Ethnology:Americans in a Restaurant

TheNorth American society is among the most diverse in the world interms of ethnic backgrounds. Americans originated from various partsof the world that uphold different cultural values. However, thecosmopolitan society has evolved to set common values that aregenerally acceptable to the majority of the population. This paperattempts to explain various behavioral aspects of the Americansociety in a restaurant setting. The study involves two visits to arestaurant the first instance being non-participative while thesecond visit involves direct participation. As the researcher, myintent is to capture various behavioral components and analyze themto explain why the Americans behave in the way they do.


Firstvisit (Non-participant)

Inthe first visit, I entered a restaurant and identified an isolatedtable which I sought favorable for my observation of the rest of therestaurant space. I ordered a fruit drink to facilitate theconcealing of my intentions by anyone around as I played the role ofa normal customer. The restaurant was approximately half full ofcustomers who sat round tables in small and large groups as well.

AsI waited for to be served, my attention was specifically drawn to acouple who were seated adjacent to me on my right. I was keen toobserve how they first conversed between themselves before decidingto place the order. They then waited for a waiter, who had beenserving another table to turn and invited him with a smile. Ioverheard their conversation as they sought to modify the menu bykeenly advising the waiter on their preferences.

Ithen shifted my attention to a family of four who were seated rightahead of where I was seated. They had been served and were happilyenjoying their meal. However, there were silence lapses. Throughcontinued observation, I noted that it was not in their norms tospeak while eating especially with food in the mouth, and chewing.When the family chatted, it was not loud to disrupt the attention ofthe other people in the restaurant, even though it was characterizedwith laughs. In addition, they used a formal way of using cutlery.There was uniformity in the way they held and used their forks,spoons and knives.

Ageneral look at the dressing code showed that most of the Americansin the restaurant were dressed casually but neatly. There were onlya few people who were dressed officially, probably owing to theplaces they were from, or where they were headed before deciding todrop by. The colors of the clothes worn were attractive adding to therestaurants décor.

Anotherimportant observation was that after having their meals, thecustomers only spent very little time and then left. None exceededten additional minutes after having settled their bills. I almostfelt as an outcast and had to request for a refill of my glass to buymore time for my study.

Thewaiters were welcoming and respectful. I received a welcomingstatement from a waitress we met as I entered. I was ushered to mytable and I had not felt any comfortable before. I also keenly notedthat the waiters were well tipped. I had to follow suit. No one leftwithout tipping their waiters.

SecondVisit (Participant)

Inthe subsequent visit, I altered the hour of visit from the lunchtimeto breakfast. This time I did not seat in an isolated place. Iidentified a table where a group of three was seated. The table hadspace for an additional customer and I made myself comfortable there.I was able to confirm most of what I had observed in the previousvisits as a true reflection of the American code of behavior withinthe restaurant environment. A majority of people were casuallydressed, including several who were from exercising in the morning.The waiters were handled respectfully and they reciprocated the same.There were no instances of anyone shouting to the waiters to placetheir orders. Instead, the customers were keen to let the waiterstake orders from others customers until they got to them. The samesystem of the use of cutlery was employed. I was `impressed by howwell almost everyone had mastered the trick.

Iwas keen to make a new observation: the people kept quite somedistance between them while sitting round the tables. They must havewanted to maintain their personal spaces. There was not much ofconversation with strangers but rather with acquaintances. Those whohad come in alone sought to read papers and magazine that wereavailed by the restaurant’s management.


Fromthe study, it is evident that the American people present themselveswith respect in the restaurants. They respect their space, the peoplewho serve them and the others customers in the same restaurants(Stradley, 2014). They also eat with dignity and have a formality ofdoing that. They also respect the fact that they do not have to takeup all the space for a very long time, and hence exist soon afterthey are through. This is a positive aspect of their norms as itavoids conflicts and facilitates order.

Itis also arguable that the Americans are thankful and they know how toappreciate the services they receive (Stradley, 2014). This isevinced by the fact that it is very common to give tips to thewaiters who serve them.


Stradley,L. (2014). EtiquetteGuide – United States Dining Etiquette Guide.Retrieved from June 26, 2014).