Eating Out in the U.S.


I present to you: my attractive husband. Right? I think so. Well, I better. This picture is just too good. I took it in San Francisco back in January. His name is Rickey and he likes to eat - burgers (what a true (cliché) American, haha). But granted, you gotta get all the carbs in when you work your butt off at CrossFit at least four times a week. So let’s allow him the feast, shall we? 

But for real! In case you haven’t figured it out at this point already: This week’s short #USLiving post is about food. Food in America. More so: eating out in the U.S. 

Believe it or not, there are some significant differences between where I come from - Germany, in case you are new here  - and the Land of the Free. I was meaning to take today’s post in a slightly different direction but while I was having dinner earlier, for some reason all the little things different when eating out over here came to my mind. And here I am.

Now, without further ado, find the 7 things that are strikingly different to Germany when eating at a restaurant here in the U.S. 

1) Ice Water

What can I say…Americans love their ice water. I know some that order it room temperature like me (but she technically was born in Germany also - my former landlady Annie -, so she has specific genes, hehe). Each to their own but I for one cannot deal with Antarctica in my water glass. Brain freeze, tooth sensitivity, and stomach pain. Blame it on being a redhead, or on being a European - your choice. 

2) Free Water

I love it! Water should be free everywhere. It’s not in Germany, though. Well, technically it is. It’s just that no one asks for tap water because, errr, it’s just not a thing and you would get a strange look. Bottled water is what people order - and ultimately pay for. Carbonated is a thing, also. Over here, you get as much (tap) water as you want to when you dine out. Thank you, ‘merica. I like staying hydrated for free. 

3) Check Before You Ask 

One thing I find a little strange and sometimes feels as if they want to kick you out of the restaurant is that if you don’t order anything else, you get the check with a friendly: “Whenever you’re ready, not rush.” Weeeellll…thank you, I am still eating. May I finish or should I leave you my credit card right away? Haha. Back home, you are being asked several times if you would still like something to drink, dessert etc. Even if you said no, the server would not bring you the check - and here is the difference - unless you ask for it. Ever. 

4) Tipping More

I kind of have an idea why the check arrives so early on your table, basically while you are still eating, namely because the waiters and waitresses over her rely a great deal on the tip customers leave, as they only get paid minimum wage. (Sometimes even less than that?) So ya, I do understand that the more often there are new people, the more tip you get and eventually you go home with more money at the end of the day. Bottom line is: In Germany, we say you tip about 10% or even less. Here in the U.S., the norm is about 20% - 25%. 

5) Portions for Two (or Three)

Okay, so this certainly depends on what kind of place you are eating at (the fancier the less food on your plate, is my personal rule of thumb) but generally, portions in the U.S. are large. It used to freak me out (I have this weird anxiety…) having an enormous place in front of me knowing that once I would be full there would still be so much food on this plate that people would ask themselves if I even ate anything. Sooooo that’s that. I also realized that portions are not made to be finished (I mean, you can, but the majority of people don’t). I figured out for myself that the best portion size for me (sometimes I even can’t finish those) are the appetizers. Yes, they are usually a real meal (for me, at least). We all know it: Everything is bigger in the U.S. It’s a fact.

6) Boxes (or “Doggy Bags” - Is that what some people really call it?)

This one ties into what I just said: Portions are large and its just all too common that people don’t return an empty plate to the kitchen. Boxes. They are essential. Actually, I got so used to them that I am not really stressing about food portions anymore. Take home what you couldn’t eat - and have lunch the next day. So many times. Been there, done that - and will continue doing it. But this is just not a thing back home. Asking for a box? Errr…a confused look is what you will get. If you can’t finish your food, you leave it. Also, portions are way smaller in general, anyway.

7) Clearing Plates

I can very well live with all of the above - and I can also live with this one, but apart from the “check while you might still be eating” thing the “clearing plates from people at your table that are already done eating while you are not even half way through your food” is something that requires me getting used to. It’s like you are rushed to finish eating. Maybe it’s just me?! Anyway, in Europe - or Germany in particular - all plates will usually be cleared at once. Usually

There you have it, my impressions on eating out over here as compared to my home country. 

I love the States. Duh, otherwise I wouldn’t want to build my life here with my better half, but being born in another country means comparing is just natural. I don’t mean it in a negative way when I do, or trying to point out what’s better and worse or what’s wrong or right. It’s fun - and I am simply stating the differences I notice. No offense to anyone. Some things I don’t have trouble at all adjusting to, others - like the ice water situation - I just try to work my way around. And it does work for me. You just gotta find your ways.

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone!

Are you an expat and can compare the U.S. and your home country when it comes to eating out? Or are you American and completely disagree with what I am stating above?