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Tuesday, November 20


I had trouble coming up with the first sentence for this post. Waiting in restaurants in Germany (and most of Europe) is standard. The timely customer service Americans and Southeast Asians are used to doesn’t exist here. A typical restaurant experience consists of arriving at a scheduled time and lots of waiting. Usually we have to wait to order our drinks and to order food. (If the menu isn't closed the server presumes the customer isn’t ready to order.) If we aren’t ready when the server is, we wait even longer. Once the order for food and drinks is placed, we don’t see our server again until the food arrives. And when the food arrives, if we need anything we must ask then, otherwise it’ll be some time before we get it or not at all. During and post dinner the server doesn’t (rarely they’ll ask about the food) come back at all. There could be hoards of people waiting in line to be seated for a table but the server is in no hurry to have the customer pay the bill, get them out of there to make room for others. The husband often jokes, when the server brings our food we should ask him to bring our checks so we can pay and leave when we’re ready rather than waiting to flag him/her down. In general, the server doesn’t come back to the table, after food’s served, unless flagged down.

The German restaurant experience is very laid back, to fault, but many Germans believe American service is dreadful with fake smiles and servers periodically watching over the customers. Some even insist it’s uncomfortable to be in an American restaurant because the servers and the service aren’t genuine.

While I’d be the first to call Germany service slow, I don’t intend to get beat up while here so I rarely share my frustration. until now.

Oh and free refills, what planet are you from? Not EuropEarth. No such thing exists here. (In this, I appreciate there isn’t overindulgence on sugary sodas.) And while we’re on the subject, water does cost money and no one orders tap water because it’s considered rude. If a customer wants bottled (sparkling or still) water, they have to order it and pay for it! I’ve seen someone order tap water for free but that’s one case in hundreds I’ve encountered in the past 1.25 years.

Slow Restaurant service is just the fact of life.

Here’s where my experiences differ from some I’ve talked to.

I had a doctor’s appointment at 9:40am. It was the first time at this particular doctor’s so I went to the address listed on a “yellow pages” site and it happened to be incorrect. The offices had moved so it took me longer to get to my appointment. I arrived at 9:50 and signed in. At that appointment I waited 25 minutes before being seen by the doctor. I concluded it was because I was lost and came in later than the scheduled appointment. I had a follow-up appointment with the same doctor before leaving for India. (Yes, I am typing this while sitting in a big living room of my in laws’ home in India, more on that later.) This time the appointment was at 9:20 and I arrived at 9:15. Unfortunately like before, I waited 25 minutes before being seen by the doctor.

(Doctor’s appointment is nothing of stress. I am having issues breathing through my nose 100% of time so I got it checked. It may require surgery but that’s Plan B; for now Plan A is to use nasal spray.)

And then there’s the hair salon experience.

I scheduled a hair appointment at a salon that came highly recommended from friends. Many said the owner and few hairdressers speak very good English. When I arrived for the appointment, I was offered a drink and then waited 15 minutes before being seen. The guy that washed, cut and dried my hair was available so I don’t know why I waited. He took more than 1 hour and 45 minutes to finish the cut. I was exasperated, 1 hour 45 minutes for a haircut? I can’t confirm but I believe he was a student and was being extra careful.

Then I scheduled a second appointment at the salon. This person (a friend explained) spoke great English and is a professional stylist. After arriving, the receptionist offered me a drink and asked me to wait. 30 minutes later, I was finally taken to the back to have my hair washed. The woman that washed my hair was doing my stylist a favor and didn’t want me waiting. Then I waited with wet hair in the chair for 15- 20 minutes before my stylist was ready. I noticed she was running behind from a previous cut that took longer. Although I understood and accepted her apology, I am bothered.

These repeated instances at same locations have me wondering why people schedule appointments if I have to wait before being seen. None of the Americans I know have encountered this at the hair salon. But that makes me question even more, is it me? Is it them? Do I give off weird vibes? You’d tell me, right? I’d hope so.


  1. ohhoho (i hope that translates well if you are still in India). And are you feeling better? I found myself nodding, and then nodding and smiling. I totally agree with the restaurant and service. I know that we used to be like ok figure out what you want quickly. Do they not usually make reservations for dinner? This is the best way to get service because it typically indicates that you will be at that table for the rest of the evening, or at least the majority of it. I think Germany might be cheaper than Belgium, but I think we eventually just gave up and dined in more frequently than out. I would say that after returning here, I think the service here is fine. So what if it's cheesy and sometimes fake - at least the American mentality is to usually accommodate you, something that I never encountered there. It was always more "what you see, is what you get"
    Unfortunately, I had more pleasant experiences with doctors and salons. =( A few minutes of waiting time, but then the appointments were always long and thorough. How is your German coming along? That seems to always help in most folks trying to be friendly. Maybe we American/South Asians tend to just be friendly folks?
    I miss it a lot.

  2. I am glad you understand Neeli! We are so used to the restaurant service that we don't think about it anymore. Some times when we know which restaurant we want to go to, we make reservations but sometimes it's very impromptu. However like you, we're eating in more because of that very fact and here, they're really good at Bavarian food and that's about it.
    I've heard other friends email or say the same thing about doctor's appointments or hair salons. They've all gotten prompt service and friendly faces. I am thinking it's just me on this.
    Coming back from India, I definitely can tell a difference, especially in something as basic as a smiling face and a greeting.