Thursday, November 26, 2009

Eating etiquette in Barcelona

For anyone moving here, this is the correct procedure to follow (lunch and dinner follow a similar pattern, breakfast is a topic for later). Much of Spain follows a similar system. Notice the repeated use of the word "eventually".

  1. you seat yourself wherever you feel like (for me preferably as far away from the cigarette plumes as possible)
  2. The waiter comes with the menu (carta) and asks you want you want to drink. Most places have a "menu", which means you get to pick out of a small set first and second courses + drink + desert (for a very cheap price). If you want to shock the waiter, ask for coffee... coffee is for AFTER the meal! If you order a glass of wine, many places will give you a whole bottle (don't be obligated to drink it all!).
  3. The waiter comes back with the drinks and asks you what you want (it's not unusual for everyone to order the same thing, unlike us rugged individualists in the US). Generally you just give them a list of firsts and seconds for the table, rather than individual orders. They always ask who ordered what when the food arrives anyway.
  4. The firsts arrive and everyone takes custody of whatever they ordered.
  5. Once everyone is done their first, the waiter (eventually) cleans up and brings the seconds.
  6. Once everyone is done their seconds, the waiter (eventually) cleans up and asks for what you want for dessert.
  7. After deserts, it's time for coffee (even if it is 1am after a big dinner). Remeber to order "de machina" if you wanted espresso. Or you can have an "infusion" which is herbal tea.
  8. Many places (especially the rural areas) will be very generous with a "digestive" after dinner liquor.
  9. Eventually you tell the waiter that you want to pay. It would be fun to do an experiment some time to see how long you'd have to wait before they bring you the bill themselves. Don't leave a tip otherwise the waiter may come running after you thinking you forgot some money on the table.
  10. If this is dinner, you may get invited over for to someone's house or bar for a cup of cava (a champagne-ish drink) even if it is a weeknight and it is already 2am.

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