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Tipping in Spain—how does it work?

Learn how tipping works in Spain and dispel any doubts when it comes time to pay your bill.

5 min read

In many countries around the world, tipping is regulated and mandatory. But how does it work in Spain? And what’s the recommended amount to leave as a tip? In this article, we answer these questions and more.

Many of us know the feeling: it’s been a great evening out, and the food and drinks couldn’t have been better. Then comes that awkward moment when the bill arrives. Who’s paying for what? What did we even order? And wait…how much do people tip in Spain?

Well, in the Spanish service sector, tipping isn’t entirely clear-cut. In some countries, such as the US, tipping is almost considered mandatory, with between 15% and 20% added to the bill. This money is intended to improve the modest salary earned by service workers. So, tipping culture in the US is straightforward enough, but what about in Spain? Is it mandatory? Or does it depend on the quality of the service by the waiters?

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When is it appropriate to tip?

It’s difficult to determine a general rule for tipping, since there’s no general consensus on this way of rewarding good service by waiters. When it comes to tipping regulations and typical percentages, the situation is different in practically every country.

But while the rules of tipping in Spain aren’t always clear, its etymological roots are obvious—at least to Spanish speakers. The Spanish word for tipping, “propina,” comes from the Greek verb pinó, which means to drink. This became propinó after the prefix “pro-” was added. Taken altogether, the word suggests the action of stretching out your arm and offering a drink to another person.

The word then continued to evolve into the Latin term propinare, which is the precursor to the Spanish word propina. Nowadays, the dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy defines propina as a small gratuity to reward good service.

How does tipping work in Spain? Is it expected?

Tipping in Spain works differently: The customer actually has the option to not leave any tip at all. However, restaurants expect a 10% tip on each bill—although it’s not a formal rule, and that percentage is much lower than tipping practices in other countries.

Because it’s not mandatory, most Spaniards decide whether or not to leave a tip based on the service they receive. But some restaurants may decide to add a service charge, so it’s a good idea to thoroughly review your bill before paying.

By the way: in places like China or Japan, tipping isn’t mandatory—in fact, it’s frowned upon and is actually considered a rude gesture!

How do staff share tips among themselves?

Since tipping in Spain isn’t regulated, businesses don’t follow a standard approach. Generally, there are two ways of divvying up tips:

  • Pooling—a common practice in small restaurants, where tips are shared equally among all employees, like waiters and kitchen staff. 
  • Sharing by percentages—more typical in larger restaurants where there are several specific roles (waiters, chefs, bartenders, hosts, etc.).

Tipping is often a sensitive issue among restaurant workers, as it really makes a difference to staff’s base salaries. Some waiters feel that it’s their good service in the dining room that earns the gratuities, and they aren’t happy to have to share the money with other staff. On the other hand, kitchen staff might insist that the best service in the world won’t make up for bad food.

Is it possible to leave a tip if you pay by card?

The short answer is yes: You can still leave a tip when paying by card. What’s more, there are several advantages for both you and the business:

  • You don’t have to calculate the amount. The payment terminal calculates the tip automatically. The gratuity percentage is added directly to the bill.
  • It’s convenient and practical. You don’t need to make sure you’re carrying cash for a tip.
  • It’s a reliable record for the business. Owners can reliably check the extra money that has been collected for the gratuity pool.
  • It’s easier to share the money among staff and avoid any money getting “lost.” When it comes to cash, coins and bills can be lost, but this can’t happen with electronic payments.

How much should you tip a delivery person? Which services should you tip?

In addition to the restaurant industry, tipping is common in other professions such as transport workers, tour guides, hotel staff, and home delivery workers.

Tipping standards are particularly unclear when it comes to delivery workers. But thanks to the rise of delivery apps, this kind of service is becoming more common. The unwritten rule is that the tip should be around 10% of the order value, just as in the restaurant industry.

The tip can be given in cash or added as an extra in the delivery app where you’ve placed your order.

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