Tipping in Sweden

I consider myself a tipper.  Not an especially big tipper, but I am generous when good service comes my way.  It's always been a part of my personality.  If a person takes that extra effort to make my experience better, then they deserve a few extra bucks.  I like the system in the US for tipping.  It sounds messed up on the surface.  Service employees make below minimum wage (normally around $2.10 per hour), which is supposed to be the incentive for that employee to work extra hard and be extra nice to get 15% of your check.  I knew the game and I played the game.  Any good service deserves my money.  As a matter of fact, if I'm just satisfied with my service I give 20% (partly because the math is easier).  You blow my mind and I really hook you up!  Swedie has told me to chill out before.

       - She was good Jon but calm down with that.

The system doesn't work like that in Sweden.  In Sweden service employees make comparable wages to other jobs.  The "incentive" isn't there to work extra hard for your customer at your restaurant job.  I must say it's evident.  I have felt like my waiter doesn't give a damn.  And there isn't the threat of not leaving anything as a tip here because most people DON'T TIP.  How can I get even?!  How can I express my disservice without writing something rude on the receipt?

       - Here's your tip: Give better service and you'll get my money!!!

I've really written something like that on a receipt before after getting terrible service.  A waiter here would shrug off my witty and rude note.  He wouldn't lose any money (or sleep) for sucking at his job.  Where is the fairness?  A person like me that appreciates good service and loathes bad service can really appreciate the tipping game we play in the US.

Of course the other side of that is that cheap ass who tips poorly (or not at all) regardless of service.  That hard working service employee loses what should be hard earned money.  If every customer is an asshole then the worker is only working for $2.10 an hour.  That's just messed up.  It should never happen.  When I come across good service in Sweden I'm sure to tip.  Not 20% (they're making decent money!), but I still tip more than most.  Swedes don't tip at all.

I'm getting more used to it now though the guilt is still there.  It's hard for me to get a beer from a nice bartender and not leave anything.  Especially when I've paid in cash and get change back.  Then again I feel cheap as hell leaving three crowns.  That's like 40 cents!  Normally in the states I'd leave two bucks for every trip to the bar.  That seems fair.  Would I be rude doing that here?  It's just too awkward.  Why can't bartenders just make barely anything so I can feel good about my tipping habits?  All this thinking is killing me!  I just want to get drunk without any thought involved. Let's not make it awkward.

I have my favorite kebab spot in my hood.  I pass it every day on the way to and from the train station.  Of course I don't know the name of the spot, it's just that good!  I like the owner.  He always seems happy to see me when I walk in.  He asks how my day was and puts forth the effort to provide good service.  I love people like this!  One day I had some extra cash and I was feeling extra American.  I ordered my kebab tallrik (allting på) and got my drink.  We chit-chatted and smiled at each other.  It was the stuff bro-mances are made of.  I gave him a 100:- bill.  My change would be like 20:- ($2.40).  I told my friend to keep the change.  He acted like he was offended.

       - No, No!
       - No problem.  Take it.  I like you and your place.  Thank you.  Keep the change.
       - NO!

I left the money on the counter and reached for my bag.  My former friend and now acquaintance and possibly future enemy had a frown on his face.  He pulled my bag back and took the styrofoam plate out.  He opened the plate and added extra kebab meat.  It was like he didn't want to be in debt to the mob or something.  I shook my head.  Just take the damn money, dude!  He closed the plate and nodded to me as he put it back in the bag.

       - Tack så mycket!
       - Tack. (Jeez!)

I shrugged and walked out.  At least he got the extra money.  I thought tips were appreciation.  This guy made a scene out of what I thought was a nice gesture.  Here I was being the dumb American again.  Being nice and pissing people off at the same time.  I still go to my kebab spot about once a week.  My guy is still friendly and chatty.  I just thank him with words now instead of being that rude asshole that gives extra money.  How dare I?  Until next time...


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