Would you like some service with that?

Service in China is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, things are possible here that are totally unacceptable in the Netherlands. On the other hand, things are impossible here that are generally accepted in the Netherlands.

Pro’s:

  1. Calling a waiter or waitress – Admittedly, this is not as common anymore as before. The rise of Western-style restaurants also brings with it the usual struggles to attract someone’s attention. But there are still plenty of establishments where you will hear a “FUWUYUANR” regularly in between all the other conversations. I highly prefer it to side-eyeing, cheerleader-waving or raising-your-hand-up-as-if-you-know the answer motions.
  2. Making a mess – Whether it is yourself or the table, it is almost always accepted without any comments. Bones, fish grates, shells are all nasty and troublesome, but at least you can easily get them out of your sight by just dispensing them on the floor. Provided your hand-eye coordination is reasonable and you do not accidentally hit yourself.
  3. Free refills – I remember that there was still a discussion in the Netherlands if you could get free tap water. Also, if you order a cup of tea in most restaurants or coffee tents, you will have to pay the full price again for a second cup of steaming water in which you will use your first teabag. Not so in China. In most places you can refill water and tea endlessly until you feel uncomfortable about having had more free than paid drinks throughout your stay.
  4. Your living room from home – Unless it is really crowded, you can generally lounge the entire afternoon in one spot. Order one drink and refer to the point above to make sure you are hydrated throughout your stay. Most waiters will only approach you to refill your glass, or ignore you. They are also very skilled in doing that.

Cons:

  1. Service without a smile – Some jobs can be very boring or mind-numbing. And you can see it right of their faces. People will serve you with as less interest in you or their job as possible. Not looking at you, doing only the bare minimum and certainly without a smile. In that way, many Chinese do look alike.
  2. Working is optional – I remember that for most of my jobs in the Netherlands, there are quite strict rules about when to use your phone. Not so much in China. Whether there are any clients or not, whether chatting or watching a drama, everyone is certainly not focusing on you.
  3. Inefficiency – I already mentioned that there are often a lot of people working anywhere and a large part of them are doing nothing. It is a bit similar to my instructions for working at a Chinese Japanese restaurant. Also, when a question is asked, they will be sure to not do anything directly but for example inquire if you are sure that you want what you asked for.
  4. Passivity – The customer is king is still sometimes the case in China. But that also means that any (illegal) smokers, irritating children, drunken men or screeching women will be accepted and not reprimanded. Jumping in front of you in the line? Pushing you in or out the subway? Being polite or not? It is all accepted as part of life.

I will have hot water, thank you

Walking to work today (with blue skies and in bright sunlight mind you!) thinking about something quintesstentially Chinese: hot water. Okay, hot water is of course not only limited to China, luckily, but the way they use it here is quite Chinese I would say. They drink it. Without any added flavor. Except perhaps for some other chemicals that are in the water here naturally (or not so naturally).

Anyway, I remember that when I started to drink hot beverages, I would drink tea, but with sugar. Not with milk, I did not like English tea like that. And also no green tea, because it was too bitter. Then, when I was 11 we went to China for the first time. None of us, except for the local guides, could speak Chinese (and I dare say my English was quite spotty then too) so most of the times there was no sugar. Furthermore I discovered that there was often not even tea or any flavor in the pot. Plus the water was boiling hot, so that even a full table of foreigners mostly only finished half a pot of tea.

All this mystery continued for a while, but did not leave me unmoved. Sugar disappeared from my tea routine. Milk entered it in the form of milk (bubble) tea (that is milk powder though, not liquid milk) and scorching temperatures no longer became a match for my tongue and mouth.

So after having ample of experience drinking tea and hot water, I am officially trained. I can mostly drink any water directly after it has been boiled, can drink it with or without a flavor and drink loads of it. This is especially helpful in China since you can get a refill of your tea ad infinitum. I heard my friend complain that the Starbucks in the Netherlands charges 30 cents (eurocents!) for it. Ridiculuous!

The advantage of hot water is that you have a hot drink, which does not have too strong a taste and can neutralize other tastes. Very handy in China where strong flavors reign and the tongue can sometimes get a bit too much coming at it.

Also, Chinese teas have so many varieties and flavors. No bitterness in green tea. It is amazing, the best. Although I am too lazy to cook it at less than boiling temperature. I do remain a foreigner of course.

Guidelines for working in a Chinese Japanese restaurant

Welcome, glad to have you with us!

Please view below steps for proper conduct at our Chinese Japanese restaurant.

Terms: Chinese Japanese restaurant, a.k.a. a Japanese restaurant in China, not a Chinese-Japanese restaurant. You know right?

Positions these guidelines apply to: Waiter/waitress

Please follow the rules mentioned below. It is of utmost importance to follow these guidelines exactly as they are written!

  1. When a customer (but honestly anyone) enters, be sure to say ‘WELCOME’ in Japanese (Irasshaimase (いらっしゃいませ) ). However, to not let customers be confused that they are in Japan, two important rules must be followed.
    a. Be sure to pronounce Welcome unclearly and incorrect. ‘WECO’, ‘WLCM’, ‘WLECMOE’ are all acceptable. In (Chinese) Japanese it should sound something like ‘Ilashaima’, ‘Irashamse’, ‘Irashase’.
    b. Volume is more important than looks. So be sure to say it in a loud voice (scream if necessary), then you can have any expression on your face that you would like.
  2. Once a customer has entered, be sure that at least two of you talk to her/him.
  3. Guide the customer to a seat first. If the customer is hesitant to sit down on the spot, mention that any of the available seats can actually be taken. If necessary, walk around for a few minutes.
  4. When the customer is seated, be sure to look at her/him for a period of time until it gets awkward. Wait with going away anyway until the customer says you can do so.
  5. If the customer wants to order, be sure to avoid her/his gaze for a while. You might want to chat with your colleagues (of whom at least two should be free at the same time), look at your phone, clean a specific spot with a dirty cloth etc. to make sure you are not looking at her/him immediately. When you are ready, go to the customer for her/his order.
  6. While food is being prepared for the customer, feel free to loiter around, chat with colleagues, look at your phone or pick your nose. For the last activity, try to make sure as much as possible that nobody sees you. If they do, wipe it on your clothes.
  7. Once food is there, be sure to help the customer eat it (mix food, turn food, cut food, put on a stove etc.) so that you do not have nothing to do all the time.
  8. When the customer wants to pay, make sure there is another colleague at the cash desk, so she/he has something to do as well.
  9. As the customer is leaving, scream/shout something like ‘TNAK YO’ or ‘ALIAGTO GOSAIMA’.

If you follow all of these rules, you should be able to deliver service perfectly compliant with our standards. And remember the most important rule of all:

We are a Japanese restaurant in China. We do not solely copy, but add our own Chinese flavor to the service. That is what makes us special.