This is the story of how I became the local taxi office favourite client.
When we just moved to Nicosia, I didn’t own a car. Every time I had to go somewhere I would need to take a taxi. I got to know every taxi driver of the cab office close to our apartment. I learnt their names and the names of their wives, kids, and grandchildren. They seemed to like me too and were referring to me by my name. It was only once when it crossed my mind that their appreciation of me as a client was not at all unselfish. The true reason was that I used to “round the bill” and instead of let’s say 8.50 was paying them 10 euro not asking for the change. I was under impression that in most European countries it is customary to tip basically everyone for the service, including taxi drivers. So, I assumed it was true for Cyprus too. Only some time later I found out what my popularity among taxi drivers was really built on.
When I made first local friends and told them about my experience with taxi-trips, they called me a naive foreigner. They also added that I was really eager to be overcharged.
Apparently, it was not just the tipping that made my new friends laugh but also my not knowing that taxi drivers are most likely to take their clients not the shortest way possible in order to be paid more anyways… Well, I decided to switch to another taxi service.
Having come from a different culture we may be tempted to unconsciously transfer our habits and the knowledge of various traditions to our new country and the society we are going to live in. However, it is a good idea to do our homework whenever we are planning to encounter something locally new. Tipping included.
So, as I have already pointed out, it is not common in Cyprus to tip taxi-drivers or any other drivers but delivery guys. Cypriots sympathize with the people who have to ride their scooters hurrying to bring a pizza or Chinese food when it rains, under the scorching sun, and even when the weather is good. So, the locals would normally give those guys 1-2 euros extra.
To tip or not to tip in restaurants in Cyprus is entirely up to you. Some of the places include a service charge, which implies they don’t expect you to leave a tip to a waiter. Most of the places are service-charge free. In fact, in those places they don’t expect you to tip waiters either. The most common “tipping habit” of a Cypriot is to round the bill. Sometimes, when they are happy with the service and the meal, they will leave a larger sum – 1-2 euros. The tip may grow proportionally when there’s a big company dining out and the bill is split among the guests. All of them tend to round their shares and the tip may be up to 5 euros, which is considered a lot.
This situation is also true for sit-in restaurants. No tip is really expected in fast-food chains, bars, pubs, and coffeeshops. Although they do have boxes or glasses for small coins, you don’t have to leave your change there.
Another job that is usually tipped is the one of a petrol station assistant. If at a petrol station you are offered to have the front window cleaned, then you might want to spare 50-70 cents to thank the guy for his service.
Unlike in many European countries and the nearby Israel, for example, in Cyprus it is not common to tip hairdressers, barbers, beautists or manicure/pedicure specialists. The prices for their services are fixed (and reasonably high already) and the beauty or hair salon employees do not expect extra financial gratitude from their clients. However, every time I go to a salon, I observe at least one or two customers who would leave some change for their hairdressers and manicurists. Usually those clients are British.
In some countries people also tip supermarket baggers, which is not customary in Cyprus. Hotel staff usually expect tips from tourists, not so much from locals.
Generally speaking, tipping is not an exact science and it is always for you to decide whether to leave a tip or not. If you choose to, you can decide where and how much. You may tip out of due diligence without pleasure or pain, you may hate it or feel proud of doing good. In any case, tipping in Cyprus is optional. Keep that in mind next time you are going out.
See you soon with more stories to come.