No Tipping in the South Pacific? Really?

May 15, 2020

That is correct! There is not a custom with the Polynesian and Melanesian people of the South Pacific? 


When any person first arrives in the Cook Islands, you will hear almost immediately “Is this your first time in the islands?”

While the Immigration agent may have another reason, when you hear it from a local, it is because they truly want to know. It establishes how the locals will interact with you.

All first-time arrivals into the islands, you are considered an honored guest. 

A local person would never think of expecting an honored guest to pay a tip for any service. Honored guests are to be welcomed!

Now, here is where it gets interesting!

The second time you arrive into the islands, the people of the islands do not think you would come back because of the great views, the beautiful water, diving or surfing, they believe you would come back because of the people. Now you are considered a family member. Would you force a family member to tip when you come home? Nope and neither do the Polynesians.

When I return to the islands, and most noticeably in the Cook Islands, after years of traveling there, I am often referred to as “Uncle.” While not a blood uncle, since I am part of the island as I return so often, I am given the great title. It is a very special feeling.

This custom is changing, but for the Polynesian and Melanesian peoples, it is a custom still very much alive.

As North Americans, we do like to tip, so if you really want to say thank you, there is generally a “Christmas Box” or “Box” on the main desk where you can tip for your stay. This tip is split among the employees of the resort.

Stay well and positive. Till next time!

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