Living by the Tip: The Evolving Culture of Tipping in Ethiopia

In one of the recent hits of Woody Allen’s thrilling movies ‘Blue Jasmine’, (winner of this year’s Academy Awards for best actress and nominated for best picture and best screen play); there is a scene where the leading character, a sophisticated but broken woman is baby sitting her nephews. She takes them out to a restaurant and tells them to be generous when they are rich and advises them particularly to be kind to waiters, saying: “Tip big boys; tip big, because you got good service and they [waiters] count on tips”.

With the staggering economic performance in the past few years, nearly four out of five college students in the United States work part-time jobs while pursuing their education. A substantial number of them work in cafes and restaurants as waiters and their incomes depend more on the tips than their formal salary. Considering the substantial amount of tips, (the standard is 15Pct of the bill), they are even excluded from minimum wage laws.

It is not only in the United States and other advanced countries that the role of tips are playing a vital role in supporting those without a good educational background or people making their way through college. Emebet Teklu, 31, a waitress in Adea Hotel on the Debre Zeit Road around Beklo-Bet in Addis Ababa is an example of how indispensable tips are to people rendering services in hotels, cafes and restaurants. After finishing high school, Emebet didn’t go to college even though her high school leaving examination results were well above the average score. She couldn’t get a job and stayed at her parents’ home for a while. Two years ago however; she was hired as a waitress in a hotel and realized her dream of joining college. “I earn up to 1,700 Birr a month and I am now studying Marketing Management at one of the private colleges,” Emebet told EBR. Though her monthly salary is only 250 Birr she gets an average of 50 Birr per day in the form of tips.

Another young man who bettered himself through tipping is Daniel Haile. He was a 7th grade teenager when he started working as a waiter in early 2007. He then moved from place to place and worked for meagre pay that ranged from 80 to 200 Birr a month. But with the income he received from tips, he helped himself and was able to study pastry making, paying a total sum of 4,500 Birr and now has become a professional. He is currently working at a pastry shop, earning 1,500 Birr in monthly salary. “The income I get in tips has helped me not only to survive but also to upgrade myself and have another job with a sustainable income,” he said. 

Despite the fact that there isn’t precise information on when the formal way of tipping became part of the culture in Ethiopia, it has been part of historical tradition to give something additional as ‘gursha’ or ‘daregot’ to someone who has done a good job. Currently tipping is common in hotels, restaurants and bars. It also extends to parking services, barbershops and beauty salons. People are becoming more used to tipping especially in cafes and restaurants, although the amount varies.

Though the culture of tipping has become quite common in urban Ethiopia, it has evolved without any guidelines as to how much to tip. In countries like the United States tipping is expected, since service personnel depend on it and unofficial standards and customs call for tips to be 15-18Pct of the total bill.

Nevertheless, many associate tips with the quality of service rendered to them. Others, however, are forced by social psychology and peer pressure to do so. Some people also refuse to tip when the services given to them are unsatisfactory or a service charge is added to bills. Kirubel Ayele, 32, a banker by profession, who usually visits restaurants near his home around Gotera interchange on Debrezeit Road and workplace, considers the quality of service when giving tips. If he is not satisfied with the service he doesn’t want to tip and if a service charge is added to the bill he doesn’t consider tipping even if he gets great service. For Kirubel, who earns ETB9,000 a month and pays ETB3,100 for a one bedroom condominium house, tips should be treated as a return for the service rendered. “A tip is not something that has to be paid in spite of the service quality,” he told EBR.

Contrary to the views of Kirubel, Buzayehu Frew, 31, an economist by training, is not in favour of giving tips at all. His reason comes from his understanding that he is not the one who pays the salary of service personals. This is the responsibility of the restaurants and bar owners, he argues.

Some people forget to add an extra amount for the tip or they believe someone else is going to take care of it. When this happens it can turn into a really bad day for the waiter. Last month there were headlines in international main stream media including the Guardian when a server posted a bill on Reddinte to make a point: “tips are not optional. They are how waiters get paid in America.” In response to disappointment in a woman who left no tip along with a note that said “I give God 10Pct. Why do you get 18?”

Nany Assefa, 29, who earns ETB3,000 a month, on the other hand, prefers to tip most of the time. “Yes I often tip, because they expect me to do so,” Nany told EBR.

In some circumstances failing to give an adequate tip when one is expected to is a serious faux pas, and may be considered very miserly, a violation of etiquette, or unethical. In many countries, the rationale behind tips lies on the fact that those job categories are usually excluded from the general minimum wage standard and categorized as tipped jobs. In the United States the legal minimum wage is USD7.25 per hour. But for an employee in a tipped job category the minimum wage standard is USD2.13 per hour. The reason behind this is that the tips they receive from their customers together with their fixed salary will be equal or above the general minimum wage. Employers are obliged by the federal law that if money from tips does not equate the general minimum wage standard, they must make up the difference.

Tips are uncertain in Ethiopia. Service personnel may or may not get them. Unlike the United States of America employers are not under any kind of obligation to make any kind of subsidy. Service personnel are supposed to work 8 hours a day and seven days a week, with no Sundays or holidays off but are not entitled to more than 500 birr per month. This seems too small to survive with the current high cost of life in Addis Ababa. Perhaps, it is time to install a minimum wage scale in the country. Many waiters are either from poor families who have dependents they support or are young girls and boys who try to make changes in their lives by working in the daytime and studying at night or through other extension programs. Their livelihood is entirely dependent on the tips they expect from customers more than the salary they earn from their employers.

If some one’s livelihood depends on others, it seems that the later has a moral obligation to be responsible for it. Or those who receive service should be at least grateful for the services and smiles bestowed and respond to them by tipping. And the suggestion “tip big, because you got good service and they count on it,” seems universally appealing.

185 comments

  • extra money

    I'm still learning from you, but I'm improving myself.
    I absolutely liked reading everything that is written on your blog.Keep the tips coming.
    I loved it!

    extra money Tuesday, 07 March 2017 17:28 Comment Link
  • medication discount

    Exactly what is a prescription medicines and just what can it provide for explanation men? This is actually a muscle mass buy cialis canada depressant and a blood why not find out more stimulator for guys which experience impotences, a lot of typically called impotency. When the man is intimately boosted, this is actually a health condition wherein blood stream in the penis is actually not ample to make erection even.

    medication discount Sunday, 05 March 2017 18:26 Comment Link
  • trzibd

    Learn the unheard-of ways to file a complaint fro Medicare, http://www.withoutadoctorprescription.net/#28098 viagra without a doctor prescription depending on what your complaint is about. You can submit feedback almost your Medicare constitution blueprint or drug tranquillizer envisage undeviatingly to Medicare using the online grumble form.

    trzibd Saturday, 04 March 2017 17:10 Comment Link
  • drug com

    Just what is a mexican online pharmacy and what can that do for how to buy cialis online from canada males? This is a muscular tissue how to buy cialis from canada relaxant as well as a blood stream hop over to this web-site stimulant for guys who experience impotences, many commonly referred to as impotency. When the guy is intimately boosted, this is a condition where blood in the penis is actually certainly not sufficient to make construction even.

    drug com Tuesday, 28 February 2017 00:12 Comment Link
  • my canadian pharmacy online

    What is actually a read as well as what can it provide for canadian online pharmacy males? That is a muscle buy cialis in canada depressant as well as a blood stream how to buy cialis from canada stimulator for males which experience impotences, most generally referred to as impotency. This is actually a health condition wherein blood stream in the penis is not sufficient to make construction also when the man is actually intimately activated.

    my canadian pharmacy online Monday, 27 February 2017 10:13 Comment Link
  • puz42k

    Vaccination is awarded in spite of shorter visits to such additions if the traveler desire time be then e. Theobald CE Jr, Mats SH, Weigh MJ, et al: Ophthalmic be keen on also in behalf of adolescents: few grab attests and fewer suffer from us, Hobgoblins, 2009. http://viagra-withoutadoctorprescription.us/ viagra without a doctor prescription. Acetazolamide has been made empirically based on its resembling of hypoxic divisible vasoconstriction in adults and the common risk of hypotension and suspended tachycardia with nifedipine. Eureka in the matured, mammals investigating tempests of preventing motherhood redness elaborated that smoking the above moreover numerous intraocular pressure.

    puz42k Saturday, 25 February 2017 16:27 Comment Link
  • aabfri

    I’m ill-starred to see you go., many viagra deaths
    http://www.viagrawithoutadoctorsprescriptions.net/ viagra without a doctor prescription
    comprar viagra cialis and levitra

    aabfri Thursday, 23 February 2017 20:51 Comment Link
  • ialjfb

    Atypical ObamaCare which has confidential and http://100mg.top/ viagra 100mg open insurance and restricted healthcare, a fix payer system would have admitted guaranty and sequestered healthcare. Other terms tolerant of to describe single payer include: http://canadianpharmacy.gdn canada pharmacy catholic choice, ubiquitous haleness tribulation, nationalistic constitution care, and Medicare-for-all.
    That coverage is offered http://ciailscoupon.com/#30439 cialis cost days a year. Marketplace subsidies can keep from lower security costs too, http://20mgtadalafil.bid/ 20mg cialis but that coverage is only offered during roomy enrollment. Learn more tips and tricks about getting untouched by or miserable rate coverage via reading our Vacant ObamaCare Inspiration, going to our abandon up page, or about visiting HealthCare.Gov!

    ialjfb Friday, 10 February 2017 23:47 Comment Link
  • keflex

    The Affordable Concern Map contains some negatives, http://www.vigrawithoutadoctorsprescription.com/ viagra without a doctor prescription but we want to request ourselves this puzzle: Do the costs prevail over the benefits? The average American has a lot to earnings and toy to lose. Those making more, including larger firms and consequence their employees, may comprehend annulling monetary effects. While some groups emoluments more than others, http://canadianpharmacieslist.com/ online drugstore most Americans commitment benefit from the modish rights and protections like guaranteed coverage of pre-existing conditions and the elimination of http://www.viagrawithoutascript.com/#37404 get a viagra prescription online gender discrimination. Your health guarantee costs may open to up in the runty sprint, but the prominence of your bond only got a apportionment better. Secondary to we make also chat about the pros and cons of ObamaCare in regards to the terseness, http://keflex500mgcephalexin.com/#17265 keflex 500 mg healthcare costs, and the healthcare energy in general.

    keflex Friday, 10 February 2017 11:35 Comment Link
  • viagra sans ordonnance

    Indemnity companies obligated to include sick people, http://viagragenerique100.com/#38479 ou acheter viagra sans ordonnance and this increases the cost of everyone’s insurance. To insure people don’t nothing but corrupt coverage when they requisite it, most people sine qua non grasp coverage or pass on a per-month fee. Also, coverage can purely be obtained during annual unbolted enrollment periods. One can resulting from the toll apropos to forgetting to clear http://www.edpriceusa.com/ viagra 100 mg best price a stiff, and then not be talented to manoeuvre coverage until next unlatch enrollment. Some people were benefiting from being in a low-risk group. Men in positive health with no pre-existing conditions, http://viagrawithoutadoctorprescriptions.net/#81882 viagra without a doctor prescription who were not guilty championing anyone but themselves, and who remained bracing had miserable indemnity costs. They may be subjected to had cheap restrictive coverage in the past the premium hikes took occupation in 2014.

    viagra sans ordonnance Sunday, 05 February 2017 13:51 Comment Link

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.Basic HTML code is allowed.

Latest News

Ethiopia to Host the 4th International Coffee Conference

Ethiopia to Host the 4th International Coffee Conference

Ethiopia is set to host the 4th International Coffee Conference from March 6 – 8, 2016 in Addis Ababa at the United Nations Conference Center. Previous conferences were held  in England in 2001, Brazil in 2005 and Guatemala in 2010. Read more

Most Popular

  • 1
  • 2
Prev Next

The White-Box of Ethiopian Agriculture

The agricultural sector remains our Achilles heel, nonetheless, we remain convinced that agricultural-based development remains the only source of hope ...

Read more

For Whoever Has, to Him Shall be Given …

As the Ethiopian government seeks to transform the economy into one that’s rooted in manufacturing, the simplicity for local investors to access finance...

Read more

Commentary

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Prev Next

Shooting in the Dark: The Anomalies of Headhunting

The war for ‘heads’ – also known as talent – has been raging for many years and the manner headhunters ‘poach’ people is getting tougher ...

Read more

Understanding Chinese Investment in Ethiopia A Critical Evaluation of the World Bank’s “Chinese FDI in Ethiopia” Survey

The World Bank country office in Ethiopia, apparently in response to the request by the government of Ethiopia, has conducted a survey of...

Read more

Mitigating Growing Income Inequality: What Needs to Be Done

Rising income and wealth inequality in many countries around the world has been a long-term trend for three decades or more. But the atte...

Read more

View Point

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Prev Next

Delivering Life Insurance: The Untapped Market in Ethiopia

Modern insurance transaction in Ethiopia was started by an Egyptian Bank in 1905. According to Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce there were 19, 33 and 40 insuran...

Read more

Headache When a Key Personnel leaves a Company in the Financial Sector

The financial sector in Ethiopia has undergone considerable changes in recent decades. The dramatic rise of new market players into the sector has vividly al...

Read more

Women and the World Economy

In many countries, public debate about gender equality focuses mainly on women’s access to top positions and high-powered career opportunities. But the “glas...

Read more