I recently accompanied my husband to an international conference in Montréal. There were around 500 attendees from all over the world. I was just along to play tourist and boost the Montréal economy. Hello Rue St. Catherine!
The first morning I breakfasted alone (I was on a mini-break – sleeping later was justified!). Eating alone in a restaurant no longer makes me feel uncomfortable. If you find it so, I recommend reading a book, newspaper, or writing a blog. I observed.
A few tables ahead of me four gentlemen were engrossed in conversation. I guessed from their tie/name tag lanyard combos that they were attending the international conference. Across from them was a lone woman seated at another table for four.
Part way through my fruit platter another gentleman entered the dining room. The Maître d seated him at one of the many empty tables for four directly behind the four other gentlemen. The lone gentleman recognized the other four as fellow conference attendees, introduced himself, and then, without any acknowledgement, sat down with the lone woman. His intent was to converse across the aisle to the other four.
I feel a diagram is necessary!
I’m not sure of the language or culture of the late arrival. He wasn’t speaking either French or English. There’s a fine line between observing and blatant eavesdropping so I can’t be sure.
The woman became engrossed in the fascinating view of the rooftop venting ducts out the window as she continued her breakfast. To add to her discomfort, one of the four gentlemen, realizing that across the aisle communication was impossible, picked up his plate and joined the man at her table. She now had two strangers at her breakfast table. Neither gentleman acknowledged the woman.
By the time I returned to my table with another chocolate croissant (hey, I was on a mini-break. It was justified!) the lone woman had departed.
It seemed to me that I had been observing the clash of cultural differences. The gentleman was from a culture where sitting with strangers in a restaurant was the norm. The woman was from a culture where this would rarely happen, and if it did, there would be permission requested and granted. No wrongs, just different.
The entire exchange was interesting to watch. I would have liked to have observed more. It would have revealed more about cultural differences. It would have revealed more about human interactions. It would have justified a third chocolate croissant.