“Please can I give you a tip? In America, we have this custom, you know. I have to tip the pizza guy. And you came all the way out here in this weather…”
The rain-drenched delivery man on the doorstep of the Japanese apartment looked mildly embarrassed as he waved away my friend’s money. It was a typhoon day – classes cancelled, school closed, and the English teachers from my school had piled into one apartment for a party. Not wanting to brave the lashing wind and rain to go out and get food, we had ordered pizza, but hadn’t counted on the guilt we would feel when the delivery guy turned up on a moped looking like he’d just jumped into a swimming pool fully clothed.
In Japan, there’s no custom of tipping. In fact, leaving a tip could potentially be considered rude, as the cost of the service is already supposed to be included in the price you pay. My American buddy’s attempt to follow his home custom in Japan ended in the delivery driver apologising profusely for not accepting the tip! In New York City, meanwhile, Japanese restaurants are bringing the no-tipping custom Stateside, as Restaurant Riki becomes the latest Manhattan establishment to ban their customers from tipping.