You’ll find that South Africa has a very strong service ethic. South Africans are generally very keen to offer service above and beyond what you’d normally expect someone to do for you in wealthier countries.
For example, at petrol stations, not only will your car be filled up for you but the attendant will ask if they can clean your windscreen, check your tyres, check the oil and water etc. When you park your car, the parking attendant may offer to wash the car whilst you’re away and when you arrive even at a small B&B, there will nearly always be someone on hand to take your bags from your car to the room.
You’ll also find that in restaurants and cafes, waiters cannot do enough for you, often whipping your plate away literally as you put the last mouthful of food into your mouth! It can get a bit much at times and we often find ourselves asking the waiter to leave the empty plate until everyone at the table has finished eating.
So how do you reward all this fantastic service? Firstly, you have to understand that there are really two sorts of tips in South Africa: one is related to the price you’re paying for the service or product, and the other has no bearing on the price you’re paying for the service or product.
The first type of tip is similar to wealthier countries: you’ll be expected to pay 10% service towards a meal in restaurant or a café. 10% is considered the minimum if you’ve found the service acceptable. 20% is what you pay if you found the service excellent. Thus the tip in this instance is related to what you paid for the meal.
The second type of tip isn’t normally found in wealthier countries: here, you’d be expected to pay between R10 and R20 for the service you’ve received. So for example, if someone guards your car for you whilst you’re away from it, you’d give the guy R20. If someone fills up your petrol tank but also cleans the windscreen and checks the tyres, you’d give the guy R20. If someone carries your bags from the car to your room, you’d give them R20. Thus the tip in this instance has no relation to the product or service price.
Tipping for accommodation doesn’t really fall into either of these two categories and is quite hard to pinpoint. Personally, we tip between R100 and R200 a night when we’re staying in a B&B or a hotel and this money is intended to go directly to the housekeeper that serviced that room. It is however not considered compulsory to tip for accommodation per night and you may wish to leave a general tip for all staff when you check out (which is in fact much more convenient). Note in this instance you’re not expected to pay 10% or 20%: that would be considered an enormous tip! For a four-night stay, R400 would be considered pleasant and R600 very generous.