Al Restaurante

Jackson Freeman
Universidad de Burgos, Spain
Major: Secondary Education English

We are an active folk, we students abroad. To be anything less would be to squander what brief time we have in this other planet called Spain; if you are not out and absorbing the culture and life of the place like photosynthesis then you might as well be home. There are blisters on my feet and my legs are often sore from the extensive walking we do but it is worth it to see what wonders to which my feet are leading me.  However, this done not come without the collateral consequence of a rumbling stomach pretty much always, and as a result, we eat out a lot. This is not to say that I do not eat at my host home, but I would feel bad if I were to bring over from my own home my habit of cleaning out refrigerators and leaving no survivors. So to the restaurants we go.

My first few experiences with the local eateries were confusing so I tried to hang back and watch how the locals ordered. There are many bars, cafes, and restaurants in Burgos but they are smaller than, say, a TGI Friday’s, little more than cozy storefronts. If you are inside, you order your food at the bar. I have noticed that you kind of have to flag down a barkeep to come take your order by gesturing at them or just saying your order loudly so they hear it. If you are seated outside, a waiter will make regular runs outside cyclically but, again, you have to throw an arm up and get their attention because they won’t wait on you individually. I’ve learned that this might be a cause of there only being one waiter for the inside and one for the outside at most establishments. In fact, unless you flag them down, they almost look like they’re ignoring you, but this might just have been at the restaurants to which I have visited. I was waiting for a bus in Madrid so I got something to eat at a local place called Camaron. The waitresses would glance out over the herd of customers seldom and you had to make sure you made eye contact with one for them to come over and get your order for, yes, ma’am, another Coke, I’m thirsty, dang it.

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I have, however, received excellent customer service at another eateries and I wanted to tip them for their hard work, but that is not the custom in Spain. Here, waiters make a solid wage so tipping is not something they do. I once tried to leave a tip on the table in secret so my waiter couldn’t protest but he actually chased me down after I had gotten a few blocks away and, panting, told me that I had forgotten money on the table. This made me think, “Well, dang, man, now you kind of doubly deserve it,” but for fear of starting an argument about courtesy (which would have been a rare occurrence to experience) I thanked him, smiled, and went on my way.

Everything else about the restaurant experience feels pretty much the same, though. You order, you wait, the food comes, you eat, you pay, you leave. The only other difference I can think of would be you order all at once; food, drink, appetizers, et cetera. This saves the meseros a couple of trips which helps to bolster the efficiency of the whole scheme. This is something I wish American restaurants would do. By the time my waiter takes my food order my drink is already gone so I have to ask for a refill or, worse yet, pay for one. If I have to pay for one I just get a glass of water and that does not go as well with my Coney Dog as my Coke would have. Learn from Spain’s example, America, lest ye be judged by this scrupulous eater.

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