may go screaming for the door before they can reach for their pockets.
The Lai See tipsSomething that is more unusual for tourists is the custom of Lai See. These small red packets stuffed with fresh bank notes are given out at Chinese New Year to family members but also to security guards, receptionists, hairdressers and anybody else who provides you a regular service. It’s sort of a yearly tip for services received.
There are some rules on giving, based on age and marital status, as well as guidance on how much you should give. Read our full guide to giving Lai See to find out more.