Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Culturespotting or "Get out! Out! Out! Out!"

My father always says you can't go home again and that is probably true, but in the 48 hours or so that I've been home I had a real case of culture shock when we've got out to dinner. Americans have to eat so fast!

We had lunch at Famous Dave's BBQ yesterday. We were seated, orders taken, eaten, plates cleared and handed the bill in 35 minutes. Our server had stopped by twice to check on us. The manager stopped by once and the bus boy was nearly as involved in our conversation as we were.

Last night we went to P.F. Changs. Again, seated orders taken, appetizers served, eaten and cleared away in 20 minutes. The pace of the dinner slowed down a little after that, but the server kept stopping by. Once or twice it was nice (I needed more water. The "its more sweet than spicy" Chicken was a flat out lie), but the server brought my dad his birthday cake while Mrs. Expat Teacher was still eating her duck. He took my order for coffee, returned a little later with it AND the bill. He may have said, "I'll be your cashier when you are ready," but I heard, "Don't linger over your coffee, please."

The food was all good, but why must I feel like I have to eat so fast and get out? "Turn tables, turn tables, turn tables" was almost an audible undertone in the mood music. In Continental Europe one gets a table for the whole evening. Dinner IS the event. In the U.K. the table is yours for hours. I felt like the servers were asking, "If you aren't ordering something or putting something in your mouth, why are you still here?" This eating in fast forward is a big adjustment.