Next time you are eating out in Mexico and your drink has run dry, get ready, you’ll need to find your waiter because more often than not, he will not be coming to you until you do. He is probably not mad at you or trying to ignore you, or even a bad waiter. Believe it or not, more than anything, it is simply one of those little cultural differences between Mexicans and their neighbors to the north that few know. Service in Mexico is something that, if it is wanted, it is traditionally asked for. Otherwise, proactive service is perceived as being too forward and aggressive, and is not appreciated. This is very different than in the US, where proactive service is perceived as being taken care of, or pampered, and almost always consider it good service. Completely opposite!
In Mexico for example, it is considered very forward for a waiter to go to a table and ask if the guests are ready for another drink. It is understood that if you want another drink, or anything else for that matter, you will motion for the waiter to come to your table. Waiters would consider it bothering a guest to come to their table without a request first. In the US, the waiter that gets the best tip is the one that never lets their guest’s drink get dry.
The same thing happens when you are finished with your meal and ready for your check. Again, in Mexico, it is perceived as very forward to ask if guests are ready for their check, as if you are trying to get rid of them, and a check is never given unless requested. In the US, it is normal to be asked if you need anything else and your check brought to you without the need to request. It is just assumed, you’re done, you must be ready to go. If you have to ask for your check, it is considered often as bad service by many. As I said, completely backwards.
When I hire a new waiter, I have a very hard time overcoming this and to get my waiters to check on tables in a proactive manner. It is just counter to how they are wired. As time goes, they all do, but it was interesting to see how difficult it was for them to change something that is so deeply engrained. It was also interesting how long it took me to also adapt and stop waiting on them to bring my check when I went out to eat here. And I own a restaurant!
Now I know, “la cuenta por favor”.