It is not uncommon to hear someone say in Australia something such as, “They have to tip in America because their wages are so low”.
The argument that follows from this is that tipping is not something that is appropriate here. This is partly because of Australia’s higher minimum wages but also because, well, tipping is just an ‘American thing’, and we are not Americans. We are Australians.
That said, Australians have adopted lots of things from the United States and we have incorporated them into our everyday lives. Some examples include Coca-Cola, Microwave Ovens, and the tasers used by the responsible members of our state police forces, to name a few.
We Australians have imported such things from the US without a thought, but tipping somehow challenges our identity of what is means to be ‘Australian’.
Lynn & Lynn (2004), in their study called “National values and tipping customs”, suggested that tipping customs reflect differences in national values. Their conclusions were that when ‘national values’ were linked to achievement, individualism and an aversion to uncertainty, the customary sizes of tips and the number of ‘tipped professions’ increased.
Supposedly then, this means the people of the US are consumed with thoughts of themselves and what they can achieve, whilst at the same time are unable to leave things to chance.
By the same logic this study also suggests, if Australia is taken to have a non-tipping culture, that we are more communally minded, have little concern with accomplishment and are happy to leave outcomes that affect our lives to the flip of a coin.
To the extent one is unconcerned with the minefield of issues that arise out of assertions of there being ‘national values’ and the supposed differences between them, maybe Lynn & Lynn’s research explains why some Australians are so opposed to tipping, but are happy to wear Levi-Jeans and watch NBA basketball.
That is, some Australians prefer to not adopt tipping because it runs counter to their ‘Australian-ness’, whereas eating at McDonalds does not.
So perhaps Australians don’t tip, not because its ‘an American thing’ after all but, because it just happens to be an ‘un-Australian’ thing.
Or, perhaps, is it just a convenient excuse when one decides they do not want to tip?
Lynn, M. and A. Lynn, National values and tipping customs: A replication and extension. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 2004. 28(3): p. 356-364.