Here's how American dining goes -
Sometimes at this point I deliberately sit and chat just to mess with the waiter. (Very cruel I know. They have a living to make.) If you don't sign the bill and leave your credit card out (none of them fancy hand-held whats-its here), the desperate waiter will return to your table several times begging "
Dining in the USA - enough to give you heartburn!
Dining out in the UK can either be described as an enjoyably relaxed experience, or, if you’re an American in a big hurry (as we always seem to be) a waste of time.
Back in the States, I used to be able leave my office, go to a nearby restaurant, have lunch and return before my half-hour lunch break was over. I get a 45 minute lunch break at my current job, but I wouldn’t try something like that over here.
Now I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. People like me need to learn to sit and relax, but when I am seated at a table, I expect a waiter to come by before it occurs to me that I have been sitting, unattended, for quite some time. To me, it is perfectly acceptable to walk out of a restaurant after ten minutes have elapsed without someone appearing at my table to take my order.
But that’s just me and my inborn impatience. Free ice water and immediate service are my birthrights, and I expect them. Now. But once you get into the rhythm, and leave the frenetic pace of an American meal behind you, dining in the UK is actually quite agreeable.
First of all, the table attendants generally don’t greet you like an old friend and leave you feeling like you should add them to your Christmas card list. They will take your drink order, then leave you with enough time to make a meal decision (or, in my wife’s case, to decide on something, change her mind, change it back and then decide on something else). The food arrives, sometimes very soon, sometimes not so soon, but it always arrives at the same time (though I don’t know of this being a problem in the US, either).
But the biggest difference is after the meal, when the dessert is finished and the coffee has arrived. They don’t bring the bill with it. They leave you completely alone, allowing you to sip your coffee or the last of your wine, have a nice, leisurely conversation, and only bring the check (sorry, the bill) when you are ready for it.
This is pleasant and enjoyable and, having been here so long, something I have grown to expect, so does come as a shock when, during visits to the US, I find the check accompanying my apple crumble, along with the clear expectation to pay up and leave.
It’s enough to want to make me remove “Hi, I’m Mandy and I’ll be your server,” from my Christmas card list.
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