Spanish over-tip and it's all the euro's fault, says minister

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Spain may well rank as one of the best places to be a waiter, with hefty tips often left on tables in even run-of-the-mill bars and restaurants. But it's not that Spaniards are blessed with an over-developed sense of generosity, it's rather that they have still not got to grips with the reality of the euro at least if the country's finance minister is to be believed.

"People have not taken on board the value of the euro," Pedro Solbes told a political rally in Madrid over the weekend. "I see people having a couple of coffees and leaving a one-euro tip. That's 50 per cent of the value of the product."

And it's also a whopping increase on what Spaniards tipped before the euro was introduced five years ago. Then a 25 peseta tip was the norm; today's one euro gratuity is the equivalent of 166 pesetas. Mr Solbes said many Spaniards believe the cost of living was higher since the euro replaced the peseta.

The economy is set to be a major issue in next year's general election, and one particular worry for the ruling Socialists is Spain's current rate of inflation, which at 4.1 per cent is at an almost-two year high. Polls are due to be held in March, and Mr Solbes said he expected inflation to drop back below 3 per cent some time after that.