Column One: A tip for waiters: don't bother to serve Norwegians

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"NEI, JEG insisterer, behold pengene'' (No, I insist, you keep the change), is not an expression that trips lightly from the tongue of the average Norwegian. They and their fellow Scandinavians are, it seems, among the world's most dismal tippers.

Their neighbours the Finns are almost as bad, and the Icelandics performed so dismally - they didn't tip anyone - that researchers threw them out of the survey on the basis that no one could really be that mean and there must have been a technical error.

But the apparent aversion of the Scandinavians to tipping is not because of any inherent meanness, no, no, no. They are simply introverted and non-neurotic, if the researchers are to be believed. While Norwegians will tip in little more than half a dozen trades and professions, the neurotic American will tip almost anyone in 32 different jobs.

The research, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, says tipping is dictated by national characteristics: Put simply, the more neurotic or extrovert the population, the greater the tip.

Anxious and neurotic people tip because they see it as a way of ensuring they will get served well and won't have any of the waiter's DNA in the soup.

"There are vast differences across countries in the number of service professionals it is customary to tip,'' says the report's author, Michael Lynn.

He looked at tipping practices and national characteristics in 21 countries (before being forced to exclude Iceland) and found that: "The number of tipped professions increased with national levels of extraversion and neuroticism and decreased with national levels of psychoticism.''

He suggests that one of the reasons extroverts may be more likely to tip is because it is way of showing off, or as he puts it, "a form of conspicuous consumption or status display.''

Neurotics tip more because it makes them feel safer: "Tipping provided service workers with an incentive for delivering good service which increases consumer confidence that they will be treated in a friendly and professional way. This assurance should appeal to people who tend to be anxious and nervous more than to emotionally stable people,'' he says.

The report shows that Americans will hand out to 32 trades, followed by the Egyptians (29), Greeks (28), Spanish (27) and the Portuguese (26). Britons tip 23 professions, slightly less than Mexicans and Brazilians. The Norwegians tip seven or eight trades, and only came bottom because of the disqualification of the Icelandics.

Leading article, Review, page 3