Sunday, May 27, 2007

On tipping

Contrary to tipping in the United States, perhaps the most tip-conscious country in the world, tipping in Malaysia is not customary. Most, if not all, my Malaysian friends discourage (disallow is perhaps more accurate) me from doing so.

I often call and text some friends to ask whether to tip or not. The answer is always no.

"Be like Malaysians," they said. "Don't raise the expectation."

At restaurants, it makes more sense. Decent restaurants will charge 10-20% service charge. That itself is a tip.

In some other services, it's just awkward especially when compared to the practice in Indonesia. Hairdressing, for example, is a common one where people tip not only the hairdresser, but also the hair-washer.

But then, why is the tipping practice so different between Indonesia and Malaysia - despite the much similarities in other practices and culture?

Whatever the reason is - low salary, westernization, social approval, or even to ensure good service - the pressure to tip from society is definitely big. If only the proportion of people who say "don't tip" is as big as it is here in Malaysia, the critical mass will not materialize and tipping won't be as common.