European silverware code

May 26th, 2006, 02:08 PM
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European silverware code

I read an article this morning that said Europeans have a way of placing their silverware to let the waiter know they have finished dining and want the check. Unfortunately, this was peripheral to the main point of the article, and they didn't reveal the secret.

Since I have been unsuccessful in many European countries in getting the check, can someone explain in the simplest terms just what this secret signal is? I know throwing the napkin onto the plate doesn't work, nor does balancing a spoon on your chin.
clevelandbrown is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 02:12 PM
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getting the bill is independent of any silverware signals that might signal that your plates are ready to be cleared. the "secret" is to just ask for the bill when you are ready for it, if you don't ask, it usually will not come.
walkinaround is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 02:13 PM
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If you place the knife and fork together slanting across the plate, that signifies that you are through (also in many parts of the US). If you place them slantwise opposite each other on either side of the plate in a V pointing toward 12 o'clock, that shows you are just resting.
Because most European restaurants do not depend on turning the table (getting you out so that someone else can spend money in your place) the waiter is in no hurry to bring you a check. You can add to that a bias for serving the most recent arrival, atleast to the extent of getting them something to drink and some bread. You have already eaten, you are no longer famished or thirsty, so you can wait. Finally, and I think most important, it that it is considered bad manners to rush you. So you almost always have to ask for the check directly.
Ackislander is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 02:24 PM
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In France, to ask for the check:
l'addition s'il vous plais
(not sure if the spelling is 100% correct.)
Bill_I is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 02:24 PM
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As for getting the bill, it's a case of "catching the eye" of the waiter by any means possible short of manhandling him to the ground
alanRow is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 03:11 PM
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I will second what has been sid before. You need to request the check. It will NT be brought to you with out asking for it. It's considered bad manners to rush a table- in the US it's called turning the table.
Placing your knife ad fork together at 9 o'clck to 12 o'clock will signal that you're done with that portion of the meal.
Please don't get me started on the time laspe between and................................the check
highledge is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 03:43 PM
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At least in France, you get the check by asking for it, or (sometimes) by turning down successive suggestions of coffee, dessert, etc., until the waiter has nothing else to suggest, at which point he will logically assume that you want the check.
AnthonyGA is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 04:18 PM
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No matter HOW you place the silverware, it won't get you the bill. Most European restaurants would not dream of bringing the bill until asked. They don't want it to seem they are rushing you out the door.

you need to ask for it.

A friend (American) at a very upscale place ended up fuming (REALLY mad) because the waiter didn't bring the bill for more than an hour after they were through eating. Meanwhile the waiter was probably fuming in the kitchen wondering when those blankety blank Americans would pay and get out.

I had tried to explain to my friend that it is different from back home where they often bring the bill before you finish dessert - but they forgot.
janisj is online now  
May 26th, 2006, 04:47 PM
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In Hong Kong, you ask for you check by raising your hand, pretend to be holding a pen, and then flick it like you'd be signing something when the waiter see you. Since they definitely didn't learn this from Americans, I think they learn this from Europeans.

It's worked for me when I'm in Europe.
rkkwan is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 05:29 PM
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Placing your silverware in correct postion only indicates that you are ready for the next course and if everyone at the table is not ready and have not positioned their silver, it should not be served until they have ...if you want the check ask for "le addition" or whatever is appropriate for the country you are in.
jody is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 05:45 PM
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>indicates that you are ready for the next course
That's what I do here in Germany. It always works. When the waiter comes and asks you what else you'd like, you ask for the check. Easy, fast efficient and discrete. Whatever you do, don't play with your money..
logos999 is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 06:02 PM
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I've never heard of a 'silverware code' for getting the bill (check). the knife and fork laid together is the code for 'OK, done my best, take the plate'. I've always found that the best code for the bill is to catch the waiter's eye (not always easy) then mime writing on the palm of your hand. this sems to work from Manchester to Macau, so i can only suppose it's universal
Grahamh49 is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 11:30 PM
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If you have gone to coffee course (main, dessert are done) there won't be much silverware left on your table, except the small coffee spoon. Perhaps stick it in your mouth (or ear) to get the attention of your waiter ;-)
kappa is offline  
May 27th, 2006, 03:27 AM
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When I was little I was taught to put the knife and fork "in a five o´clock position" after I am done with the food. That is the sign that the plate can be taken away even when there is still food left.

But like said before, it is not a sign to bring the bill, just a sign that I am done with that course, and they can either clear the table (who wants to sit with dirty plates) and/or bring the next course.
elina is offline  
May 27th, 2006, 03:30 AM
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>"in a five o´clock position"
I believe, that's common all over the planet?
logos999 is offline  
May 27th, 2006, 03:44 AM
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Yes, but I could not think what else that "silverware code" could mean.
elina is offline  
May 27th, 2006, 07:24 AM
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I wondered if this was something to do with assay and hallmarks!

I always ask for the bill at the same time as my coffee or pudding.
PatrickLondon is offline  
May 27th, 2006, 07:37 AM
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The silverware code is quite easy:

If knife and fork are parallel it simply means "I have finished my plate so you can take it away". Nothing else.

If knife and fork are resting on the edges of the plate it means "Do not take my plate, I haven't finished yet". Nothing else.

Usually we eat multi-course menus in Europe. So we lay the silverware parallel after each course.

Ordering the bill is a different thing. In any country, waving a credit card or a wallet will be a clear signal.
traveller1959 is offline  
May 27th, 2006, 10:37 AM
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Here's the code for France:

Knife at 4, fork at 8: Please bring the check.

Knife at 6, fork at 9: Please bring the next course.

Knife at 9, fork at 3: Please bring the non-dairy dessert menu.

Knife at 10, fork at 2: A martini, please … shaken, not stirred.

Knife at 11, fork at 7: There's a fly in my soup.

Knife at 7, fork at 1: Do you take Discover?

Knife at 7, fork at 6: Point me to the restrooms, please.

Knife at 9, fork at 8: Direct me to the Keystone.

Knife at 9, fork at 11: I'd like another vegetarian cocktail, please.

Knife at 1, fork at 2: The couple at the table next to me has not bathed; please ask them to do so.

Knife and fork at 12: I'd like a taxi to the rue Cler immediately, please.
AnthonyGA is offline  
May 27th, 2006, 10:54 AM
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Patrick, that's exactly what I thought this post was going to be about, too -- questions from a silverware collector off to browse the London and Paris antique markets.

Pretty funny, Anthony!
annabelle2 is offline  

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