Posted by: Rae | October 11, 2007

"Tipping culture is virtually non-existent in Finland"

A lovely family of six, visiting from Finland, returned to our restaurant today a week after their first visit. The first time they came in they paid with credit card, and left the lines for “tip” and “total” blank, so their waitress received no tip. We shrugged it off — either they assumed we would fill in the tip, or they didn’t know about tips, but either way we just had to live with it. It’s unfortunate, because in this country wait staff aren’t paid much. I pay $3.25 per hour, above the minimum wage here in Michigan, but not a decent wage in anyone’s book.

When they returned, the same waitress was working, and we discussed what we should do. We decided to ask them to fill in all of the lines on the credit card receipt, a reasonable request, and we thought, a subtle hint. They ordered two bowls of gumbo, chock-full of shrimp, chicken, andouille sausage, and tasso ham; a margherita pizza; two rosemary-chicken pizzas; and a pepperoni pizza. And, since we had it today, four pieces of cheesecake, which our cook garnished beautifully with raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Produce arrives on Wednesdays, and we have a lot of fun with it. They drank lots of coffee, of course. And loved everything.

We chatted about the weather. They’d packed sweaters and other warm clothes, perfect for today, but not at all what they needed last week when we had temperatures in the high 80s. They had stopped at the Alcove on their first day in town, and decided to stop on their way to the airport. Really nice folks.

Unfortunately our strategy didn’t work. Not only did they pay with cash, but they took the check with them. We got the copy from the kitchen and rang everything up — the $80.34 bill was paid with $81.00. Lisa got to keep the change – 66 cents. I came home and Googled “tipping Finland” and learned, as we now suspected, that tipping is virtually unknown in Finland. Not sure what can be done about situations like this; I guess it just kind of goes with the territory. Of course I’ll add money to Lisa’s paycheck and we’ll split the loss.



  1. Post on your menu “Foreigners, we will be glad to add the gratuity to your check”. Or just ask them, “Shall I add the gratuity?” Or just add it on regardless. I have it printed on my menus. I haven’t had a complaint for 12 years in business. However I don’t abuse it either. Sometimes it’s not worth adding it ya know.

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