Monday, May 30, 2005

Service in restaurants

In the States, we describe restaurant service as great or rotten, fantastic or miserable. Here in Taiwan, words like that don't work. Because service in Taiwanese establishments that offer Western food is... just weird.

You get embarrassed adolescents draping napkins over your lap. You get bread with no butter, or butter with no bread, or bread and butter with no knife. You get waitresses who feel obliged to talk to you -- and never let you eat in peace. Time and again, you get asked if you'd like your drink now or if you'd like it with your meal. You get coffee brought to you while you're still eating pasta. You get your salad twenty minutes after your entree.

I realize that these kids providing service don't have the cultural knowledge they need to do their jobs. I realize that their salaries are miserable, and no one tips them. But the next time someone tries to take my plate while I'm still eating, or leaves my plate on the table until the food has calcified, I'm going to... I'm going to... I'm going to smile and say thank you, I enjoyed my meal very much. There's nothing else you can do.

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