Yeah, your ulpan teacher may have told you that the
Hebrew for "tip" is "tesher," but it's not: it's "teep."
This is one of those random topics that seems inconsequential, but it's what visiting friends tend to ask about the most. So, here's a quick and easy guide to tipping like an Israeli. Hint: it involves exact change!
1. Most Israelis tip between 10-15 percent. This is something I'm still uncomfortable with... I get flashbacks to my college friends working in Chinese restaurants for 2 bucks an hour, plus tips and assorted leftover boxes of beef broccoli, and I almost always leave 15 - 20 percent as my tip. In my experience, though, most Israelis tip less.
2. Guard your tip with your life. When some of my Israeli friends leave tips, they cover their assorted shekels with their hands, flag over the waiter, point at the money, and in general operate with covert prowess. I guess the thought is that someone else might walk along and scoop up the ten shekels if you aren't careful. I don't worry about this one much either, but it's worth mentioning.
3. Most important of all... that little line below your total on your restaurant credit card receipt? It's not for your tip. I always wonder how many Americans shortchange their servers out of blissful ignorance this way. Yes, in the US this line usually lets you add in a tip to your credit card total, but here this line on your credit card receipt is for your telephone number. Which, by the way, you should never write down on any receipt unless someone insists... that would be giving away information. I've never found a way to tip using my credit card in an Israeli restaurant, so bring cash.
4. Aside from restaurants, you're expected to tip workers in a number of other random transactions. Honestly, I still haven't figured this one out, so your best bet is just to ask the person recommending something to you whether you should tip. For example, we paid our movers 700 shekels and then tipped each worker and the driver 50 shekels each-- another 150 shekels. (They were worth their weight in shekels, btw... hiring movers was one of our best decisions. Aleks could lug 20 boxes up two flights of stairs in one trip like nobody's business.) Other transactions, such as getting our washing machine fixed or receiving a mattress delivery, didn't involve tipping. Remember, though, even if you don't plan to give a service person a tip, make sure you offer them coffee... failing to do so would be simply inhumane.
Ok, this appears to be a very simple topic. Is there anything I left out? How much do you usually tip in Israel?