Last updated July 9, 2021, 3:52 a.m. UTC
Here in America, custom dictates that no one should start eating until everyone at the table has been served. This seems to be true in many other countries as well, at least in Asia. I think it sucks.
On the one hand, it's obviously a bummer to be stuck waiting, watching your nice hot meal get cold while your stomach growls. Usually it's only for a minute or two, which is fine, but occasionally at restaurants I've seen someone's food get delayed by 10 minutes or more.
But here's the real kicker: when I'm the last one to get my food, it doesn't make me feel any better that everyone else is waiting for me before they can start eating. I know they’re hungry, because I am too. In fact, I end up feeling guilty for something I didn't even do–it feels like I am personally preventing them from eating dinner.
So to sum up, this whole thing is a lose-lose. I'm not happy when I have to wait for someone else's food to arrive before I can start, and I'm not happy when other people are waiting for me, either. If that's the case, why even bother?
The problem is that, given the etiquette involved, I can't seem to effectively communicate how I feel about this. Whenever my food is delayed, if I tell my companions they should start eating, they politely refuse. Because telling the rest of the table they can go ahead and start is the polite thing to do, and the polite response is to say no! Even when I give a big speech about my feelings about this tradition in general, and how I’ve been telling annoyed friends and family for years that we shouldn’t have to wait on everyone to have their food before we start eating, so this isn’t something I’m just saying to be polite, and so on - it usually proves impossible to convince anyone to take a bite.
In conclusion, I'm trapped in a bad equilibrium and can't break out.