New Yorker Christina Izzo and Londoner Eddy Frankel compare dining experiences.
Upon being seated, you will be asked how you are, what you’d like to drink, what you’d like to eat, where you’re from, what you do, what your star sign is, and so on. By the time the meal’s over, you won’t know whether to give your waiter a tip or your phone number.
Upon arrival, you will be ignored for anywhere between ten and 90 seconds. Once you’ve attracted the attention of a determinedly inattentive member of staff, they will probably shrug and point at some tables. You are unlikely to be offered water or bread; but if you are, there’s a good chance it’ll be added to the bill, so you won’t consume any, no matter how hungry you are.
ORDERING AND COMPLAINING
America operates in accordance with the ‘customer is always right’ handbook. Customer wants a dish not on the menu? Fine. Customer wants to send back their steak because it’s blushpink and not rose-pink inside? A-okay. They’ve got the cash in their pocket, so they’ve got the right to be annoying as hell.
One does not send dishes back in London, nor does one make special requests. The only time you can customise a dish in this city is when you’re asked: ‘Chilli sauce?’ The answer is always ‘yes’. And don’t even dare to dream of complaining. You could be served a lukewarm bowl of tortoise vom and you’d still have to say, ‘Oh gosh! Thanks awfully!’
The ‘check’ will be brought to you before you finish chewing that last mouthful. And when it comes to divvying up the bill between friends, don’t be the cheapskate who opts for ‘paying for what they ate’. Americans are all about equality, goddamn it – so split it evenly!
The bill will be brought after you’ve made your third squigglein- the-air at a passing waiter. If you have to split the bill, everyone will get out the calculators on their phones, but somehow you will still end up paying more than everyone else despite having only had a salad.
Gratuities are not gratuitous in America — they’re outright mandatory. A tip of 15 to 20 percent is the norm. Even if their waiter has been the rudest, most despotic creep to plague the earth, a Yank would rather make a bigger statement by leaving a comically low tip (say, one cent on a $100 check) than leave none at all.