Last month, I visited the country of Thailand with my husband and some friends of ours. Since our return, I’ve really been thinking about something we noticed while visiting and that is- a slower pace of life. Overall, the Thai atmosphere is much slower paced and carefree than that of the United States. However, it was while dining in restaurants that we really became aware of our habitual desire to “get in and get out”.
We noted the majority of restaurants we walked by having someone outside insistently attempting to catch the attention of passersby and encourage them to dine at their restaurant. To our surprise, upon being seated, we consistently found ourselves waiting and waiting; and, I am a bit embarrassed to admit, had commented quietly to each other, “for working so hard to bring guests in, it sure seems ironic that we sit and sit without service”. We grew frustrated as it seemed our servers weren’t tending to us and we found the need to ask to place our order, ask for the bill and would even sometimes choose to pay our bill at the same time we requested it in order to speed along a process that we anticipated taking awhile. We soon realized this occurring at most every restaurant we visited. We started to wonder, “Is the service just terrible everywhere here?… Is it us? Are we the only ones in a hurry?”
We began to understand that the Thai atmosphere was much slower paced, and that Thais value the opportunity to socialize at mealtime. So often, in Western culture, unless we are special-occasion dining, we are eager to “get in, get out and get on with our day” that we don’t allow ourselves to be present and enjoy the time together or the meal itself because we’re too focused on our next task. While we have grown accustomed to ordering upon sitting, multi-tasking while eating, asking for the bill and paying as soon as possible, our version of “terrible service” means allowing us to socialize, enjoy the meal and be present.
I started to really think about the difference in culture and began realizing that if I were Thai, visiting and dining in the United States, I would view our service as “terrible” if I were rushed to get out and on with my day. Not only has this rushed lifestyle become the norm for Western culture, it is common practice for many restaurants in Western regions to be “efficient” with their service in order to turnover guests quickly and earn more. The cultural difference we experienced forced us to realize the importance of slowing down and that…
Maybe we’re the ones doing this all wrong?