China Does Not Have a Tipping Culture
You get off the plane and head towards the luggage collection area to get your bags. After your 8+ hour flight the only thing on your mind is getting to your hotel (and perhaps grabbing a bite to eat).
After navigating through the international airport, you get to the taxi lane. The taxi driver sees you're a little lost (it'll happen if it's your first time in China - don't worry, it's normal.) He helps you with your bags and takes you immediately to your hotel.
You think to yourself, "he did a great job. How much do I tip him? 10%? 15% 20%?"
Luckily, the math in mainland China is pretty simple. 0%.
China does not have a history of tipping.
The same applies to other service industry jobs including waiters at restaurants and staff at a hotel.
If you're at the Four Seasons in downtown Shanghai and feel you must tip, the staff will have enough of a metropolitan feel to understand why you want (and perhaps feel like you need) to tip. They will accept your tip.
However, the same will not apply in other parts of China. If you decide to venture in to more rural parts of China, it is likely better if you do not tip.
Due to cultural differences, a tip may be interpreted as a "hand out". (Something you would give a beggar or a homeless person.) As a result, the server or owner may be offended.
Instead, if you want to show your gratitude, learn a basic Chinese phrase such as "thank you" or "good".
The local people (especially if it's outside of a major city) will appreciate the effort!
About the Author: Alexander Parini
Alexander is a recent graduate from Portland State University in the United States where he received his undergraduate degree in political science. He is currently pursuing his graduate degree in international relations at Peking University in Beijing, China.