The custom is to leave it to the individual

The Emirates, unlike many countries in the world, does not really have an etiquette governing tips.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - March 1  The Sharanis Wellness Spa in Khalifa City offers women a break away from stressful living in the city to an oasis of pedicures, manicures, massages and more. ( Delores Johnson / The National ) *** Local Caption ***  dj_02mar09_WellnessSpa_008.jpg
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The Emirates, unlike many countries in the world, does not really have an etiquette governing tips. "There is no one unified rule on tipping," said Heba al Samt, the 26-year-old founder of Emiratweet, an online forum aimed at uniting Emiratis and informing the world about UAE culture. "I believe it came here with the expats." Indeed, as the UAE Federal e-Government Portal advises: "Tipping is not expected, but is common practice."

The most common tipping venues are hotels and restaurants, where gratuities are given at "your discretion", the site advises. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped, while supermarket baggers, bag carriers and petrol station washers are generally given small amounts, such as Dh2, it says. Tipping hotel doormen and security guards was not common, said a manager the Sheraton hotel in Abu Dhabi. Hussein Ghanimah, a 30-year-old IT manager, who lives in Jumeirah Lake Towers, said he only tipped the security guards in his building when they provided additional services.

"Sometimes I come back from grocery shopping with a lot of bags and they help me or they bring me a trolley, so I tip them," said Mr Ghanimah. "I do not tip them because they would not have provided me this service otherwise, but because I feel that they need this money as they are on low salaries." Nail centres and hair salons often provide individual tipping boxes labelled with names of the staff, near the cashier. Fe Cleofe Ridor, a nail technician who has worked in Dubai for almost three years, said about 80 per cent of her customers tipped her.

Ms al Samt does not tip staff who are already being paid for the service they are providing, or those who charge her a service fee or a delivery fee."If I am at a luxurious spa, where I paid a lot of money for a treatment, I don't think it is necessary to tip the staff then," she said. "They have a steady salary and are not dependant on the tips like a bag carrier at a grocery store or a window washer."

Ms al Samt said she and her family would often help out a "person in real need", such as construction worker in the street by buying him a treat, like water or ice cream. "There are those that would really benefit from kindness and generosity, like the labourers. Those are the people I stop and make an effort to help out," she said. Ali al Saloom, an Emirati cultural adviser, said tipping was not a social custom in the UAE and people were not obliged to give a gratuity. They could however, tip in restaurants if they wish.

"A service charge is often added to the bill. If it isn't, 15 per cent is standard," he said, on his Ask Ali website.