With immediate effect I am going to switch my half-assed Favourite Things series of posts into a countdown of:
Top 25 Things I will Miss in London (or Great Britain or Europe for that matter)
They are pretty interchangeable anyway and ends of times call for countdowns. I am sure I could write a list of 1,000 things, and there are also plenty of things I will NOT miss, but it’s a good exercise for me to distill the life we love here into 25 top things. The only prerequisite is that they can’t be things that can be replicated easily in the US (so electric tea kettles, baked beans, great restaurants, great museums, great music, great culture, and Downton Abbey are excluded).
Here we go.
#25 the tipping culture
I remember after moving here how much it annoyed us that there wasn’t a service economy built solely around a rabid desire to extract as high a tip from the customer as possible. For us it was the reason service wasn’t great, and really the reason waiters didn’t try to become your best friends.
Over time I have made a pretty solid 180 degree turn in my thinking. It is incredibly pleasant to know people are just doing their jobs nicely and well because that’s their job and they get paid a normal salary for it (ideally a fair salary). Cab drivers are always elated and surprised when you tip a tiny bit more than nothing. Restaurant servers leave you alone to converse with the people you actually want to converse with. The cleaning lady, the hairdresser, the man who delivers things to your door – they are sometimes so surprised at a tip, it almost seems offensive to give one. I have less agita when I get my nails done or my eyebrows (I do love me some threading) and I don’t have to sweat in some corner trying to determine the right mathematical equation of my appreciation of the service multiplied by the latest fad percentage of tip divided by Pi, carry the 1. Most of all, I like paying the amount that is listed for something. With tax already included in the listed price, and often a service charge included or none expected at all, it will never stop being a novelty to pay the numbers that you see written. Exactly.
British people complain about service here. Europeans complain about service here. Americans complain about service here, especially when it takes 10 minutes to get a tiny glass of room-temperature tap water at a meal. But I will take it. I know where I am headed: New York. The center of the universe for unconscionable over-tipping. After your mean, smelly, dangerous, loud, and unintelligible cab driver gets you to your intended destination, he’ll berate you for not tipping over a 20% addition. Can’t wait.