It was quite a hot day. We were having a little rest around 6 PM with a beer in a Chinese restaurant in Tavira, Portugal. We saw them coming in: the Dutch father, the mother and their two children. They were dressed up like they wanted to go to an important meeting. We Dutch like to be dressed sharp when we eat outdoors. It was not very busy at that hour, my countrymen are used to eating at an early hour; so unlike the people who live around the Mediterranean sea.
They took a table very near us while the rest of the restaurant was completely empty.
The waiter obviously had decided to make a lot of work of them. Very politely he gave them their menu and made a half reverence for them. The family was impressed and spoke in a very soft tone to each other. The father was able to help his wife, son and daughter a bit and they were discussing the choice.
The waiter came back to enquire what they wanted to drink. Father wanted a big beer, the children a cola and the mother asked for a Mateus Rosé. The father then asked to be allowed to order the food too. So he asked for a number 11, two times a 13, a 14, two times 41 and two times 43. We Dutch prefer to ask for the numberts on the menue instead of pronouncing the difficult Chinese words.
It reminded me of an episode of a reality show about a Dutch singer on television. The singer was in a hotel in a city where he had a gig. He phoned his wife in shock: “I ordered on the phone food from the Chinese restaurant over here and they brought totally wrong stuff to my room!” His wife asked him what he had ordered. He said that he had asked for what he likes best: number 7, 14 and a mix of 35 and 37.
The waiter came to serve three drinks quite quickly. The man immediately took a quick swig of his beer and sighed relieved. The children sipped from their colas. The woman only got an empty wine glass. The waiter went away and the woman asked worried to her husband: “Is he forgetting the rosé?” The man shrugged, he expected the waiter would come back with it.
And so he did; he had a bottle of Mateus Rosé, half covered in a cloth and a bucket in his hands. The bucket was placed on the table.
He then took the bottle in his right hand, bent over and poured a little rosé in the empty glass. His left hand was bended behind his back. “If Madam would be so kind to taste if this is okay?” The woman flushed and whispered to her husband in Dutch: “This is weird! Why does he do this? Mateus always tastes the same.” The husband said that he thought that this was a local thing, she had best to go along with it.
So she sipped and nodded in approval. The waiter filled her glass and withdrew. The man burped loudly. “Oh Jan!”, his wife reacted. The father told her that Chinese all over the world see burping as a compliment for good food or a good drink.
The waiter continued to treat them like royalty and the family obviously enjoyed their meal. We had finished our beers and decided to leave. The woman had a flushed face after her second rosé and the husband had started to discuss my wife and me with her. They had agreed that these British are weird people.
“Goedenavond en geniet ervan!” I said when we left. They both choked in their drinks.