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Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

How to Tip While Traveling in Japan

Traveling overseas is an exciting adventure that allows you to experience first hand some of the most amazing and colorful cultures of the world. However, while traveling you may find that some of the everyday customs of the United States become difficult and confusing, such as tipping. Every country, Japan included, has their own traditions when it comes to gratuity, so be prepared before you fly.

Forget your American expectations about gratuity while traveling in Japan, as wait staff, taxis and hotel attendants do not expect a tip. Many Westernized hotels and restaurants may add gratuity to the bill, however you might find the wait staff running after your if you leave cash on the table, as they will most commonly believe you forgot your change.

Look for small envelopes in your hotel room, particularly if you are staying in a Japanese inn, or ryokan. While tipping is not necessary, occasionally the hotel or inn will leave a small gratuity envelope for you to tip the maid staff. Never leave a cash tip out on a table or bed, as gratuity, when left, is expected to be concealed in an envelope.

Tip a translator or tour guide if the service is exceptional, however remember that it is impolite to give a cash tip directly, so place your gratuity into an envelope when tipping.

Leave a small gift in place of cash tips. While cash tipping can often be considered impolite, a small gift, perhaps a souvenir from the United States, if often greatly appreciated. Japanese do not expect tipping, so a simple thank you spoken in their native language or a small heartfelt gift will go much further than cash.

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