Culture and Time

Visual Description - White female with salt and pepper asymmetrical hair signs in ASL while stnding in front of open doors of a window. She is wearing a blue dress with light blue flowers, a fitbit watch, silver wedding ring and kinesthetic tape on her right forearm. The sky is dark behind her, and there are noises from traffic on the street below.

There is an interesting cultural phenomena regarding time for eating and taking care of the bill. My wife and I recently went out to a restaurant and after we were seated and had a chance to look over the menus, we were left twiddling our thumbs for a while before we were able to make eye contact with the waiter to come and take our order. After our food came and we ate our meal, we had still more time on our hands without any interaction from our waiter.

As Americans, we have been used to eating, having plates taken away and them bringing the bill (or asking if we wanted it) with an additional request from us. It seems to be here in Europe (or at least where we have visited in France) that the bill should not be brought to the table without the customer requesting it first. There seems to be a concern that a server who brings a bill of their own volition would be rudely suggesting that the customer(s) get put, and servers don't want them to leave in a huff.

Once we started realizing that, we started making eye contact with servers when we knew we had to take care of the bill and move along with our evening and all was well.

Earlier tonight was the opening ceremony of WASLI conference and it was technically scheduled from 4-7pm. As some of you may already be guessing, at 7 o'clock they were moving through the crowds to clean up the food and drinks offered, but there were still plenty of groups still chatting. By the time I left at 8:30, the crowd had dwindled, but there were still plenty of conversations happening. There were no light switches in the grand hall to flick for attention and kick everyone out! This had already gone an hour and a half beyond the scheduled time with plenty of groups still remaining.

By the time we got outside, there were even more groups still chatting there as well.

My third example is from a restaurant where a group of us went out to eat after the ceremony. We all ate our pizza, had drinks and dessert and were enjoying a lovely chat. It was only after the waiter came by to check if we needed any dessert or coffee that we looked up from our own table and actually realized we were the last ones in the restaurant! We were so engrossed in what we were doing, we were still there 20-30 mins after it was technically closed at 11! It was with some chagrin that we asked for the bill(s), and made our way outside for final hugs goodbye and parted ways.

This expectation of timing is not just from our own personal beliefs but is instead rooted in our culture including who and how we interact with others. Our own expectations are developed from the people we are surrounded by and their expectations as well. It's important to keep in our minds when interacting with others that what we think or believe about time is not the only viable system, and there are plenty of other possibilities to use too.

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