Something that I have had a particularly hard time reminding myself of since my arrival in Taipei is... the tipping policy.
So today, after I had ventured out alone to find myself some lunch, and stumbled across a small Thai restaurant with a menu in both Chinese/English, I struggled to order from a young girl who clearly did not speak any English. Sure, you think - can't you just point to the menu? Well, yes, but then when she begins speaking in Chinese, is she asking me how spicy I'd like the dish? Or what sides I'd like to come with it...??? Come to find out, my meal also came with a drink - she brought me a Coke, which was fine with me. Sitting there once again in a see of Mandarin, I really appreciated her extended efforts to provide me good service and a tasty meal. When I finished, I stood at a self-serve bar where I had noticed others dishing up bowls for themselves, but the contents looked pretty foreign to me... It looked like an ice cream sundae bar (all the toppings) but there was no ice cream anywhere...
After a few minutes of standing puzzled, the same waitress came to me and gestured could she fix my bowl? I nodded yes in agreement and thanked her many times for my little dish of dessert. Hmmm... seems like it was clear gelatin, covered with a sweet soy milk, with other items in the "soup" like strawberry gelatin, and coconut chunks, fresh mango, etc. It was actually quite tasty! [and no wonder people are thinner here... compare that to a slice of cheesecake!] Well, needless to say, that girl got a tip! She made me feel so well taken care of :)
In Taiwan, it is not customary to tip, and if it is expected, it will be listed as a line item on your bill. 10% service charge. As an American, sometimes I almost feel guilty not leaving a tip on top of my bill... but the system is just different here (I am hoping they also make more than the American waiter's hourly rate of $2.15 plus tips). But another thing that is different, is that the waiter is not 'working for thier tips' so to speak, they are just working to provide the same level of good service that all are given equally. It is nice.
In the end... you can still tip if you feel that the service was exceptional, and for my lunch at the Thai place... in my opinion, it was!