The cultural divisions run deepest at dinner

The US and France have such a long, wonderful history of shared values and cultural understanding. For more than two hundred years — from fashion and architecture to politics and diplomacy — it's like our countries have been best friends with our people "in synch." That is, until the main course is cleared when dining in France. At that point, any commonalities between French and American culture disappear with the dirty plates into the kitchen. And ill-will and anger arrises in even the most staid American diner.

First it's the dessert *then* coffee thing. Then it's the French waiter that can walk by your table five or six times without ever looking in your direction. The Americans get fidgetty. We're done when we're done, and we're done after coffee. When we ask for the check, we're ready for it.

Oh but in France how they make you wait. How they make you suffer. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes can easily pass, even if you've successfully flagged down the waiter with eyes for eveyone but your party. Even if you've asked for l'addition, s'il vous plâit, they'll keep you sitting and sitting and sitting. If you've grown up like this, perhaps you know what to do during the awkward silence that follows. Or perhaps there is no awkward silence and no one is too full or too tired to continue the conversation. But Americans, we just sit, quietly wondering what we've done to make the waiter hate us so, the same waiter who was so nice, so attentive, only an hour before. Here in France, the cultural divisions run deepest at dinner.