“Fúwù yuán!” or “How to Receive Service at a Chinese Restaurant”

Posted by Jill,
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Todd and I had an interesting discussion Friday night, stemming from our restaurant experiences here.  I will describe this particular Friday night experience, but this description will only vary slightly from most of our restaurant experiences here in China.  The main difference on Friday was that we decided to try an “Italian” place.  Other than that, I could almost copy/paste this post for any given Friday night. :)

Personal space is not the same in China.  (My little personal bubble has been violated many times over–riding subways and buses, standing in lines, etc.–but I’m over it.)  Anyway, we were seated at a tiny table for two, about 18 inches away from another couple at another tiny table for two.  We almost asked them to pass a slice of their pizza (since they looked like they were finished with it) but then remembered that it just felt like we were sitting at the same table, even though we weren’t actually sitting at the same table.  Oh yeah, and we didn’t know them.  So we opted out of pizza from strangers.

Next, we hungrily scanned the menu.  The menu never fails to entertain.  We snickered at the typos and funny menu items.  Took a few pictures of said menu items (or did we forget this time, since we’ve been here too long?).  There were some interesting “Italian” dishes that looked and sounded more like Chi-talian to me, but whatever.  After reading the menu, here’s the next most fun about a Chinese restaurant.  When we were ready to order, Todd waved his hand toward our server and yelled, “Fúwù yuán!”  (*Fúwù yuán=服务员=attendant or server.)  They don’t magically reappear at your table when you’re ready to order like they do in the States.  They only come when called.  If you visit China (and venture out of westernized establishments), don’t forget that!!

So Todd and I discussed this.  If we hadn’t learned that this is how it works in China, we would probably be a couple of angry, ugly Americans, blogging about horrible restaurant service in China. :)  It made us wonder how many Americans have done just that. :) It would be unfair, because the service is not horrible, just different.  And now that we know, I actually prefer the Chinese way sometimes.  There’s no one bothering you, no pressure to hurry up and decide (unless it’s one of the places where the server stands next to your table until you order).  You just order when ready.  If you need something during the meal, call them over at any time.  If you want to sit and chat for half an hour after eating, no problem!  They either asked you to pay at the time you ordered (like they did for us at the Italian place) or you give a shout out to your “fúwù yuán” and ask them to bring your ticket.  So much fun.  Go ahead, try it. Fúwù yuán!  See?  It just doesn’t get more fun than that. :)

*Tip: Copy/paste the Chinese characters into translate.google.com, then click the little speaker icon to listen to the pronunciation.

- Jill

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