Key Words:Spring Festival
>>Folk customs of Lunar New Year- Do in China as Chinese do
>>A bite of Chinese Spring Festival[Special]
When Spring Festival descends upon us, our generosity usually rises. It's the season for hongbao (money-filled red envelopes) and many palms are greased with a little something extra for a job well done.
Increasingly, when I hear a delivery boy or restaurant server wish me "chunjie kuaile" ("Happy Spring Festival"), I can't help but suspect they are expecting me to tell them to keep the change.
I don't fault anyone for hoping for a tip either. After all, people who convey our culinary delights, drop us off at our destinations, cut our hair or tend our local convenience store don't have it easy. They work hard jobs with bad hours and have a monthly wage that I wouldn't know how to survive on.
Many of them won't be making it home for the holidays, so a pittance of a couple of yuan can truly help lift their spirits.
As a North American who lived off tips while going through school, I feel all the more an urge to spread the joy. When I came to China, I was often corrected for trying to leave a gratuity. "It's seen as an insult to leave a tip in China," I was told.
An insult? Well, there's nothing more insulting than trying to help someone who isn't grateful, I thought, so I would often give in to popular consensus and scoop up change on the table.
Part of me felt good about being freed from the superficial measure of leaving a tip. In North America, gratuity is essentially an added tax on most transactions - a tax you pay even if the service is lousy, much to the chagrin of many a customer.
But habits are hard to break, and I've been sneaking in tips more often as I've lived in China. Furthermore, it seems no one has been insulted by my generosity. I make sure to hand over some change with a smile, one that says "I'm doing this because I truly want to, and I get it."
Now when I hear someone describe tipping as an "insult" I wonder if such a sentiment is only self-serving. It seems people throw up old excuses to prevent a tipping culture from developing.
Many shun gratuities because service can be incredibly lousy in China, but this rings like a catch-22 to my ears. How hard would I have busted myself if I knew there was no added payoff when I was a server? I probably wouldn't have made sure everyone had water, that's for sure.
If we want better service, maybe it's time to start paying up. Maybe taxis would actually stop for foreigners if we were a bit more generous. Who knows?
I've always thought of tipping as the most direct example of trickle-down economics. Taking into account China's stark income inequality, it's clear to see a little bit more trickling down is sorely needed. Those who can afford to tip might want to consider whether there's some social responsibility attached.
My advice? During Spring Festival, let your tips fly - in a red envelope, or not - and during the rest of the year, grease a couple more palms when you can. There's nothing wrong with it.
Top 10 satisfying tourist cities of 2012
Old photos: Legendary Asian singer Teresa Teng
Wow! Cutest moments of animals
Glamor actresses in 'Legend of Zhen Huan'
Guides for Snake Year temple fairs in Beijing
Top 9 illusionary photos in 2012
Rare photos of global superstar Li Na
Female stars with most beautiful, shapely legs
Hilarious photos of cute babies