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2007/02/26

Dining Out in China: What Needs to be Changed?

BBC America has started showing Gordon Ramsay's F Word, a very entertaining show and much different from "Hell's Kitchen" (though still with a good amount of screaming). Ramsay's approach is old school and many don't like it, but I don't mind it so much and the man turns out absolutely amazing food. The full extent of my respect for Gordon will be seen in a week or so, but I digress...In a recent episode, they talked about 10 things they wish would be banned from restaurants in London and here's that list (with our comments):
F Word
1. Double tipping (This is something that those in China never have to deal with, but there is a growing trend to add a tip line to the bill on top of whatever the "service charge" was)
2. tables too close together
3. mobile phones (YES!)
4. tables too close to toilet
5. public displays of affection
6. breast feeding in restaurant (take it to the bathroom)
7. children
8. too much perfume
9. bad background music
10. paying for bottles of still water (This growing trend is something I absolutely hate!)

Now, here's our list (with the assistance of some friends) of things we wish would be banned (or things that annoy us about dining out) from restaurants in China:

1. service
There are so many things wrong with service in China, not only in restaurants, but I think my ultimate annoyance is when I go to a restaurant with someone who I want to have a conversation with, I sit down, am given a menu with just a few pages less than War and Peace and then have a waitress standing over me impatiently waiting for me to order. When I ask her to return in a few minutes, she gives me a look as if I've just insulted her family, then (and this is a case even in an empty restaurant), she continually looks over with disdain
2. hidden charges
I get the bill and see 3 additional charges, what? Okay, one's for tea, one's for the "lovely" wrapped chopstick/napkin set that was on the table, the third is for the package of kleenex we were given when we asked for extra napkins. So all these extra charges amount to RMB4 total, I'm okay with that (well sort of), but PLEASE at least tell me you're going to charge me before hand. I think I'm just going to carry my own chopsticks with me from now on, plus it has the added benefit of protecting the environment.
3. smoking
Almost nothing annoys me more than this, especially in nicer restaurants. In China, smoking is allowed almost anywhere (and where its not, people often ignore this anyways) and people do it entirely too much. China is way behind the times as few restaurants have non-smoking/smoking sections and those that do barely make an effort to seperate them so its pointless. Its especially annoying in a fancy restaurant where it can ruin the meal.
4. inappropriate drink service
I was going to limit it to wine service, which is an area where China is severely lacking, but its true of other things. First, with beer, most of the time you'll get the option of warm or cold beer, but not always. Then there are those times they don't ask, give you a bottle of lukewarm (or worse) beer (made worse because its 100 degrees outside) and proceed to open the bottle without giving you the chance to at least feel the bottle to check temp. Second, there is the trend to give you glasses the size of a shot glass, what the hell is with that? Finally, adding Sprite and/or ice cubes to wine should be banned, period, even if the patron is begging the waitstaff to do it.
5. beer girls
This is mainly true in bars, but exists in some restaurants, too. You get to the table, the waitress is anxiously waiting for your order, and she's accompanied by 1 (or more) female(s) who are scantily clad in very tiny dresses trying to convince you to order their beer which is "on special."
6. dirty dishes
Too often, especially in smaller restaurants, you are given plates or cups that are either visibly dirty or visibly chipped, come on now, you need to take better care of the customers than that!
7. ordering too much on purpose
This is more a complaint with Chinese people/culture, but I hate, HATE those who go to the restaurant with "friends" or for business purposes and order enough to feed their table, three nearby, the entire waitstaff, and their relatives. I'm not talking about having a few leftovers, but having multiple dishes that were barely touched (and often not wrapped to take home) for the sole purpose of showing one's "prosperity."
8. bad personal habits at the table
I don't want to see someone picking their teeth at the table, I also don't want to see people spitting on the floor in the restaurant (a dying habit, but something you still come across at times).
9. bathrooms
You go to a restaurant and for whatever reason nature calls, so you go into the restroom and there's no toilet paper and/or all they have is old, dirty squat toilets, then you finish up and there's no soap at the faucet.
10. mobile phone
This one comes in two parts: 1. this goes along with the bad personal habits, include getting to the restaurant and placing your mobile on the table. I know, this is something even one part of our team is guilty of on a regular basis, but putting your phone on the table tells all who are eating with you that you are just hoping for someone more interesting to call/text you. 2. Nobody wants to hear your ringtone (always something annoying like the latest pop hit) at a decibel level comparable to an airplane landing. Pick up your phone right away and/or do everyone else a favor and put it on silent/vibrate while you're at the restaurant.

So what do you think? What annoys you most about eating out in China? What would you like to see changed?

Some random pictures, can anyone guess the Beijing restaurant in the first picture? The second (and not connected to the first), is a random meal of Sichuan food in Beijing...
inside a Beijing restaurant
a sichuan food meal

7 comments:

Benjamin said...

Here's another one: Nonstop suggestions. After looking at the menu for 30 seconds, the waitress usually asks what I would like. I then tell her I want to read the menu. If another 30 seconds passes, she asks me again, then suggests one of the most expensive dishes on the menu...again I tell her I want to read the menu. This repeats at intervals of 30 seconds to 1 minute until I eventually decide what I want...which usually takes me about 3 to 5 minutes.
www.benross.net/wordpress

b. cheng said...

I totally agree, the lack of patience among wait service staff in China can be incredibly annoying for someone who isn't used to it (or even for someone who is). Of course it is also very annoying when they suggest a dish, they tend to always choose the most expensive possible dish.

Jonno said...

Hehe - Here is China!

I am an Englshman who has moved to a new home in Guangzhou (Canton), where I have lived permanently for the last 3 years

I find that 99% of the time, service in restaurants is very good. Being British, I do prefer to have a few beers and chat with friends before I eat - not the Chinese way. Saying something like 'sup dim-ma' or 'Da zhia dou' usually makes the waitresse leave you in peace - but then that is Cantonese lol

Just be thankful you have good service, and that China is not like every other country in the world ... yet!

I am not very keen on Beijing - it is just a 'BIG' version of any city in the world, with all the usual hawkers and rip-off merchants. The sidestreets and backstreets are a lot better, especially behind Qianmen

This is the area at the top of Tiananmen square where all the buses stop - opposite end from the Forbidden City. I bet you went to MacDonald's? I went to the Chinese restuarant directly below it, and had great food at seriously cheap prices + a few beers of course

Next time, let me show you real China and Guangdong, you won't regret it - but speaking the language and understanding a very different culture is essential

Here is China
Jonno

Jonno said...

Hehe - Here is China!

I am an Englshman who has moved to a new home in Guangzhou (Canton), where I have lived permanently for the last 3 years

I find that 99% of the time, service in restaurants is very good. Being British, I do prefer to have a few beers and chat with friends before I eat - not the Chinese way. Saying something like 'sup dim-ma' or 'Da zhia dou' usually makes the waitresse leave you in peace - but then that is Cantonese lol

Just be thankful you have good service, and that China is not like every other country in the world ... yet!

I am not very keen on Beijing - it is just a 'BIG' version of any city in the world, with all the usual hawkers and rip-off merchants. The sidestreets and backstreets are a lot better, especially behind Qianmen

This is the area at the top of Tiananmen square where all the buses stop - opposite end from the Forbidden City. I bet you went to MacDonald's? I went to the Chinese restuarant directly below it, and had great food at seriously cheap prices + a few beers of course

Next time, let me show you real China and Guangdong, you won't regret it - but speaking the language and understanding a very different culture is essential

Here is China
Jonno

b. cheng said...

Jonno, since I'm part Chinese and grew up in Beijing, trust me, I can both speak the language and know the culture very well. Maybe in Guangzhou they are a lot more service oriented, because in Beijing and Shanghai, especially if you eat at the smaller Chinese places, you are bound to encounter at least 1 of the things on the list I made up. Anyways, more than anything, the list is meant to be funny. I love Beijing and think it is a very unique city, hehe, to me the Chinese city that is just like anywhere else in the world is Shanghai. I really appreciate you stopping by and leaving comments, thanks!

Anonymous said...

lol, beijing outclass shanghai on infrastructure, never! retard

b. cheng said...

@anonymous
not sure who you are arguing with, but I always appreciate such wonderfully intelligent comments from my readers, thanks!