Lifestyle November, 17th 2012 by

Tipping Tips

AJ Linn
(Originally published in Spanish in Diario Sur 20 Oct 12)
One September evening this year Alfonso was the most hated Spaniard in the entire State of South Carolina – for about four minutes anyway. He and his wife had by chance shown up in the same restaurant in Savannah where I was dining with friends.
The Spanish couple were on their first visit to the United States, and clearly they were having trouble getting used to different manners and customs. They had already been caught at Kennedy airport with a load of chorizo in their cases, but were lucky enough to only have it confiscated without being fined.
I know very little about restaurant customs in Zaragoza, where Alfredo and Paqui come from, only that when you order tapas in a bar there they give you what we would refer to here as a double ration, leaving you unable to eat anything else. And of course you never leave a tip, and nor do the waiters and bar staff expect one.
Happily we had all eaten well at the restaurant, and Spanish fraternity had developed to the stage of raising our glasses to each other across the intervening space between tables and toasting ‘España, la mejor.’ A few minutes later Alfredo would understand in graphic terms exactly why Spain is the best.
From what I could see the waitress had put the check on the table, and Alfredo, not one to trust credit cards, had left the correct amount in dollar bills, rounded up by a few more for a tip – something he would not have done in Spain, but he had heard that in America you had to tip everyone. They left the restaurant after waving to me, and vanished into the night. The waitress reappeared and, glancing suspiciously at the check and bills on the plate, let out a shriek as if she had come across a mutilated corpse. Running screaming from the restaurant, she returned a few seconds later with the unfortunate Alfredo and Paqui in tow, it now being Alfonso’s turn to look as if he had seen a dead body.
The waitress was shouting, ‘What’s this small change? You have to leave 20% as my tip…!’, so there was nothing else for it but to dig into his pocket again and leave two twenty dollar bills instead of the five-dollars Alfredo had left initially.
One night last week I was eating at a small restaurant in Fuengirola and watched absent-mindedly as a guiru couple paid their bill and left. When the waiter checked the plate and saw they had by mistake overpaid by a substantial amount – clearly too much for a tip – he dashed out into the street and returned the money to the grateful pair.
Yes, Spain is indeed the best…. 

AJ Linn

Andrew Linn left England 40 years ago to relocate to Spain, having been involved in businesses such as wine shipping and publishing. He currently writes regularly and professionally on wine, food, flamenco, and the Spanish way of life for various publications, and has a regular column in a Spanish newspaper. Andrew is involved in charity work relating to abandoned and mistreated animals.

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