May 22, 2008

my empty water glass

This morning my roommate and I woke up early for some Olympics festivities. The city is buzzing with Olympics excitement and with 77 days left until the Opening Ceremonies, I suppose they should be. Leading up to the actual Olympics there are Good Luck games at the venues for a fraction of the price, and a fraction of the athletic talent (let's be honest). Today, the Bird's Nest was open for Athletics events (javelin, shot put, hurdles, long jump and sprints galore).
After 3 hours of watching other people run, Diana and I took a walk to T.G.I Friday's for lunch. My favorite Western food in Beijing is a Friday's BBQ Chicken salad. (My mouth just watered and I ate one 6 hours ago!)

Some people say that one bonus of living in China is that there is no tipping for services. Tips are not expected for waitresses or taxi-drivers. Amazing, right? Well, kind of. It comes at the expense of service. If you want more water for your teapot, or napkins, or anything for that matter- do not expect a waitress to come over and "check on you". You need to belt out "fu yuan!" (waitress) in the dining facility and eventually someone will mosey over and raise their eyebrows, no smile. That's your cue to politely ask them for more water in a sweet voice...because, remember, they're doing you a favor. I don't mind this usually, especially when it's an older woman that give an extra portion of attitude. Beijing is famous for cranky old women waitresses, and I openly try to befriend them. This is confirmed the next time we visit, when they say "Hello" before taking our order.

My frustration comes when I go to a place like Friday's...a Western restaurant. The poor waiters and waitresses must weigh an additional 10 kilos due to their abundance of 'flair'. The place feels like America- guitars and STOP signs on the walls...but the service is distinctively Chinese. It's disheartening when a person wearing smiley-face buttons, suspenders, striped socks, and a Dr. Seuss hat gives you an eye-roll when you ask for more water. I understand when China Grandma gives an extra sigh, and I empathize with her...she's old and tired, and serving a lot of KungPao Chicken. I get that.

I wanted to draw in the waitress today and whisper to her, "If you manage to keep this little glass of water full for 50% of the time that I'm here, I'll tip you.. I really will. I'm American, it's what we do! And it's not just a few coins, we usually give 20 percent!" (At this point, I'd nod and raise my eyebrows, as a way of saying "Ridiculous, right? But it's true!")

I tried to respect her and do the two-finger raise as a sign that I needed some attention, but she didn't get it. Eventually Diana said "fu yuan" and a waitress came over. We gave up on the water and asked for the bill. When it came, we didn't tip. My water glass was bone dry, and plus, there's no tipping in China. No need to disrupt the system, right?

1 comment:

Michael said...

Ironic that in China, it is said that there is no tipping in China, and in the United States, it is said that tipping is not a city in China.