European Resturants - I hope some europeans can help me out.
I'm hoping our more distant members can help me out. I've been sent on business to Europe a couple times now (England and Switzerland) and I just can't figure out how to get a good meal over there. I just want a bit of meat and vegetable, and I end up having to go someplace really ritzy to get it.
a) Seating Protocol: Americans are used to a "please wait to be seated" protocol, where you wait by the door for a hostess to seat you. If you hang out near the door at a European restaurant, people look at you like you're lost. I've at least got used to finding my own seat when the restaurant has lots of empty tables, but what are you supposed to do when it's nearly full? If someone is dining alone at a large table is it acceptable to use the other end of it? If someone leaves, should you go ahead and claim their table, or wait for it to be cleared? What are you supposed to do if there's just no space?
b) Closing Time: Closing time here is the time that they stop seating guests. Once seated, the restaurant will stay open until all guests are done dining and leave, often an hour or two after the official closing time. I once in Switzerland went into a restaurant a half hour before closing time, and was told that the kitchen was closed, I was too late for dinner. How early are you supposed to be there?
c) Non-Alcoholic Drinks: None of these are what I am used to. All the juices are not clarified, the "lemonade" is carbonated, the "water" is carbonated. I managed to discover the phrase "still water" which is closer to what I drink at home, but still very heavy on the minerals and pricey. Any suggestions on what I should order, for a light, pure flavor?
d) Getting the bill: I had to be incredibly obvious before anyone would bring me a bill, even in the place I found that catered to American tourists. I'm used having my plate taken away, and if I don't request anything else, the bill is delivered promptly after. Is this just the common protocol? I need to learn enough German to request the bill?