In the states my tipping philosophy was similar to Mr. Pink’s in Reservoir Dogs. If I expected to return the server got 15% regardless of how sullen, inattentive or ignorant about the menu she was. In the Philippines my tipping was also defensive because fucking with foreigners is a national pastime. They didn’t need a reason to downgrade the quantity and quality of food or service for a random foreigner, but at least I could avoid giving them another one.
Thailand guidebooks recommend leaving the coin change for the tip, or a 20 baht (the smallest denomination) note (~ $0.60) for a big tab. The service here is pretty damn good to begin with. Early on I discovered the transformation a regular tip of 20 B on a small tab brought. The service gets better and it makes the waitresses sparkle.
So why the change in philosophy? I started partly because I needed coins more than I needed 20s. Some of it was I wanted more than my share of attentiveness when the place was busy. I won’t deny the appeal of sparkling, attentive young women. Mostly I do it because I like the way it feels to give money when I don’t have to, something I rarely did in any situation until about 10 years ago.
The tips are trivial amounts of money to me, though not to them. A few times in my life I’ve given non trivial amounts of money but only when there was something in it for me. I can now see the possibility of giving when there is nothing in it for me.
Articles advise potential expats not to expect they’ll have personality changes in their adopted countries. I like it when I do see changes, but I don’t know or care why it happened. I have no idea if it’s because of retirement, being a foreigner, or continuation of a personal evolution that began in my mid 30s.