UnderCover Waitress: Waitress Refuses to Speak English

Monday, August 8, 2011

Waitress Refuses to Speak English

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Many thanks to those of you who voted in the Cameron v. Ariani poll. Out of 23 people so far, almost a full third felt Cameron was being cheap.

I must admit, I was unaware when I first heard about Cameron's foibles in Italy that it would be unusual for a customer to order cappuccinos at a certain time of day. Here, we just give diners what they want, no matter how odd it may seem to us. But cultures are different. I remember walking into a breakfast cafe in London shortly after arriving from the states. I was exhausted and so jet-lagged my body didn't know what time it was. While the businessmen were ordering eggs and coffee, I noticed a vegetable pie in the display case. It was exactly what I wanted. The kid behind the counter was able to keep a straight face, but the old man in a suit in front of me looked down like I was the creature from the black lagoon. I simply cooly stared him right back in the eyes until he looked away -- obviously disgusted by me.

Cameron has since returned to the establishment and made up with Ariani.

We have a new story about culture clash with a waitress.

It seems an English speaking diner in Montreal was miffed because the French speaking waitress refused to converse with him in English. She prefers to speak French.

Now, she understood the diner perfectly and took his order correctly. She did not use language as an excuse to bring out the wrong thing. Other than the language issue, she gave him great service. She took the order correctly, and brought them their food in a timely manner. Because of her refusal to use English any more than absolutely necessary, however, this diner did not tip.

There are so many issues at play here that go far beyond the concept of good service. I understand the diner being insulted, but this was Montreal. Must have been his first visit; the Quebecois feel threatened that their language and culture may die out. Nobody up there wants to speak English even though so many of them can. They wonder, "why don't the Angliphones want to learn French?" Yeah, why not?

The diner could have requested a different waitress, and in most contexts that would be a solution. In this situation, however, it is probably for the best that he didn't. I imagine all of the restaurant personnel suddenly not understanding a word of English if he had.

Kim Fraser

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