Doing business on any level is different than ‘back home’. It sometimes takes a trip to the outer regions of where you normally reside to fully understand them, but the differences are huge – even when it’s another English speaking country.
I was in the USA recently, and then Mexico. While there I got to experience several different levels of customer service, productivity, and cultural changes that made it clear i was definitely far from home – even if the feel of the place was sometimes not so alternative. From a resort in Mexico that was very ‘international’ to cater to a wide range of tourists who all expected high quality, non-Mexian with just a little spice, to hotel chains that are presumably the same all over the world – each had unique ways of doing or setting up simple things.
Hotels are an easy to pick on option when you travel and I’m going to save that one for another day. Instead, let’s talk customer service and expectations in a more general way. And let’s dissect this with Tipping!
Tipping for service is not something we do as a regular thing Down Under unless we feel particularly that we’d like to reward someone for a noticably good service or meal. In the USA, the wages are so low for many people that the reliance on tips is a way of life. This translates in many instances to wait staff and drivers to go out of their way to impress with efficient friendly service. Not always unfortunately but in the majority of cases we were treated to outstanding care and consideration by people we encountered everywhere. Of course when you don’t tip with some care, they do let you know in subtle ways sometimes, that your ignorance of this custom is not appreciated.
This system of tipping for everything does however become incredibly tiresome after a while as even for simple things you feel obligated to leave a tip that is over and above the charge – even when the bill states that tips are included as is sometimes the case. It seems that if you notice that, it means that everyone in the place gets a share of the percentage, but the extra you leave behind goes to the person who served you. So what you leave behind as a tip is a direct reflection of your consideration of the service given by that person.
Overall though it can be expensive. The meals in most places are on a par with Australian prices. Eating out is not a low cost exercise, then there are the tips on top for everyone from the cab driver or car park attendant to the wait staff. And the expectation is up to 20% on top of the bill.
You know you are in a foreign land when everything comes with a side of fries, potatoes, slaw, or fruit, including your bacon and eggs in the morning. You also note that you’re in a foreign land when you exchange business cards and there are no international codes on the phone numbers which is often because they don’t think globally like we do Down Under.
It’s being away from home that makes you appreciate where you come from and what you are used to. But what you can learn from another perspective can be of great value to you.