You found the perfect restaurant. You got yourself a table and waited patiently for the server to you. You’ve visited the steam table or the kitchen, where you lifted pot lids and somehow managed to understand as the cook proudly pointed to each item and named it. You returned to your table, where you ordered and waited for the parade of small plates to arrive, which you and your companions savored and washed down with a crisp miso kilo of house white. You’ve been relaxed, having enjoyed the great food, the ambiance of the tree filled plateia (square) where your quintessential Greek taverna is located. But now it’s time to pay and leave. Your plates, cleaned of every last morsel, sit lonely and empty on the table before you. You really are ready to leave… but where is the waiter? At first you wait patiently, looking around, your server may be leaning against the wall near the restaurant’s entrance. Or perhaps he is sitting, chatting with the chef. Our polite non-Greek instincts tell us to wait, he’ll glance our way, he’ll notice us – come over, clear our plates and bring our check. And so, you wait.
It’s about this point in the Greek dining experience where all the memories of your dream Greek dinner can go sour. In your non-Greek mind, you’re thinking, “how rude?” Alas, it is not rudeness or bad service, or that the waiter just doesn’t care. It’s cultural.
In Greece it is considered rude to present the check before the customer asks for it. You can sit there for the next three days and you will not be presented with a check.
So, when you’ve had your fill, and you’re ready to move on, you’ll need to learn the Greek for “can I have the check?” It’s an easy one, after all, you don’t have to worry about mispronunciations or even miscommunicating what it is you want. All you need to do, once you make eye contact with your waiter, is make a signal of writing in the air as if you were holding a pen, and viola… the check will appear (and you may even get a small glass of masticha or another aperitif for your efforts!).