I moved to New Zealand a week before starting work. It was a flurry of activity in the first week – finding an apartment, picking up our belongings, unpacking, finding my new office building, etc. And one of those activities was getting my nails done.  I found a nail salon near Sylvia Park and made an appointment.  The nail appointment wasn’t that interesting, but at the end of it I reached out my hand with a $5 bill to the woman who did my nails and said thank you.  She looked at me, looked at the bill, and there was a delay of several seconds before she took it from me and thanked me back, a huge confused smile on her face.

I knew that people in NZ didn’t tip in restaurants, but it wasn’t until then that I realized how truly rare tipping is.  In the U.S., we tip for everything – nail salons, hair salons, restaurants, taxis, whatever.  It takes a while before you get over the feeling that you’re insulting someone if you walk away without tipping.  Restaurants are the worst — I used to pay the bill and walk out of a restaurant and feel like I’d forgotten something at the table.

But now, after almost 5 months here I am pretty much over that – except in bars, that is still odd for me.  And I’m humored to see that the service in the restaurants is actually better than in many restaurants in the U.S. I know it’s my own bias, but it just seems counter-intuitive to think that you’d get better service without the promise of a tip. I was a waitress for five years in college and I wonder how differently I would have acted if my work wasn’t tip-based.

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