Proof Americans and Brits speak a different language

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  • Actually, we throw open the doors of the hall and make you go hunt down your dinner. With icecream forks.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    *Googles icecream fork*

    Oh right. Kind of like a splade.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    It is a simple system that works well. And as for talking to a stranger - aren't you going to be sitting next to that person for 3 course meal before a whole series of speeches?
  • Gee D wrote: »
    It is a simple system that works well. And as for talking to a stranger - aren't you going to be sitting next to that person for 3 course meal before a whole series of speeches?

    They let you eat without blabbing at you? You guys really ARE civilized.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    I have been to more conference dinners than you've had, er, hot dinners in both Britain and a fair number of other European countries. Where it's not been a buffet, then it's been the same dishes for all (bar dietary exceptions).

    I think what is startling is the idea that the food should be the subject of social interaction, rather than something that simply appears before you while you continue to discuss probabilistic seismic hazard or whatever it is you're conferencing about.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Hmm. This sounds like an absolute nightmare if you're on the Autistic spectrum. Having to negotiate that there will be two dishes, one of which you may not be able to eat (intolerances, allergies and aversions seem to be more common in people on the AS) and that the solution will be to negotiate with people who may be total strangers on either side of you in the hope they want to swap... I can feel my heart rate increasing just thinking about it.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    I don't know. You'll have to ask some autistic Australians how much of your reaction is just cultural.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    I don't know. You'll have to ask some autistic Australians how much of your reaction is just cultural.

    Which is what I'm currently doing.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I'm amazed that a simple local custom could have sparked so many comments.
  • If you're providing two dishes surely the easiest thing to do is to ask people which they would prefer. Sure, it means having available more of each dish than a straight half of the numbers attending, but then kitchen and waiting staff need to eat too.

    Speaking as someone with a pretty severe food intolerance the insousiant throwaway line of how bad can it be needs to be addressed: the answer is bad enough to need a trip to A&E. For those who'd advise asking for a list of allergens, that isn't an answer because the list in the UK tends to stick to only 10 of the most common things that set people off - my intolerance isn't covered.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Speaking as someone with a pretty severe food intolerance the insousiant throwaway line of how bad can it be needs to be addressed: the answer is bad enough to need a trip to A&E. For those who'd advise asking for a list of allergens, that isn't an answer because the list in the UK tends to stick to only 10 of the most common things that set people off - my intolerance isn't covered.

    As said somewhere above, you'd let the hosts know beforehand if you had an allergy or some other reason for a particular style of dish. I suppose that with vegetarianism becoming more common these days, you'd let your host know that.

  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited January 6
    If you're providing two dishes surely the easiest thing to do is to ask people which they would prefer. Sure, it means having available more of each dish than a straight half of the numbers attending, but then kitchen and waiting staff need to eat too.

    Speaking as someone with a pretty severe food intolerance the insousiant throwaway line of how bad can it be needs to be addressed: the answer is bad enough to need a trip to A&E. For those who'd advise asking for a list of allergens, that isn't an answer because the list in the UK tends to stick to only 10 of the most common things that set people off - my intolerance isn't covered.

    Absolutely.

    My allergy is to melon - so very easy to avoid, unlike some allergens.

    But, if I do eat it by mistake, I go into anaphylactic shock. Then I have to use my epipen and call an ambulance.

    So I like to know the ingredients of my meals - especially the starters, sweets and cocktails where melon can lurk undetected until it’s too late.

  • EnochEnoch 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.
    That's what usually happens here. There's the standard meal + a vegetarian option. The person organising the event is expected to ask people to warn them beforehand if they are vegetarians or have any dietary restrictions, allergies etc. and these days expects to do so. If a guest doesn't response, they get the standard meal and hard luck.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    No choice unless you're vegetarian!!!!!
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    edited January 6
    I'm bewildered by the idea that at a function where you are a guest you expect a choice?

    Does this happen at private dinner parties?

    (On a side note, suppose you've already sloshed out your glass of Chardonnay to drink with your Chicken Marengo, and then feel obliged to swap it for your neighbour's Boeuf en Daube - do you get to swop glasses as well?)
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    People, there is usually a menu. It's not as if we strap people with allergies into their seats and declare that they must play Russian Roulette with whatever lands in front of them without any preparation.

    Honestly, some of the comments completely mystify me given we've established that in some other parts of the world, 2 dishes would represent an increase in options.

    It's one of those all-too-common situations where half the concerns that have zero to do with the actual circumstances and just come about because folks are hearing about something new.
  • orfeo wrote: »
    It's one of those all-too-common situations where half the concerns that have zero to do with the actual circumstances and just come about because folks are hearing about something new.

    Nice Bulverism. How dare people have reasons for what they think or feel. They must be doing it because I know something they don't.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited January 6
    mousethief wrote: »
    orfeo wrote: »
    It's one of those all-too-common situations where half the concerns that have zero to do with the actual circumstances and just come about because folks are hearing about something new.

    Nice Bulverism. How dare people have reasons for what they think or feel. They must be doing it because I know something they don't.

    No, I'm saying that because if an objection would be equally applicable to a different dinner format, it's not a valid complaint about this dinner format.

    This happens all the time. Like the Australian same-sex marriage debate, where almost all of the things people claimed SSM would bring about where things that already existed without SSM. Or at work I sometimes get people worrying about something "new" in the legislation I'm writing which has actually been there in the previous version of the legislation for many years.

    People just don't tend to think about existing circumstances until they're presented with new circumstances. But then half the things they worry about in the new circumstances were already present in the existing circumstances. That's the logical fallacy.
  • They're not arguing about the half that already exists. Swapping plates with the person next to you doesn't already exist in American or Scottish catering. I am sure of the former, and have good authority from this thread on the latter. You seem to be dividing the case in half, berating people for one half, and by so doing denigrating or dismissing their concerns in the other.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    It just seems an odd way of allocating the two options. Asking people which they'd like would seem, well, more efficient.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Yes I know swapping plates doesn't otherwise exist. But we've gone on to a range of other issues besides swapping plates. Like allergies.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    KarlLB wrote: »
    It just seems an odd way of allocating the two options. Asking people which they'd like would seem, well, more efficient.

    Not giving an option would be even more efficient.
  • Only having one plate is the most.
  • Asking people to indicate ahead of time isn’t as efficient as you might hope—so many won’t RSVP and you have to freaking hunt them down with a butterfly net.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Asking people to indicate ahead of time isn’t as efficient as you might hope—so many won’t RSVP and you have to freaking hunt them down with a butterfly net.

    Yes.

    Also, I can foresee any number of people on the day saying "oh, is it too late to change my order?". Because in my very limited experience being within earshot of conference dinner organisation, who is coming and who isn't ends up being fluid right up until the day, so I would expect people to have second thoughts about what they want to eat as well.

    Forward planning is only efficient if you can somehow force people to stick to it!
  • Australian conference attendees are just used to the alternate-drop method of serving. Wait staff will often ask if the recipient has a preference, so that the negotiation with a neighbour is not necessary.

    Mrs BA has multiple uncommon food allergies, and over the last decade has attended at least two state or national conferences per year in my company. We have found that advance notification of her issues is treated highly professionally, and her needs well-catered for. Where we do have issues is with airline travel where, despite advance notice, even the most highly-rated companies struggle to provide an adequate service.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    Australian conference attendees are just used to the alternate-drop method of serving. Wait staff will often ask if the recipient has a preference, so that the negotiation with a neighbour is not necessary.

    TBF, the last conference dinner (December past, in France) the waiter offered a choice of two dishes. But that was fairly small gathering of c. 40 people.

    Of far more impact on these occasions is not whether there's a choice, but how efficiently it's served. Number of times it's Start Time + 1 or more hours, and you're still nibbling on the last of the bread are all too frequent.
  • Vietnamese weddings were so well known for this some years ago that it was a hard rule not to turn up to the reception until at least two hours past the stated time.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Hell Host, 8th Day Host
    Gee D wrote: »
    I'm amazed that a simple local custom could have sparked so many comments.
    It's a horrible local custom. People should be able to have choices without having to launch into negotiations with someone they don't know. I have several food allergies and sensitivities, and I have enough problems getting a dinner I can eat without that crap.

  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    So, otherwise... you would sit there with your chosen meal, staring down rigidly at your plate and not making eye contact with the strangers on either side of you?

    Sounds like a fun dinner.
  • orfeo wrote: »
    So, otherwise... you would sit there with your chosen meal, staring down rigidly at your plate and not making eye contact with the strangers on either side of you?

    There is a considerable difference between negotiating with your neighbour to exchange meals and engaging in small talk over a pleasant meal. At least for non-Australians.

    The claim being made by you and the other Australians here is that to you, it's not so different, which I'll take as an example of Australian cultural informality or something. I wonder whether introverted and anxious Australians find it equally as comfortable to do one as the other - I'm prepared to believe that they do, but curious to know.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    So, otherwise... you would sit there with your chosen meal, staring down rigidly at your plate and not making eye contact with the strangers on either side of you?

    There is a considerable difference between negotiating with your neighbour to exchange meals and engaging in small talk over a pleasant meal. At least for non-Australians.

    The claim being made by you and the other Australians here is that to you, it's not so different, which I'll take as an example of Australian cultural informality or something. I wonder whether introverted and anxious Australians find it equally as comfortable to do one as the other - I'm prepared to believe that they do, but curious to know.

    Well in fact I nearly said in my last post, the menu actually gives you something to talk about. It creates a conversation for small talk.

    I also hesitate to agree with the notion that it's a question of dealing with "total strangers" in that there's invariably a context. Either you're all guests at a wedding, in which case you know that there's some social connection there however distant and you've all just been to a wedding ceremony together, or you're all attending a conference in which case you have something in common there (such as the field you work in) and most likely you've seen each other in the room during the day/previous days.

    Truth be told, one time at a conference I deliberately sat down next to a guy who I'd seen during the conference and I was pretty sure he was gay... I don't recall swapping meals but we did swap phone numbers...

    I don't imagine I'd be completely comfortable doing it in a completely random setting with people I've simply never laid eyes on before. But that's not how it happens.

    Ironically, at the dinner in Edinburgh, the whole novelty of the situation was itself part of the recipe for small talk. Everyone had been through the announcement in the afternoon about how the dinner was going to work, so everyone's small talk consisted of discussing how weird and strange it was to contemplate swapping plates... either with the person who was agreeing it was weird and strange or whichever Australian happened to be at the table.

    So by the time the plates arrived, no-one was sitting next to a "total stranger" they'd never exchanged a word with.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    In some ways sharing one's meal with someone else is not much different than going to a Chinese, Thai, or Indian restaurant, everyone ordering different dishes than sharing portions of those dishes with everyone else at the table, is it not?
  • Gramps49 wrote: »
    In some ways sharing one's meal with someone else is not much different than going to a Chinese, Thai, or Indian restaurant, everyone ordering different dishes than sharing portions of those dishes with everyone else at the table, is it not?
    A custom I despise. I like to choose and eat what I want from a menu -- not dig in to what everyone else has chosen. (Even worse -- at an Ethiopian where I once ate, not only were everyone's choices dumped in the middle of the table, but there was no flatware, just hands. The only good thing was that I was with my mother and sister, not strangers or casual acquaintances.)

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    And as for negotiations - pretty minimal. You turn top one of your neighbours and say that you've got the beef, would they like to swap their chicken. All very simple and it works.

    Rossweisse, with that sort of particular requirement you'd let you hosts know well beforehand, they tell the caterers and you get a meal you can eat. Probably much as you do now.
  • Another factor in attending American events:

    IME, attendees tend to have mixed feelings at best about going.

    You'll probably have to listen to speeches, lectures, or other presentations. If it's a work or professional event, the boss will likely be there, plus lots of people you may or may not know, who you may or may not like (and vice versa). You may worry about your dining manners--or theirs. If alcohol is involved, people's negative traits may come out. If it's a wedding reception/dinner, there may well be people there who *absolutely don't get along with each other*--and if they don't get into a verbal/fist fight, it will only be because there will be witnesses, and someone might call the cops.

    Similar cautions apply to other sorts of events. Not to mention probably dressing up to an uncomfortable degree, and knowing it'll probably be a few hours before you can get home (or to your hotel room), switch those clothes for a bathrobe, and collapse.

    When it comes to food, you may think "If I have to go to this **** thing, they **** well better feed me well". You may worry about choices, or not having any; whether your neighbor's food is better than yours; whether the food's been sitting out too long, and may be a little unsafe, and you remember that news story you heard; you wonder if the caterers will run out of food, especially *your* chosen food. And if you're the other way around, expecting great food and a delightful time, you may be disappointed.

    Then there's always the problem of trying to stay/appear awake.

    A situation that affords many opportunities for fraughtness.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    edited January 8
    You'r right, this sort of dinner is rarely all that enjoyable. But the "negotiation" is not that involved or difficult. You turn to the guest on one side and introduce yourself and the conversation goes like this

    Hello, I don't think we've met before. I'm Wotan.
    Hello, I'm Sally. Wotan's a pretty unusual name.
    Yes, isn't it. My parents were in Europe one year and went to Bayreuth (you've learnt not to say that they were on a Woman's Weekly tour that gave 10 countries in 7 days). When they got back here, they found that I was on the way and so the name just followed
    Mine is just the name of my mother's best friend at school. Nowhere near as interesting a story as yours. Ah, here's the food.
    Oh, I've got the beef - would you like to swap it for the chicken?

    And with a bit of luck, she suggests that you give her a lift home and the rest falls into place.
  • AnselminaAnselmina Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    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.

    It's certainly not the end of the world! But it must be mainly about cultural expectations. So it's not entirely fair to accuse people of being 'precious' in response to a practice that might seem to them perplexing, unnecessary and almost like a type of rudeness. Most people in the UK throwing (usually quite large amounts of) money at a caterers (or at a conference facility) for a special meal would expect them to be thoroughly capable of providing two or three set options, note the order at time of seating and deliver the food within a reasonable time-frame. Bog standard expectation the British Isles over, I'd say.

    In polite and semi-formal company, it might even be a bit rude to comment too much on another person's food, let alone ask them to swap it with you for yours! But clearly expectations and practice vary in other parts of the globe. So what may seem to one side of the world like a needless and impertinent haggling over one's dinner with one's neighbour, will seem like a simple and efficient way of feeding faces to the other!

    It has to be said, of course, that especially at Christmas time one is used to one choice only for catered dinners, so the possibility of a 'set dinner' having two choices where the diners can swap if they'd prefer to, is not perhaps such an oddity as it might seem! Though these tend to be in slightly less formal settings. But again that rather underlines that cultural expectation is very important when it comes to things like these.



  • *Here in the US*, it really would be weird and/or rude. If you were asking a *friend* to swap, it *might* be barely acceptable.

    (Painting with a somewhat broad brush.)
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Anselmina wrote: »

    It's certainly not the end of the world! But it must be mainly about cultural expectations. So it's not entirely fair to accuse people of being 'precious' in response to a practice that might seem to them perplexing, unnecessary and almost like a type of rudeness. Most people in the UK throwing (usually quite large amounts of) money at a caterers (or at a conference facility) for a special meal would expect them to be thoroughly capable of providing two or three set options, note the order at time of seating and deliver the food within a reasonable time-frame. Bog standard expectation the British Isles over, I'd say.
    [/quote]

    But how many times does someone here have to say that it is a standard practice before posts such as yours And Golden Key's (not picking on you, but these are the 2 most recent} accept that is is accepted here and works well?
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited January 8
    Maybe we can move on...

    How about we discuss the roasting temperature inside European buildings (or the freezing temperature inside Australian ones)?

    I remember THAT coming up in the Edinburgh conference actually...

    Or to keep it with language, we can discuss what kind of food "chips" are in different places. That's a classic where Australia borrowed from the UK and the USA in exactly the wrong kind of way.
  • I’m glad it works well for you. I am objecting to the export of the practice to places where it is not customary. When table companions choose not to swap but the caterers/waiting staff take no responsibility because they have provided an alternative - just not to you - is to sit and make polite conversation and watch your neighbours eat. Leaving a conference dinner may be acceptable; leaving a wedding reception I feel is less so.

  • Gee D--
    Gee D wrote: »

    But how many times does someone here have to say that it is a standard practice before posts such as yours And Golden Key's (not picking on you, but these are the 2 most recent} accept that is is accepted here and works well?

    Respectfully: And did you notice I emphasized that I was speaking only of the US?

    It's a matter of culture shock. Never occurred to many/most non-Aussie Shipmates that anyone would do that. And it's hard to believe that anyone *does*--it's that much of a culture shock.

    And the shock also applies to (some) Australian Shipmates, who think the rest of us are weird, stand-offish, and "precious".

    FYI, FWIW, etc.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Certainly, your last 2 posts are directed to the US (have not checked further back) and withdraw what I said.
  • Gee D wrote: »
    And as for negotiations - pretty minimal. You turn top one of your neighbours and say that you've got the beef, would they like to swap their chicken. All very simple and it works.
    And if they say no? Now you're still stuck with a meal you don't want while you watch your neighbors on both sides eating the meal you would prefer, with a bit of resentment thrown in. Doesn't sound like a way to make new friends.
  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited January 8
    orfeo wrote: »
    Maybe we can move on...

    How about we discuss the roasting temperature inside European buildings (or the freezing temperature inside Australian ones)?

    We could discuss the way that American buildings seem to be many degrees colder in summer than in winter, and roll our eyes at the seeming reluctance of people to wear a jumper / sweater / pullover / whatever you call a warm wool or similar garment that you wear over a shirt for warmth.
  • Years ago I remember someone saying that in America a scarf was a fashion accessory, but in Britain it was a life saver.
  • Years ago I remember someone saying that in America a scarf was a fashion accessory, but in Britain it was a life saver.
    That all depends on where in the US one is experiencing winter.

  • orfeo wrote: »
    Maybe we can move on...

    How about we discuss the roasting temperature inside European buildings (or the freezing temperature inside Australian ones)?

    We could discuss the way that American buildings seem to be many degrees colder in summer than in winter, and roll our eyes at the seeming reluctance of people to wear a jumper / sweater / pullover / whatever you call a warm wool or similar garment that you wear over a shirt for warmth.

    ... Or alternately the ... density... of people who think that "throw a sweater on!" will solve the problem of hands too cold to type! (frozen nose, frozen toes, etc.)
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    edited January 8
    orfeo wrote: »
    I also hesitate to agree with the notion that it's a question of dealing with "total strangers" in that there's invariably a context. Either you're all guests at a wedding, in which case you know that there's some social connection there however distant and you've all just been to a wedding ceremony together

    In which case you don't need a bizarre plate-swapping ritual to have something to talk about.
    , or you're all attending a conference in which case you have something in common there (such as the field you work in) and most likely you've seen each other in the room during the day/previous days.

    In which case you don't need a bizarre plate-swapping ritual to have something to talk about.
    Pigwidgeon wrote: »
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    In some ways sharing one's meal with someone else is not much different than going to a Chinese, Thai, or Indian restaurant, everyone ordering different dishes than sharing portions of those dishes with everyone else at the table, is it not?
    A custom I despise. I like to choose and eat what I want from a menu -- not dig in to what everyone else has chosen. (Even worse -- at an Ethiopian where I once ate, not only were everyone's choices dumped in the middle of the table, but there was no flatware, just hands. The only good thing was that I was with my mother and sister, not strangers or casual acquaintances.)

    There's a great deal more choice involved -- both in companions and in level of meal-sharing by restaurant type -- in going out with a few comrades and going to a conference.
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