Tips on Holiday Tipping for Paris Residents

In France it’s traditional to tip service personnel for the New Year, referred to as « les étrennes ».

If you have a concierge, the typical amount is 10% of your monthly rent/mortgage. It should be in cash, and preferably in an envelope. As far as I've experienced, they never actually ask for it, so I just put the tip in a nice New Year card and hand it to her when she drops off my mail (my concierge rocks; if yours doesn't, maybe it's because you haven't tipped her). If you're going away for the holidays, be sure to tip before you go, especially if she'll be holding your mail, watering your plants, and signing for packages.

For les pompiers (firefighters) and le facteur (your local postal worker), €5-€10 is traditional, usually in exchange for a calendar*. The firefighters usually sell theirs in squares and outside malls, but occasionally I've had them come to the door, so have some small bills handy during December. The postal worker usually posts a little sign in my building entrance to say what day he/she will be coming with calendars. If you get your mail and packages directly from your local postal worker at your door, expect them to present the calendar during their rounds. In my building it's the concierge who receives and delivers the mail, so I have never actually seen le facteur myself.

Other people people who may expect an end of year bonus include your housekeeper, gardener, or babysitter. However, it’s actually illegal for municipal employees to collect tips (including garbage collectors, street sweepers, etc).

In a big city like Paris, you should also be aware of scammers, people who pretend to be pompiers or facteurs. In general, you should never give anyone money if you don’t recognize them, if they don’t have official badges, or if they seem a bit dodgy in general (I’ve never had a postal worker or firefighter ask for money without selling the calendar). Remember these tips are not required, so if you’re just uncomfortable, then don’t feel obliged. These scammers tend to prey on foreigners who feel "guilted" into giving them money. Trust your gut on this one.

As an aside, I’ve also heard stories recently of people getting letters under their door from EDF or some other “official” reason to visit your flat, asking residents to leave the key under the mat if they’re going to be out. And then of course they’re robbed. Helloooooo….this isn’t the countryside. Never leave your key with anyone but a concierge or trusted neighbor. EDF doesn’t actually ever need to see the counter, you can just write down the number on the letter and post it outside your door.

* The calendars are for a good cause, but unfortunately they're usually pretty boring. Unless you live in Amiens, which just put out the first "sexy firefighter" calender in France, on sale at the Marché de Noël through the 24th December. I'll be heading up there next weekend to fact-check the Fodor's Guide, if anyone wants to join me. ;-)

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Reader Comments (4)

Hello, I love your post but you have misunderstood the word "la facture" which means the bill in French. I think that it is a good idea that you revise and replace by "la factrice" which is the female word for "le facteur". "la factrice" and"le facteur" are the postal workers.
I think that it is a tradition too to tip the garbage collectors who sell calendars. Generally people consider that they work in difficult condition and badly need this money.
December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
Hi Barbara,
Yes, I misspelled Le Facteur (probably because I'd been paying les factures all day), which according to my Petit Robert is used for both the male and female postal workers in France (I think factrice sounds horrid, in any case!).

As for the garbage collectors, I'm sure they need the money, but as the link to le Mairie de Paris' website indicates, it's illegal for them to ask for it.
December 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler
Heather I am surprised you didn't mention the rugby calender, my wife is almost willing to age another year just so she can get a new one every year. PS The pompiers visted tonight and we did our civic duty, what a world-class operation.
December 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul
Hey Paul, I don't think those rugby men are posing for a calendar because they're short of cash. ;-)
December 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler

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