Dining Differences

During my first meal in Paris I noticed the guest service in restaurants and cafés is very different. For example, a few days after my arrival my friend Jackie and I went to a Japanese restaurant for some sushi. We were excited to have a meal we were familiar with, and actually craving. We immediately sat at a table that was readily open. The predominantly French-speaking waitress handed us the menus to look over. We browsed the options and quickly came to a decision. So far, everything had gone smoothly.
However, five minutes passed and the waitress had yet to return to our table to take our order. It was clear that our attention-seeking faces and ready-to-order body language had gone unnoticed. Seven minutes passed. I began to feel impatient, but I did not let it get the best of me. I looked around the room and observed other guests in deep conversations. Some tables even had the food removed from their table, signifying that they already finished their meals. A couple sat at an empty table and just talked over a cup of tea. I wondered how long these people had been sitting. They seemed to be lost in conversation. I looked behind the cooks counter to get some attention, but all of the workers were busy. I kept my impatience at bay, especially because I didn’t want to be “those Americans”. Finally after about ten minutes, the waitress came to take our order. I felt relieved. Jackie and I ordered our food and chatted until it came out. I found this encounter a tad strange since I’m used to the fast-paced restaurants back in the Los Angeles where the waiters seem to be waiting impatiently for your order.
Nonetheless, our food finally arrived. It was strange for me because out waitress brought out our order in separate portions, whereas most restaurants in the states try to bring out a table’s food once everyone’s order is ready to be served. I actually enjoyed this since we were able to start eating right away! In the middle of our meal, a man came in the restaurant. He was a party of one and looking to eat. I looked around the room, being the micro-manager that I am, and tried to see where he could sit. I noticed that all the tables were full and that he would have to wait. However, the waitress did something I never seen before. She motioned for the man to sit with another man who was eating alone. That caught me very off-guard since that would never happen in the United States. I think that many U.S. Americans would throw a fit if that happened to them. On the contrary, it made me happy to know that such an act would be tolerated here. The fact that two strangers could share a table with no problem is awesome, and also very efficient for the restaurant.
Eventually, Jackie and I finished our meal. We chatted as we waited for the waitress to bring the bill. Again, I found myself becoming impatient after we waited for quite some time. Finally, we got the waitresses attention and asked to pay. Paying is very vague in Paris. Sometimes you will have to walk up to the cashier to pay and sometimes they will come to you. It is always very unclear which method certain restaurants prefer. Thank goodness the consequences aren’t drastic. Usually you’ll just be left looking a little odd if you go about it wrong. To add to the language barrier difficulties, splitting a bill makes the situation even worse. Although, I feel like splitting the bill anywhere is always a hassle. After a few moments, we worked out the payment and headed towards the door. I noticed the same couple I saw earlier, the one with no more food on their table, was still deep in conversation. It was then that I begin to fully realize that dining in Paris comes at a much slower pace. Guests are almost expected to stay for an hour or two. On the contrary, I think U.S. Americans are so used to fast food that the same behavior carries into the restaurants. Even in U.S. restaurants where it’s expected to stay a while, dining is still done at a faster pace then realized. It is not until you come to a place like Paris, that you truly learn how to slow down and enjoy a meal.

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