Is eating alone in a restaurant now a big taboo?

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ToughDiamond
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04 Dec 2019, 10:21 am

I only eat out for social reasons (people I like occasionally invite me, and it seems to be one of those bonding things), so I've not experienced dining out alone, except once when I was early for a band performance in a public bar and nobody else had arrived yet. I felt rather awkward as if everybody was noticing I was alone, though I really don't think they noticed me at all. Back in my youth I would tend to panic at social gatherings if I couldn't find anybody to talk with (which usually was the case), and my behaviour would then become pretty desperate, and they'd think I was weird or horribly lonely, which didn't help. Later I learned to appear comfortable in my own company, and to mostly avoid going alone into social situations.



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04 Dec 2019, 12:33 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
In New York, nobody really bothers to notice why somebody is eating alone, or whether somebody is eating with ten people.


It's the same in the UK too. The only thing people do shame is if you are drinking alone at a table in a bar. But even then people don't stare at you.


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04 Dec 2019, 5:18 pm

Joe90 wrote:
It's the same in the UK too. The only thing people do shame is if you are drinking alone at a table in a bar. But even then people don't stare at you.

In the US, it's the opposite: if you're eating alone at a table, it means you're a lonely schmuck who has no friends. So people eating alone usually sit at a bar, where such a thing is far better tolerated. Most people tell themselves that the person eating alone is waiting for someone, even when that's not the case; think "plausible deniability". And men get scrutinized for eating alone more strictly than women. The only way to sit alone at a table is to eat on a weeknight and dress in business clothes: then you look like a traveling office worker. Or bring a notepad and a pen: then you look like a food critic. Which will not only make you look normal, it will prompt the waitstaff to give you better service.

The only exception to the above are cruises. They're, literally, an entirely different world, where many NT norms go out the window. (overboard?) On a cruise ship and even in ports of call, eating alone is seen as a totally normal thing. No one will even think twice, let alone judge you, if you're eating alone. But at debarkation, NT norms go back into effect. I don't know why or how; that's just the way cruises are.

OP, based on your name and avatar, would you happen to be in Russia? I have a friend who's from Belarus, and their culture is almost the same. He told me that there's a HUGE emphasis on looking and acting "normal" (his word) there. So people will absolutely refuse to do anything that's not "normal"; that's true even for immigrants from there in the US. I can imagine it's NOT an aspie-friendly culture over there.



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04 Dec 2019, 5:38 pm

^
The OP said he's in San Francisco.

I've never had this problem (I'm European) - I travel a lot and have been eating by myself all over Europe at all times of day, fine establishments included. Where I live it's not uncommon to see people eating by themselves in their lunch-break, but also having dinner and enjoying a nice glass of wine - men or women alike. The culture seems to lean more towards people enjoying some "me time" than "this loser has no friends" :roll:

I'll put this one down to cultural differences, here you only get the bill after you ask for it: they will let you be and decide if you might want a dessert half an hour after your dinner, or I could take two hours to finish my bottle of wine or coffee and nobody will try to rush me or ask me to pay and leave.

Fnord wrote:
Some people consider it pitiful when a man or a woman dines alone in a restaurant.

When I was young and single, I made it work to my advantage...

1. Request a table for two ("Oh, she said she'd meet me here!").

2. Order two drinks ("Whisky sour for me, and white wine for her ... she's just running a little late.").

3. Glance at your watch occasionally ("I wonder if she's alright ... ?").

4. Order two sets of appetizers ("I hope she likes stuffed mushrooms.").

5. Turn to look whenever someone walks in ("It's about ti ... oh, never mind ...").

6. After an hour, order a meal ("I'll split it with her.").

7. Finish your meal and ask for the check ("I'll see her in class on Monday.").

Sometimes the server would comp part of the cost. Sometimes the waitress would offer to walk out with me.

One guy worked this scam on Valentines day, complete with a phony engagement ring in a small box, which he showed to the server, who comped the entire meal plus drinks!


This is truly very sad, I can believe it's considered more embarrassing to eat by yourself than be stood up 8O


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kraftiekortie
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04 Dec 2019, 5:45 pm

In New York City, it's not considered at all unusual for both women and men to eat at a restaurant alone. Many people eat alone, and bring a book or the newspaper to read.

This doesn't happen much any more---but cafes used to have a place where they kept newspapers and magazines for customers to read. The customer was on the "honor system" has far as returning the newspapers and magazines to their proper place.



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04 Dec 2019, 5:50 pm

The couples feel self conscious with you there, in case you overhear too much of their conversation, thats all.



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04 Dec 2019, 5:50 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
In New York City, it's not considered at all unusual for both women and men to eat at a restaurant alone. Many people eat alone, and bring a book or the newspaper to read.

This doesn't happen much any more---but cafes used to have a place where they kept newspapers and magazines for customers to read. The customer was on the "honor system" has far as returning the newspapers and magazines to their proper place.


Yeah, I've been in New York a few times and with one exception by myself - even if you make a reservation to a fine restaurant, they won't bat an eye to you being by yourself, and they are really nice and engaging, especially if you show some knowledge in food and wine. I actually had a great time dining by myself both there and in Chicago.


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kraftiekortie
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04 Dec 2019, 5:51 pm

People who eat alone are usually too wrapped up in their book or paper to really care about other people.

Also: don't approach those people. They want to be alone....



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04 Dec 2019, 5:56 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
People who eat alone are usually too wrapped up in their book or paper to really care about other people.

Also: don't approach those people. They want to be alone....


Yeah, that's it - hence my "me time" comment!

The worst thing I've seen was a pub in England that advertised that "You'll never be by yourself here, both our staff and regular punters will make sure of it!" 8O I made a mental note to never set foot in there :lol:


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Leon_Trotsky
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04 Dec 2019, 5:56 pm

I have eaten alone many times in Europe, as well as the UK. In both places no one really stared at me. The very rare instances that some have stared at me were usually immigrants, usually Chinese tourists or Chinese students in their 20s. But other than that, I cannot recall being stared at or made fun for eating alone in Europe.

But in San Francisco, bloody hell, it feels like the entire restaurant is staring at me when I am at a table alone. Granted, I look around and no one else is eating alone, but I thought that it was basic manners to not stare at people no matter how "weird" you think that they are.

My mother is very direct and much more to the point than I am though. When she eats alone and people look at her, she might yell, "What the f*ck you looking at?!". That usually stops people from staring at her more.



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04 Dec 2019, 5:57 pm

BenderRodriguez wrote:
^
The OP said he's in San Francisco.
Oops! I missed that part. :oops:

San Francisco seems like a progressive city with progressive attitudes. I'm a bit surprised, actually, that people there would look down on someone eating alone. (I'd expect that somewhere in Mississippi, but not San Francisco.) I remember doing a cruise out of California this past September. I did everything by myself until I got on the ship. While I took the usual precautions, like eating at a bar to avoid looking like a lonely schmuck, I wasn't harshly judged for it.

Well, to be honest, two girls on a city bus did poke fun at me for acting unusual, which was taking pictures out of bus windows. But once I stood up for myself socially and told them it was my first time in California, they suddenly became very friendly. Perhaps it'd help the OP to dress in biker or business clothes, as to look "tougher" while eating alone.



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04 Dec 2019, 6:00 pm

BenderRodriguez wrote:
... I can believe it's considered more embarrassing to eat by yourself than be stood up.
??? It's the same result, only being stood up may inspire pity in the other patrons depending on how you react to it. I had more luck with getting my bill paid when I pretended to be stood up than when I actually was stood up. Maybe it was my bad acting that people pitied more than me being rejected. ;)


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BenderRodriguez
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04 Dec 2019, 6:02 pm

Leon_Trotsky wrote:
I have eaten alone many times in Europe, as well as the UK. In both places no one really stared at me. The very rare instances that some have stared at me were usually immigrants, usually Chinese tourists or Chinese students in their 20s. But other than that, I cannot recall being stared at or made fun for eating alone in Europe.

But in San Francisco, bloody hell, it feels like the entire restaurant is staring at me when I am at a table alone. Granted, I look around and no one else is eating alone, but I thought that it was basic manners to not stare at people no matter how "weird" you think that they are.

My mother is very direct and much more to the point than I am though. When she eats alone and people look at her, she might yell, "What the f*ck you looking at?!". That usually stops people from staring at her more.


I'm sorry, man, I really feel for you. I can relate as in I've been in small (European) towns where people would stare if you somewhat look "foreign" or out of place, more out of curiosity than malevolence, and it's still very annoying. Once I even asked a local if they aren't taught that it's rude to stare and he said "of course" :lol: It can still be aggravating and intrusive even if there's no ill intent.


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kraftiekortie
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04 Dec 2019, 6:03 pm

I wouldn't want other people to think I've been "stood up."

In my 20's, I used to eat at this coffee shop alone. After a while, I became a "regular." Then, I would join in some of the conversations going on at the counter. "Regulars" used to hang out at the counter of the coffee shop.

I sort of became a "regular" at a few places. But never got into the "real regular" category.



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04 Dec 2019, 6:04 pm

Aspie1 wrote:
Oops! I missed that part. :oops:

San Francisco seems like a progressive city with progressive attitudes. I'm a bit surprised, actually, that people there would look down on someone eating alone. (I'd expect that somewhere in Mississippi, but not San Francisco.) I remember doing a cruise out of California this past September. I did everything by myself until I got on the ship. While I took the usual precautions, like eating at a bar to avoid looking like a lonely schmuck, I wasn't harshly judged for it.

Well, to be honest, two girls on a city bus did poke fun at me for acting unusual, which was taking pictures out of bus windows. But once I stood up for myself socially and told them it was my first time in California, they suddenly became very friendly. Perhaps it'd help the OP to dress in biker or business clothes, as to look "tougher" while eating alone.


This is a stereotype. Everyone hears from the media about San Francisco being progressive and this and that. Let me set the record straight, if you actually live here, it is not. People have a very strict "normalcy code" where you have to follow it or else be considered "weird". And people say that people with ASD are rigid...neurotypicals here seem more rigid concerning this code than any autistic would be.

Eating alone seems to garner a lot of staring in my experience. It were as if people wanted to say to me, "Ew, what are you doing, loser?". Other diners give you the eye, some even like The Rock and his "eye" gesture. People do not really mind their own business here. It seems like if someone else does something that they dislike, even if s/he is minding own business, people will shame that person.

A short note about being progressive, no. It seems like that on the surface. But people can be as right-wing as people from the Deep South here. I have met more people like that than supposedly progressive people here. And I was born and bred in this city. I have been called all sorts of synonyms for "scum" for being working class and not making six figures. I get made fun of for refusing to join a group of people from meetups who make six or seven figures who go to dinner, and instead going to dinner alone, because I must be too poor to be in their group or whatever.