Tipping the balance in your favor: How gracious should your gratuity be in Arabia?

Published February 27th, 2017 - 15:00 GMT

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To tip or not to tip, that is often the question expats ask when they come to the Middle East. And rightly too, because things here aren’t as clear-cut as they might be in some parts of the world where tipping trades are limited and known. Forget your usual suspects (which are equally hot tipping candidates here) taxis, hairdressers, waiters; there are many odd jobs and services provided in Arab countries that you’d normally do yourself back home, such as filling your car with gas, which you might wish to tip. While more universal tipping services like restaurant gratuity are often included, the not-so-obvious ones can leave you feeling like you need an extra salary just for tips!

Pity the nation!

While tipping in the Arab world can bleed you dry, even leave you feeling bullied or harassed to parting with your Arab money, some of these tipping causes are quite worthy, and these workers would otherwise receive very little for their labors. Lest you wish to make a bad ambassador for your home country and be stigmatised as stingy, here are some tips to tipping etiquette Middle East that will endear you to your Araby community-- even if they tip your bank balance! Still, remember as everywhere, tipping in some cases is still discretionary and an option rather than an obligation, so don't feel bullied to tip those harassing you or for services foisted on you...If in doubt, check with locals for the norms of this not-so-subtle art of tipping in Arabia!

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While tipping the attendant that pumps gas into your car is not obligatory, these guys stand at the pumps all day in the heat or in the sleet and are a deserving candidate for courtesy thanks. If you're filling your tires with air (which apparently is free), or washing your car, you can tip your thank you for the service.
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Image 1 of 12:  1 / 12While tipping the attendant that pumps gas into your car is not obligatory, these guys stand at the pumps all day in the heat or in the sleet and are a deserving candidate for courtesy thanks. If you're filling your tires with air (which apparently is free), or washing your car, you can tip your thank you for the service.

(Source: Shutterstock)

Enlarge
The men who help load grocery bags in your car, or loiter at the till to bag your groceries at the register definitely deserve a token of thanks, as you are spared the fuss to focus on sorting the grocery payment or granted extra Candy Crush time on your phone! Plus these guys are sometimes on tip-only pay.
Reduce

Image 2 of 12:  2 / 12The men who help load grocery bags in your car, or loiter at the till to bag your groceries at the register definitely deserve a token of thanks, as you are spared the fuss to focus on sorting the grocery payment or granted extra Candy Crush time on your phone! Plus these guys are sometimes on tip-only pay.

(Source: Shutterstock)

Enlarge
Most apartment buildings with a 7ares (porter) have a specified fee that all tenants pay in exchange for running small errands and keeping the building clean and safe. But definitely plan to tip if you want him to keep mum on something - like coming home at 4 am - either with money or snacks!
Reduce

Image 3 of 12:  3 / 12Most apartment buildings with a 7ares (porter) have a specified fee that all tenants pay in exchange for running small errands and keeping the building clean and safe. But definitely plan to tip if you want him to keep mum on something - like coming home at 4 am - either with money or snacks!

(Source: File photo)

Enlarge
In the Middle East, having someone to bring you your morning coffee just the way you like it is just one of the perks of the job. But when the office/ tea boy goes above and beyond to fetch you a felafel sandwich, he will definitely expect a tip for his efforts.
Reduce

Image 4 of 12:  4 / 12In the Middle East, having someone to bring you your morning coffee just the way you like it is just one of the perks of the job. But when the office/ tea boy goes above and beyond to fetch you a felafel sandwich, he will definitely expect a tip for his efforts.

(Source: Shutterstock)

Enlarge
The Asian nail technicians at the women-only spas, who perfect your manicure and pedicure are a candidate for extra bills or coins. Mani pedis are pretty affordable in the Middle East, so why not show your appreciation with as little as a $1 tip? Not per hand or foot, but more likely per Filipina who has attended to your tired paws and pads.
Reduce

Image 5 of 12:  5 / 12The Asian nail technicians at the women-only spas, who perfect your manicure and pedicure are a candidate for extra bills or coins. Mani pedis are pretty affordable in the Middle East, so why not show your appreciation with as little as a $1 tip? Not per hand or foot, but more likely per Filipina who has attended to your tired paws and pads.

(Source: Shutterstock)

Enlarge
In some Arabic countries, be prepared to tip to tinkle! Parting with spare change when you skip to the loo is a norm at airports, restaurants and museums where you find bathroom attendants. Otherwise, it’s up to you to decide which can bear the brunt of suffering: your wallet or your bladder!
Reduce

Image 6 of 12:  6 / 12In some Arabic countries, be prepared to tip to tinkle! Parting with spare change when you skip to the loo is a norm at airports, restaurants and museums where you find bathroom attendants. Otherwise, it’s up to you to decide which can bear the brunt of suffering: your wallet or your bladder!

(Source: Shutterstock)

Enlarge
When the traffic light turns red, it’s common for someone to make their way through the line of cars with a stack of newspapers, flowers, or gum, hoping to earn a little money. Standing in the sun breathing car fumes all day is no enviable job, so throw them that extra 50 cents on top of the ‘Kleenex’ fee (and don’t make them beg for it).
Reduce

Image 7 of 12:  7 / 12When the traffic light turns red, it’s common for someone to make their way through the line of cars with a stack of newspapers, flowers, or gum, hoping to earn a little money. Standing in the sun breathing car fumes all day is no enviable job, so throw them that extra 50 cents on top of the ‘Kleenex’ fee (and don’t make them beg for it).

(Source: File photo)

Enlarge
For somewhere like Egypt, where it’s common knowledge that it’s “tipping central,” they’ll force your hand on this sensitive matter, so you might end up tipping your way back to the airport, before they tip you over the edge!
Reduce

Image 8 of 12:  8 / 12For somewhere like Egypt, where it’s common knowledge that it’s “tipping central,” they’ll force your hand on this sensitive matter, so you might end up tipping your way back to the airport, before they tip you over the edge!

(Source: Shutterstock)

Enlarge
There are more cars on the streets than there are people in the ME’s major cities, with often no official parking charge. That’s one reason why valet parking attendants expect a tip for saving you from the impossible mission of finding a parking spot, leaving you to enjoy your outing without wasting valuable fun time on parking.
Reduce

Image 9 of 12:  9 / 12There are more cars on the streets than there are people in the ME’s major cities, with often no official parking charge. That’s one reason why valet parking attendants expect a tip for saving you from the impossible mission of finding a parking spot, leaving you to enjoy your outing without wasting valuable fun time on parking.

(Source: Shutterstock)

Enlarge
In the more touristy, historic mosques, you’ll often see a “donation” box by the door where you doff your shoes out of respect or borrow a head covering for ladies. About $1 is enough to be polite - remember, the workers help keep it clean and open for visitors.
Reduce

Image 10 of 12:  10 / 12In the more touristy, historic mosques, you’ll often see a “donation” box by the door where you doff your shoes out of respect or borrow a head covering for ladies. About $1 is enough to be polite - remember, the workers help keep it clean and open for visitors.

(Source: Shutterstock)

Enlarge
Only got $20 in your pocket? No worries. Depending where you are, whoever you’re tipping might actually appreciate being handed a couple of dollars rather than local coins, especially if the local currency has dropped in value.
Reduce

Image 11 of 12:  11 / 12Only got $20 in your pocket? No worries. Depending where you are, whoever you’re tipping might actually appreciate being handed a couple of dollars rather than local coins, especially if the local currency has dropped in value.

(Source: Shutterstock)

Enlarge
Ramadan: In most of the Muslim majority Middle East this is the month where charity is compulsory. Cab fares may get cheekily raised, but tipping generosity is still the order. People are laboring on empty and craving their ciggies and coffee so an extra fat tip will ingratiate you with them and God.
Reduce

Image 12 of 12:  12 / 12Ramadan: In most of the Muslim majority Middle East this is the month where charity is compulsory. Cab fares may get cheekily raised, but tipping generosity is still the order. People are laboring on empty and craving their ciggies and coffee so an extra fat tip will ingratiate you with them and God.

Enlarge

1

While tipping the attendant that pumps gas into your car is not obligatory, these guys stand at the pumps all day in the heat or in the sleet and are a deserving candidate for courtesy thanks. If you're filling your tires with air (which apparently is free), or washing your car, you can tip your thank you for the service.

Image 1 of 12While tipping the attendant that pumps gas into your car is not obligatory, these guys stand at the pumps all day in the heat or in the sleet and are a deserving candidate for courtesy thanks. If you're filling your tires with air (which apparently is free), or washing your car, you can tip your thank you for the service.

(Source: Shutterstock)

2

The men who help load grocery bags in your car, or loiter at the till to bag your groceries at the register definitely deserve a token of thanks, as you are spared the fuss to focus on sorting the grocery payment or granted extra Candy Crush time on your phone! Plus these guys are sometimes on tip-only pay.

Image 2 of 12The men who help load grocery bags in your car, or loiter at the till to bag your groceries at the register definitely deserve a token of thanks, as you are spared the fuss to focus on sorting the grocery payment or granted extra Candy Crush time on your phone! Plus these guys are sometimes on tip-only pay.

(Source: Shutterstock)

3

Most apartment buildings with a 7ares (porter) have a specified fee that all tenants pay in exchange for running small errands and keeping the building clean and safe. But definitely plan to tip if you want him to keep mum on something - like coming home at 4 am - either with money or snacks!

Image 3 of 12Most apartment buildings with a 7ares (porter) have a specified fee that all tenants pay in exchange for running small errands and keeping the building clean and safe. But definitely plan to tip if you want him to keep mum on something - like coming home at 4 am - either with money or snacks!

(Source: File photo)

4

In the Middle East, having someone to bring you your morning coffee just the way you like it is just one of the perks of the job. But when the office/ tea boy goes above and beyond to fetch you a felafel sandwich, he will definitely expect a tip for his efforts.

Image 4 of 12In the Middle East, having someone to bring you your morning coffee just the way you like it is just one of the perks of the job. But when the office/ tea boy goes above and beyond to fetch you a felafel sandwich, he will definitely expect a tip for his efforts.

(Source: Shutterstock)

5

The Asian nail technicians at the women-only spas, who perfect your manicure and pedicure are a candidate for extra bills or coins. Mani pedis are pretty affordable in the Middle East, so why not show your appreciation with as little as a $1 tip? Not per hand or foot, but more likely per Filipina who has attended to your tired paws and pads.

Image 5 of 12The Asian nail technicians at the women-only spas, who perfect your manicure and pedicure are a candidate for extra bills or coins. Mani pedis are pretty affordable in the Middle East, so why not show your appreciation with as little as a $1 tip? Not per hand or foot, but more likely per Filipina who has attended to your tired paws and pads.

(Source: Shutterstock)

6

In some Arabic countries, be prepared to tip to tinkle! Parting with spare change when you skip to the loo is a norm at airports, restaurants and museums where you find bathroom attendants. Otherwise, it’s up to you to decide which can bear the brunt of suffering: your wallet or your bladder!

Image 6 of 12In some Arabic countries, be prepared to tip to tinkle! Parting with spare change when you skip to the loo is a norm at airports, restaurants and museums where you find bathroom attendants. Otherwise, it’s up to you to decide which can bear the brunt of suffering: your wallet or your bladder!

(Source: Shutterstock)

7

When the traffic light turns red, it’s common for someone to make their way through the line of cars with a stack of newspapers, flowers, or gum, hoping to earn a little money. Standing in the sun breathing car fumes all day is no enviable job, so throw them that extra 50 cents on top of the ‘Kleenex’ fee (and don’t make them beg for it).

Image 7 of 12When the traffic light turns red, it’s common for someone to make their way through the line of cars with a stack of newspapers, flowers, or gum, hoping to earn a little money. Standing in the sun breathing car fumes all day is no enviable job, so throw them that extra 50 cents on top of the ‘Kleenex’ fee (and don’t make them beg for it).

(Source: File photo)

8

For somewhere like Egypt, where it’s common knowledge that it’s “tipping central,” they’ll force your hand on this sensitive matter, so you might end up tipping your way back to the airport, before they tip you over the edge!

Image 8 of 12For somewhere like Egypt, where it’s common knowledge that it’s “tipping central,” they’ll force your hand on this sensitive matter, so you might end up tipping your way back to the airport, before they tip you over the edge!

(Source: Shutterstock)

9

There are more cars on the streets than there are people in the ME’s major cities, with often no official parking charge. That’s one reason why valet parking attendants expect a tip for saving you from the impossible mission of finding a parking spot, leaving you to enjoy your outing without wasting valuable fun time on parking.

Image 9 of 12There are more cars on the streets than there are people in the ME’s major cities, with often no official parking charge. That’s one reason why valet parking attendants expect a tip for saving you from the impossible mission of finding a parking spot, leaving you to enjoy your outing without wasting valuable fun time on parking.

(Source: Shutterstock)

10

In the more touristy, historic mosques, you’ll often see a “donation” box by the door where you doff your shoes out of respect or borrow a head covering for ladies. About $1 is enough to be polite - remember, the workers help keep it clean and open for visitors.

Image 10 of 12In the more touristy, historic mosques, you’ll often see a “donation” box by the door where you doff your shoes out of respect or borrow a head covering for ladies. About $1 is enough to be polite - remember, the workers help keep it clean and open for visitors.

(Source: Shutterstock)

11

Only got $20 in your pocket? No worries. Depending where you are, whoever you’re tipping might actually appreciate being handed a couple of dollars rather than local coins, especially if the local currency has dropped in value.

Image 11 of 12Only got $20 in your pocket? No worries. Depending where you are, whoever you’re tipping might actually appreciate being handed a couple of dollars rather than local coins, especially if the local currency has dropped in value.

(Source: Shutterstock)

12

Ramadan: In most of the Muslim majority Middle East this is the month where charity is compulsory. Cab fares may get cheekily raised, but tipping generosity is still the order. People are laboring on empty and craving their ciggies and coffee so an extra fat tip will ingratiate you with them and God.

Image 12 of 12Ramadan: In most of the Muslim majority Middle East this is the month where charity is compulsory. Cab fares may get cheekily raised, but tipping generosity is still the order. People are laboring on empty and craving their ciggies and coffee so an extra fat tip will ingratiate you with them and God.

Reduce

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