The shortest answer is: No, you don’t have to tip in restaurants, here in Spain, and no nobody will feel offended if you don’t, but (yes, there is always a “but”):
1. Leaving behind a small change to round up to the nearest Euro makes sense (doesn’t it?)
2. I always tip – not 15 or 20% , but if I am happy with the service, I like to show my appreciation.
However, it’s totally voluntary.
I’ve just realized that very few really know what exactly means “Tip”. So, before going further with answering Shakespearean question “To pay or not to pay” let’s first make us aware of what the tip was originally standing for.
The word “tip” has many meanings, however the one we would like to talk about is an abbreviation and stands for “To Insure Promptness”. Tipping was invented in Medieval England (sorry my Greek friends, it turns out that not everything in this world has Hellenic roots :-). In practice, “tipping” means to give someone who has provided you with a good service an extra amount of money as the expression of appreciation.
If we can somehow go back to Medieval times, we may be able to visualize rightfulness of such action. At those times “things” were not happening at the touch of a switch or key on our computers (as we got used to in our times). Most likely a chicken ordered for the meal in a lonely Inn in the middle of nowhere, was still “quite alive” and running around. What did not change however much compared to our times was the fact that those “on the road” did not have much time to wait. That is why an extra effort (and promptness) from the Inn’s staff was highly appreciated!
Unfortunately, the original idea behind the TIP got somehow lost these days. In some countries like for example in US, TIPs do not anymore serve the original purpose. Instead, due to the fact that most waiters live on minimum wage (sometimes even below that level), the tips became the main part of their salary. And it’s sad, because regardless of their personal effort as well as restaurant’s “culinary achievements” and cleanness (or lack of them), in a feeling of empathy (in fact – of necessity) more or less gladly, but certainly customarily we offer some 10% to 15% tip. Unfortunately, things event went that far, that some gastronomical outlets are adding on their own the 15% tip to the final bill in a way forcing us to “appreciate” what actually may be far from our expectations. Well, some are counting on the fact that the customer will not realize it and eventually on top of this “mandatory tip” will add an extra one. Undoubtedly, such practice completely distorted the original idea.
In many other countries (especially in Europe), things are quite different. While certainly waiters are not making fortunes, typically their basic salaries give them chance to live “normal” life (if there is anything that we may call “Normal life”). In other words, their livelihood does not depend on tips. However, it does not mean, that in Europe (and in this case in Spain) suddenly we should forget the gratitude towards those serving us. An extra effort, smile and patience combined with great culinary pleasures always deserve our gratitude in my opinion. It’s an approach valid all over the world, and certainly in Spain, where eating out is a part of the Mediterranean lifestyle.
Well, certainly a lot of things changed since the time when the tip-ing was introduced in England, but the need for gratitude in our more and more commercialized society was never more evident. So, if we can learn something from the “Fathers of TIPs” let it be our gentlemen’s behavior. Yes, words of praise are welcomed, but as we all well-know, the pragmatic approach expressed by “show me the money” has also its merits.
So, ”Buen provecho” (Enjoy your meal) when in Valencia and let’s others to enjoy their let’s face it – demanding job!