For many Americans, generously displaying table manners is probably the least of their worries. They have their education at the forefront of their waking lives, it is college after all. If they are hungry they come to the dining hall to eat be it from hunger, stress or even both. International students and some Wilson College students are never fully prepared to what comes alive after the white doors open. They are never prepared. They are less so equipped upon hearing their peers loudly exchange noises as a form of communication. They warrant protection if at all possible. Among the chatter their ears are relatively disrupted by loud burping that often echoes 3 or even 7 tables to the right of them.
Everyone is dying for some food as the numbers on the wall reach 10:58, 10:59, and as soon as the doors open at 11:00 on the dot, everyone is ready to rush in. Picture a litter of kittens trying to grasp their mother’s milk out of 6 teats. The lunch line can move very slowly. They run, they brisk walk, and they loudly chatter in getting to the food lines.
I give them this much, they are very courteous in cutting their food up into small pieces so as not to choke on the food. Or even waiting in line, they are kind enough to make small talk if it opens dialogue that showcase same interests.
The real problem comes in when they air out, so to speak, the food. With as much formulation, it is as though they take in extra air pocket and let the dining hall hear what their food sounds like. “Buuuuurrrp” It never crossed my mind that table manners mattered so much, for in the south, I see not too much difference. We have the occasional burp with a courtesy “sorry” for imposing any disturbance on anyone around them. I must admit, the lunch area at work is something altogether. People slurp, they snort, they smack, they grunt, they drool, they dribble, they belch, and they pass gas while eating- very much like animals, honestly.. who are by nature unaware of their inflictions on others.
In Mexico, you turn to the side, minding of course if anyone is beside you, and cough, sneeze, or in this case burp into your sleeve or napkin. In France, one learns from infancy to cover his or her mouth and permit only the slightest noise. It could be that as we age, and in our community of tech junkies, we are permitted such behavior from the get go and instantaneously claim it as normal because we are “too busy.” Whatever the case, being surrounded by loud un-complementing noises that sound more like a humans dying, are usually not for the weak stomach. The entire area should have someone enforcing some sort of quiet near your mates.
Burping, or rather bad manners, was once seen as the lowest table manners imaginable. Think of the early ages when England settlers began arriving to America and where then re-acquainted with their lost family from England. The relatives must have been horrified that these people were stuffing their faces with sticky fingers to their hearts’ content.
Americans love to talk as much as they love to talk. We are not. However, interested in seeing what can see you have on your plate.
Clearly as kids, most of us were instructed of our table manners. You were instructed to clear your food-at least a bite of everything, no? You were also told to sit in your chair until everyone at the table completed their share.
We don’t want our fellow employees to think we are rude, ignorant animals. We want to show them respect. Rather, to show that we are capable of eating without a threat of falling sideways whilst laughing at a very funny joke a friend told you. No, we want to show other adults that their least of the worries in the lunch room, should be one that we privately share what we see, hear, smell, or taste are intended for private.
To the credit of my future employment at “wherever it may be,” this year will get a lot happier employees than the last.