Proof Americans and Brits speak a different language

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  • That alternating thing is bizarre. I can just imagine the fun with allergies and/or religious prohibitions!
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited January 5
    That alternating thing is bizarre. I can just imagine the fun with allergies and/or religious prohibitions!

    Well these days people with particular requirements will usually say so beforehand (eg vegetarian), or just tell the person next to them they need to swap. No big deal.

    You can just about bet your house one of the main courses will be chicken. I actually remember in Edinburgh, we were giving chicken and beef as examples, and lo and behold.

    Surely a set menu with no variation is worse for these issues? Or do you just do buffets all the time for such events?
  • Hmm...for US conferences, post-wedding dinners, etc., people choose ahead of time from a short list of entrees--e.g., maybe chicken, vegan/vegetarian, and beef.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    I had pizza this evening. I ate it with a knife and fork.
    Why? :wink:

    Seriously though, eating pizza with a knife and fork—except for the aforementioned Chicago deep dish (yes @Rossweisse, food of the gods indeed)—would lead to very puzzled and amused looks around here.

  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Dare I say it, this doesn't surprise me. The US is very choice-focused.
  • orfeo wrote: »
    That alternating thing is bizarre. I can just imagine the fun with allergies and/or religious prohibitions!

    Well these days people with particular requirements will usually say so beforehand (eg vegetarian), or just tell the person next to them they need to swap. No big deal.

    You can just about bet your house one of the main courses will be chicken. I actually remember in Edinburgh, we were giving chicken and beef as examples, and lo and behold.

    Surely a set menu with no variation is worse for these issues? Or do you just do buffets all the time for such events?

    I thought you were saying that people didn't have the opportunity to say anything ahead of time – which would be rather problematic. But of course if you can say ahead of time, "I'm allergic to chicken," or something similar, then there's no problem.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited January 5
    orfeo wrote: »
    That alternating thing is bizarre. I can just imagine the fun with allergies and/or religious prohibitions!

    Well these days people with particular requirements will usually say so beforehand (eg vegetarian), or just tell the person next to them they need to swap. No big deal.

    You can just about bet your house one of the main courses will be chicken. I actually remember in Edinburgh, we were giving chicken and beef as examples, and lo and behold.

    Surely a set menu with no variation is worse for these issues? Or do you just do buffets all the time for such events?

    I thought you were saying that people didn't have the opportunity to say anything ahead of time – which would be rather problematic. But of course if you can say ahead of time, "I'm allergic to chicken," or something similar, then there's no problem.

    People can definitely request a vegetarian meal. I mean, any conference will ask about dietary requirements.

    But if someone couldn't eat chicken, or even really doesn't like chicken, then the usual behaviour would simply be to say to the person next to them "if I get the chicken can we swap".

    Non-Australians at the Edinburgh conference did seem slightly terrified at the social risks of such conversations. For me as a general omnivore I'm thoroughly used to such requests.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Hell Host, 8th Day Host
    orfeo wrote: »
    ... In Australia, I would be surprised if I went to either a wedding reception or a conference dinner and this DIDN'T happen.
    Yet another reason to be grateful that I didn't act on my early-20s urge to go to Australia... This is a "Not only no, but HELL no" issue, as far as I'm concerned.

  • I'm not sure why, but I think most Americans would find themselves mildly unnerved at the idea of having to turn to the person next to them, who might be a complete stranger, and say, "would you like to swap dinners?" There's something about the idea of being in my best clothes and on my best behavior and then suggesting we do the equivalent of swapping sandwiches in the primary school cafeteria – well, I guess I'm more of a prude (? that's not the right word, sorry) then I thought I was!

    Now I could totally see this at a picnic or take-out place.
  • I'm not sure why, but I think most Americans would find themselves mildly unnerved at the idea of having to turn to the person next to them, who might be a complete stranger, and say, "would you like to swap dinners?" There's something about the idea of being in my best clothes and on my best behavior and then suggesting we do the equivalent of swapping sandwiches in the primary school cafeteria – well, I guess I'm more of a prude (? that's not the right word, sorry) then I thought I was!

    Now I could totally see this at a picnic or take-out place.

    If you're a prude then so am I. It's the sort of thing that happens so very infrequently—that one is at a fixed-plate convention-style meal—that one's instincts about what is or isn't unseemly have to come from somewhere else, since one hasn't generally had a lot of practice at being in such straits. Something in our upbringing as Americans outside of that context predisposes us to find the idea of swapping plates with a total stranger as abhorrent. I can't imagine what about an Australian's upbringing would make them tend the other way.
  • And what if you truly can't eat what's before you, but you *could* eat what either table neighbor is eating, and they don't want to switch?

    As to how the Australian swapping protocol started:

    I wonder if someone (a mom, grandma, ranch cook, school cook) got tired of personalized requests (and maybe didn't have the resources to provide them), and said "All right, listen up, you {insert mild insult here}: There are going to be TWO--yes, just TWO--options. If you don't like what you get, swap with your neighbor. If that doesn't work for you, well, suck it up, Buttercup! I'm not your personal servant. You'll get what I serve, and you'll eat it--or just not eat. Sort it out among yourselves!"{Storms back into kitchen.}
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    I had pizza this evening. I ate it with a knife and fork.

    Barbarian, stabbing a helpless flat pizza with a fork and dissecting it with a knife.

    :wink:

    In America, I’ve been to very swanky (high end) Italian restaurants that serve pizza and it’s always eaten with hands. Chicago style, knife and fork sometimes, but those of us who are brave still attempt to manhandle the delicious goodness to our mouths.

  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    I can't imagine what about an Australian's upbringing would make them tend the other way.

    We're a lot less formal than you. I didn't understand this until the first time I went to the USA, but there's a lot less formal politeness here. We aren't exactly devoid of class structure the way we'd like to believe, but fundamentally talking to strangers doesn't require much in the way of introductions.
    Golden Key wrote: »
    And what if you truly can't eat what's before you, but you *could* eat what either table neighbor is eating, and they don't want to switch?

    Does not arise. In Australian etiquette refusing to switch would most definitely lose you marks unless you also couldn't eat the other meal.

    We're usually talking a circular table of 8 or 10 people. The idea that no-one at all could trade meals with a person in need... does not compute.

  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    edited January 5
    I like this system and will implement it at my next function. I think it’s a good way to get people talking to each other. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think us millennials may not be bothered by the idea as much. But also could just be me and my lack of knowledge of social etiquette (asperger’s), which the ex-wife pointed out often.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited January 5
    ECraigR wrote: »
    I like this system and will implement it at my next function. I think it’s a good way to get people talking to each other. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think us millennials may not be bothered by the idea as much. But also could just be me and my lack of knowledge of social etiquette (asperger’s), which the ex-wife pointed out often.

    Given how almost all non-Australians freak out at the alternating meals idea, I wish you luck...

    I don't know if I mentioned this is usually in the context of a 3-course meal. So any food envy tends to even out in most cases. lol
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited January 5
    ECraigR wrote: »
    Enoch wrote: »
    I had pizza this evening. I ate it with a knife and fork.

    Barbarian, stabbing a helpless flat pizza with a fork and dissecting it with a knife.

    :wink:

    In America, I’ve been to very swanky (high end) Italian restaurants that serve pizza and it’s always eaten with hands. Chicago style, knife and fork sometimes, but those of us who are brave still attempt to manhandle the delicious goodness to our mouths.

    Seems like I remember a picture of the 45 eating a New York style Pizza (flat and very greasy) with a fork. I remember Stever Colbert making fun of it. In New York, youz take th' pizza, den youz fold it and eatz it dat way.
  • I didn’t realise it was peculiarly Australian, either, but as there aren’t many things I absolutely refuse to eat, it’s never really been an issue. And as Orfeo says, it’s very unlikely that absolutely no one would be willing to help someone else out by swapping.
  • rhubarbrhubarb Shipmate
    I've always hated the alternating meals at dinners. I always seem to end up with something I either loathe or am allergic to. Some people are happy to swap, but others cling to their plates. Once I had to tell the waitress that I would be unable to eat what she had served due to seafood allergy and she was most unhappy with me as she had to go back to the kitchen and ask for a replacement.
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    ECraigR wrote: »
    Enoch wrote: »
    I had pizza this evening. I ate it with a knife and fork.

    Barbarian, stabbing a helpless flat pizza with a fork and dissecting it with a knife.

    :wink:

    In America, I’ve been to very swanky (high end) Italian restaurants that serve pizza and it’s always eaten with hands. Chicago style, knife and fork sometimes, but those of us who are brave still attempt to manhandle the delicious goodness to our mouths.

    Seems like I remember a picture of the 45 eating a New York style Pizza (flat and very greasy) with a fork. I remember Stever Colbert making fun of it. In New York, youz take th' pizza, den youz fold it and eatz it dat way.

    As a (current) New Yorker, I can confirm that this is the Enforced Discipline. I will say that my father often eats pizza with a knife and fork, but we all regard him as Strange, and he’s a lifelong Connecticuter. Perhaps he’s on to something, or is secretly cosmopolitan.
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    ECraigR wrote: »
    I like this system and will implement it at my next function. I think it’s a good way to get people talking to each other. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think us millennials may not be bothered by the idea as much. But also could just be me and my lack of knowledge of social etiquette (asperger’s), which the ex-wife pointed out often.

    Given how almost all non-Australians freak out at the alternating meals idea, I wish you luck...

    I don't know if I mentioned this is usually in the context of a 3-course meal. So any food envy tends to even out in most cases. lol


    Thanks. I’ll probably need it. That being said, I do think millennials may be better prepared for this than other generations, given our general connectedness. Other millennials can feel free to correct me, but because of our constant weird connections online, I feel like swapping food wouldn’t be so bad if standardized in the every other person format.

    Again, pure speculation. Next time I have an event (April) I’ll report back.
  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    rhubarb wrote: »
    I've always hated the alternating meals at dinners. I always seem to end up with something I either loathe or am allergic to. Some people are happy to swap, but others cling to their plates. Once I had to tell the waitress that I would be unable to eat what she had served due to seafood allergy and she was most unhappy with me as she had to go back to the kitchen and ask for a replacement.

    This was a situation where you had no control over the item being served to you? Sounds like par for the course to me.
  • orfeo wrote: »
    Surely a set menu with no variation is worse for these issues? Or do you just do buffets all the time for such events?

    If one has particular dietary necessities, one notifies the host in advance. My experience of conference dinners is about an equal three-way split between buffet service, select your choice from 3-4 options when you book, and a single set meal (with an alternative provided for anyone who has asked for their dietary needs to be accommodated).

    I can't help but think that the Australian thing would invariably result in bad feeling - either because I'd get the meal that looked less good, and I'd be disappointed, of I'd get the one that looked best, and my neighbour would oblige me to swap because they didn't like to eat whatever they had been given, or I'd refuse to swap and have to endure the reproachful gaze of my neighbour.

    Then again, I must be weird with food. IMO, people who ask you "beef or chicken" are asking the wrong question. The thing that will make me chose between them is what the dish has been flavoured with, not what kind of meat is in it.

    (I usually eat pizza from a plate with a knife and fork. You can't just pick it up because you can't do that with a whole pizza. Pizza that has been pre-sliced for you is street food, designed to be eaten standing up with the hands.)
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »

    We're a lot less formal than you. I didn't understand this until the first time I went to the USA, but there's a lot less formal politeness here. We aren't exactly devoid of class structure the way we'd like to believe, but fundamentally talking to strangers doesn't require much in the way of introductions.

    And as it normally happens with the main course only, you should be on some sort of speaking terms with your table neighbours by then. If there's been no first course, and so no idle chat, not a bad way to start.
  • Leorning Cniht--

    Re not picking up a whole pizza:

    Is this a very small pizza for one person? Or one of the various larger sizes for multiple people (or one hungry/pizza-craving person)?

    We usually have our round pizzas cut in multiple pie-slice-shaped pieces. So they're cut in quarters, then in quarters again. (Depending on the size of the pizza and the number of eaters.)

    Then we eat a slice with our hands, get delightfully messy, then use up a bunch of paper napkins!
    :)
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    orfeo wrote: »

    We're a lot less formal than you. I didn't understand this until the first time I went to the USA, but there's a lot less formal politeness here. We aren't exactly devoid of class structure the way we'd like to believe, but fundamentally talking to strangers doesn't require much in the way of introductions.

    And as it normally happens with the main course only, you should be on some sort of speaking terms with your table neighbours by then. If there's been no first course, and so no idle chat, not a bad way to start.

    Wait, what dinners are you going to? I'm used to it happening for all 3 courses.

    I think even in Sydney. So there.
  • Golden Key wrote: »
    Leorning Cniht--

    Re not picking up a whole pizza:

    Is this a very small pizza for one person? Or one of the various larger sizes for multiple people (or one hungry/pizza-craving person)?

    A plate-sized pizza for one person. I'd hardly call it "very small" - I'm invariably replete after eating one. I suppose it's about a foot in diameter or so, although I usually eat my dinner rather than measure it.
  • I was eating at a pizza restaurant in German quite a few years ago and was glad that I remembered enough German to read a note to parents on the menu to the effect that it was permissible for children to eat their pizza with their hands. I took the hint -- adults were to use forks.
  • I wouldn't expect the alternate thing to cause bad feeling--food is just food, after all, and not worth a fuss. But it seems odd to me in a formal settinfg to be doing swaps and deals, and physically exchanging plates. (Does it ever happen that someone wants half, and then you get the joy of cutting bits off and scraping them off the plate????
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Um, that last bit would strictly be couples. Who do that in restaurants anyway.
  • AnselminaAnselmina Shipmate

    I can't help but think that the Australian thing would invariably result in bad feeling - either because I'd get the meal that looked less good, and I'd be disappointed, of I'd get the one that looked best, and my neighbour would oblige me to swap because they didn't like to eat whatever they had been given, or I'd refuse to swap and have to endure the reproachful gaze of my neighbour.

    That would be my take on it, too! If you enjoy your food and you like what's been put in front of you, you wouldn't feel happy about feeling compelled to swap with a neighbour who claims they can't eat their given dinner. And similarly if you didn't like what was given to you, how would you have the gall to ask someone to give up what they might have preferred to legitimately keep for their own enjoyment, just to make you feel better?

    Irish weddings do this thing of having three standard options on the menu and people simply choose from that. It's reasonably unwasteful because they'll be fairly popular choices and ready for dishing up, and more to the point everyone gets what they want without having to make sad eyes at their neighbour, or guilt them into giving them their dinner!
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Apparently, if we import this practice into other cultures, there will be a rash of people lying about their dietary needs in order to get their neighbour's meals?

    And you thought you sent your criminals over here...
  • I once gave up my first choice of meal on a flight in the US, to help a fellow passenger who didn’t want the only option left to him (he had upgraded, so got last choice). He then promptly asked the cabin crew to serve his meal as late as possible, as he’d had a late lunch and wasn’t hungry yet...

    (I got exemplary service for the rest of the flight. He was lucky not to end up wearing the roast beef).
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    orfeo wrote: »

    We're a lot less formal than you. I didn't understand this until the first time I went to the USA, but there's a lot less formal politeness here. We aren't exactly devoid of class structure the way we'd like to believe, but fundamentally talking to strangers doesn't require much in the way of introductions.

    And as it normally happens with the main course only, you should be on some sort of speaking terms with your table neighbours by then. If there's been no first course, and so no idle chat, not a bad way to start.

    Wait, what dinners are you going to? I'm used to it happening for all 3 courses.

    I think even in Sydney. So there.

    You must lead a fancier life than we do. I can't remember one where there was a choice in other than the main.
  • I spent three years in Australia and never came across this plate swapping, even on formal occasions. Is it a regional thing?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    edited January 5
    orfeo wrote: »
    <snip>
    And you thought you sent your criminals over here...
    Only the ones who got caught…
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    If I get a take away pizza I eat it with my hands. At a restaurant I always use a knife and fork.
  • AnselminaAnselmina Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    Apparently, if we import this practice into other cultures, there will be a rash of people lying about their dietary needs in order to get their neighbour's meals?

    And you thought you sent your criminals over here...

    I didn't pick up on anyone saying that others would lie as a matter of course to get a better meal than the one presented with? I thought we were just talking about when the person next to you says 'can we swap, I can't eat this!' Is there an etiquette surrounding any explanations given; whether someone may say 'no, I don't want to swap' etc? But now that you mention it, yes, maybe someone would simply just prefer the chicken to the beef or vice versa! I'm usually one of those people who often fancies what other people have on their plate, and wonder why I didn't order what they ordered!

  • EirenistEirenist Shipmate
    But if both prefer the chicken - or the beef . . . .
  • Golden Key wrote: »
    Leorning Cniht--

    Re not picking up a whole pizza:

    Is this a very small pizza for one person? Or one of the various larger sizes for multiple people (or one hungry/pizza-craving person)?

    A plate-sized pizza for one person. I'd hardly call it "very small" - I'm invariably replete after eating one. I suppose it's about a foot in diameter or so, although I usually eat my dinner rather than measure it.
    Hmmm. Anywhere around here, I would expect a pizza that size to be sliced into quarters, at least. At one of my favorite pizza places, that’s the size of the pizzas. They’re sliced into quarters before being served; I use a knife to “finish” the slicing if the pizza cutter didn’t quite go all the way through the crust or if there’s some stubborn cheese. It’s hands only from then on out.

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    ... I had no idea it was Australia-specific until my boss was responsible for organising a conference in Edinburgh (because he was, at the time, head of an international organisation), and arranged it and then found out from the caterers it was basically unheard of.

    So he explained to the delegates how the conference dinner was going to work on the afternoon before. It was hilarious. You had every other nationality grabbing the nearest Australian and saying "Seriously, is this real? He's not joking? Does this mean if I don't like my meal I might have to talk to the person next to me about a swap?!!".

    Whereas every Australian was grabbing the nearest New Zealander and saying "Seriously, even you haven't heard of this?"

    In Australia, I would be surprised if I went to either a wedding reception or a conference dinner and this DIDN'T happen.
    Seriously, that is really weird. I'm not surprised the Scottish caterers had never heard of it.

    Why? Even the argument that some might like beef and some might like chicken is no excuse. If there are two option, let the diners choose which one they are given. Ask them. Let them choose. Don't impose the choice on them.

    If I went to a conference dinner and was told there was a choice of dishes, but that the boss was going to decide which dish I had, not me, I'd be really annoyed. It would have a major effect on how I felt about the rest of the conference and the people running it.

    If your boss had had any sense at all, he would have accepted that as the meal was in Scotland, it would be Scottish food served in a Scottish way. Scotland isn't some remote and backward country without its cuisine, customs and practices or caterers who know how things should be done.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    orfeo wrote: »
    If I went to a conference dinner and was told there was a choice of dishes, but that the boss was going to decide which dish I had, not me, I'd be really annoyed. It would have a major effect on how I felt about the rest of the conference and the people running it.
    I think our Diocesan Convention meals are now buffet style (not sure, I haven't been for quite a while). However, they used to offer a choice of three main dishes for the major dinner. The Rector at the church where I used to work couldn't be bothered to ask all the delegates before sending in the registration, so he would decide for the whole group. He usually chose the beef, but one year he was trying out vegetarianism (actually, I think it was his wife's idea not his, but every diet she went on he was forced to go along with), so all of the delegates had the vegetarian dish that year.
    :angry:
  • rhubarb wrote: »
    I've always hated the alternating meals at dinners. I always seem to end up with something I either loathe or am allergic to. Some people are happy to swap, but others cling to their plates. Once I had to tell the waitress that I would be unable to eat what she had served due to seafood allergy and she was most unhappy with me as she had to go back to the kitchen and ask for a replacement.
    I am sorry to tell you that the practice of alternating dishes has already spread to the UK.

    I was at a wedding reception where it also seemed to mean the hosts did not need to ask guests in advance if they had food allergies and the caterers took the view that it did not matter, since guests could always swap.
  • SparrowSparrow Shipmate
    I think this sounds pretty appalling. Suppose you preferred what you had been given, but your neighbour was very pressing in trying to get you to swap, but you really dislike what he had? Do you absolutely refuse and cause bad feeling, or what?
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited January 5
    I'm finding this hilarious. Surely one meal isn't such a huge freaking deal? Unless there are medical reasons, of course.

    I mean, even with the annoying vegeterian boss, the bother only lasts for a couple hours or so, and then you've got a funny story to tell for the rest of your life. Might be worth it.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I spent three years in Australia and never came across this plate swapping, even on formal occasions. Is it a regional thing?

    Not as far as I know. It's only at wedding receptions, conference dinners and so forth.
  • PendragonPendragon Shipmate
    I've had the alternating plates with puddings only at a summer evening group dinner in the UK. On 2 of the 3 occasions I've had to swap with Mr Dragon as it's strawberries or fruit salad and I'm mildly allergic to kiwi fruit.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Golden Key wrote: »
    Leorning Cniht--

    Then we eat a slice with our hands, get delightfully messy, then use up a bunch of paper napkins!
    :)

    All I can say is don't ask for paper napkins in Quebec...
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited January 6
    I'm finding this hilarious. Surely one meal isn't such a huge freaking deal? Unless there are medical reasons, of course.

    I'm finding it hilarious as well. I mean, here's a situation that people in this country have navigated perfectly successfully for I don't know how long (several decades at least), and various Shipmates seem to think it would cause the world to end.

    As to why do it rather than give people a choice, the simple answer is that it's simpler. Organising a wedding dinner or conference dinner is a nightmare as it is. Keeping track of who is coming, who isn't, where they're sitting, last minute changes to all of the above.

    Also recording what each one of those people wants for each course of a 3-course meal (and expecting them to know what their tastebuds are going to be inclined towards that far in advance) is an extra layer of complexity that some Australian somewhere decided was a complete fucking waste of time. I sure as hell couldn't guarantee you months in advance when answering an invitation/registering for a conference what I'm going to want for dinner. So what's the point of asking?

    Or maybe around here there's enough of us who aren't so damn precious that we can't get through a single meal that's not the best culinary experience of our lives (when the meal isn't even the main reason for being there). I mean, sure, it's considered notable if both options are enjoyable. If not, so long as they're edible, everyone copes. We got fed. And quicker.

  • @orfeo you seem to be misunderstanding how American catering works. When someone here gives a banquet dinner, they generally don't ask you what you want. You're going to get the chicken unless you have special dietary needs and make them known early. (Chicken, or whatever it is they have planned.) Much easier and cheaper to cook one dish than two.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    @orfeo you seem to be misunderstanding how American catering works. When someone here gives a banquet dinner, they generally don't ask you what you want. You're going to get the chicken unless you have special dietary needs and make them known early. (Chicken, or whatever it is they have planned.) Much easier and cheaper to cook one dish than two.

    It was more the UK folk I was referring to.

    They're upset enough about us whacking 2 dishes down on the table. Wait until they figure out you only offer one...
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