Racial discrimination in "Western food" establishments?

I am Caucasian and grew up in Ohio (US). Whenever I visit restaurants that sell “Chinese” food, I’m not only served quicky, but also served with a smile (as I speak both Chinese and Taiwanese).

However, whenever I visit restaurants that seem to have a “Western” theme, I have a lot of difficulty being served. I don’t want to cry “racial discrimination” if that is not the case. Let me outline a few instances and I’d like to hear if any other “western-looking” people have had similar experiences.

McDonald’s (Tainan City, Da Xue (university) Road), 1997, 4:00pm, few people there:
I ordered a few fish sandwiches “without the sauce”. They told me I’d need to wait two minutes. After watching MANY Taiwanese people come, order get their stuff, and leave (20 minutes later) I saw them put fish sandwiches up on the shelf. I still waited and told the manager “those are mine” (in Chinese), but he said “NO, those have sauce” so I had to wait even longer. Why make sandwiches with sauce when you’ve got an order to make a few with NO SAUCE???

McDonald’s (Tainan City, Da Xue (university) Road), 1999, noon, the place was packed):
A Western-looking friend of mine and I went into different queues at McDonald’s. I ordered FOUR regular cheeseburgers and he ordered the BBQ pork sandwich. I was told the whole “two minute” scheme and waited over 25 minutes. Meanwhile, SEVEN groups of Taiwanese passed me and got their stuff–all while I was standing there at the register. My blood pressure rose and finally I very loudly yelled “GEEN A LAH!!! WAH BUT DOW YAO A!!!” (Taiwanese for "Hurry up!!! I’m Hungry!!!) The room of possibly 50 people became silent and the girls behind the counter became very nervous. I got my food in less than 10 seconds. It wasn’t that they had forgotten. My food was “hidden” somewhere behind the counter and I got it instantly. I stood while eating waiting for my friend. He had waited for close to an hour. They had already told him to go sit down several times and when I had finished eating, he went back to the counter. She told him “go sit down and we’ll bring it to you right away, OK?” He said “not OK”, she said something and then he said the THREE MAGIC WORDS in Taiwanese that means “(something) your mother”. He got his food in 15 seconds. The food was “hidden” behind the counter–already made.

LAST MONDAY–3:45pm, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Tainan, Hsi-Men Road (across from the old Tuntex Department Store)–almost nobody there.
I have been to KFC many times in Taiwan because I love their biscuits and iced Pepsi. This time I thought I’d try their chicken. I ordered four pieces of “original” and one biscuit–to go (or “takeway” if you prefer). They told me the biscuit would take two minutes. I was given a cup of iced tea and told to sit down. As I sat, at least FOUR mothers with children came in, ordered, got their stuff, and then left. Meanwhile I not only had drank the tea, but also chewed up all of the ice-cubes. Twenty minutes later, my blood pressure rose and I even waited longer. Finally, I went to the counter and yelled very loudly “GEEN A LAH!! WAH EE GING DANG JOK GOO A!!” (Taiwanese for “Hurry up, I’ve already waited a long time!”) Like magic, my food that had been hidden behind the counter appeared and I was served in less than 15 seconds.

TWO DAYS AGO (Saturday, 6/21) , “Tasty” steak, 7:30pm.
My friend and I made reservations for 7:20, but parking was trouble and they wrote “7:39” on the bill. This place has the same owner as “Wang Ping Steak”–apparently Mr. Wang is some kind of rich tycoon or whatever. It’s a seven course meal. During the time we were there, I saw a lot of couples and groups come and leave. We practically had to “bai tuo” them to give us the next course. We finally left at 9:35pm–roughly TWO FULL HOURS from the time we got there.

Does anyone here study “restaurant management”??? Is there some teaching that “western-looking” people want to spend more time to eat? I would really like to know. I’ve heard that steak places like to seat foreigners in the front window as if to say “LOOK, everyone! Foreigners eat here”, but I’m not sure if this is true or not.

One other thing: That “Tasty steak” place—the food is REAL GOOD!! REALLY GOOD!!!

Let me know what you think about this.


Er, McDonalds here is crap. My favourite experience (from Yong He, Dingxi MRT) was being refused an extra hash brown because during the period between ordering my breakfast and it being served (which was the point at which I requested the extra hash brown), the magic 10:30 breakfast expiry deadline came and went. They were going to let me have my original breakfast order, but not an extra hash brown even though there were two there waiting. I dislike having to remonstrate with people getting NT$70 an hour, so I told the manager what I thought.

I remember recently getting a coffee at Starbucks (again Yong He, near Dingxi MRT) and because it did not have a little bit of tape, it splashed on my T-shirt. No big deal, I’ll go back and ask for a bit of tape (in Chinese). They threw it down the sink. I was far too bemused to be angry, and simply asked for my money back. The girl on the counter asked for my receipt, even though I had just bought it from her less than a minute previously. Another fantastic Taiwan moment. But they’re OK in there. I go there almost every day. But about once a week they do something totally bizarre. I have no idea why they turfed my coffee down the sink. But things go on in the minds of service staff here that we can’t begin to understand. I have stopped trying. Why did Saints and Sinners make us wait over an hour for two uncooked chickens ? There is no “why”. If she’d said “It’ll be over an hour” we’d have got something else. We’d have been happy. They’d have got our money. But having made us wait, why did they insist the food was fit for human consumption ? The Taiwanese in the party were as shocked as the foreigners. Again, there is no “why”. It was just totally and utterly bizarre.

Why wouldn’t they give you your food in McD’s or KFC ? Who knows ? I used to think that these things happened because the servers were unable to put themselves in the shoes of customers. But that cannot be the case. They go shopping and go to restaurants too. And I have asked Taiwanese why the service here is so utterly awful, and even though they agree that it is, they are equally at a loss to explain why. So I’ve given up trying to fathom it.

I very rarely go to “Western” restaurants here. I think in five years I’ve been to one that didn’t make me angry. It was a little Italian place near Yong Kang Jie, I think, with onions (or possibly ears of corn) hanging from the roof. A rare stress-free Western eating experience.

[quote]It was a little Italian place near Yong Kang Jie, I think, with onions (or possibly ears of corn) hanging from the roof. A rare stress-free Western eating experience.
Man, what happened to that place. Started off in the tiny alley and moved to near DV8, didn’t it? What was it called? Something Casita? Cucina Something? Cucina Cucina? I used to like it too.

Um, no. I’ve lived in Taiwan for 3 years by now and haven’t really experienced anything like that kind of crappy service in restaurants. I’ve never had any problem getting my food on time on the rare occasion I demean my palate enough to stoop to the McD’s on DaXue. Sounds like maybe it’s just you - there is such a thing as plain bad luck, you know.

Mod Lang, thanks for your post.

I originally wrote that in order to try to rule out possibilities and get to the bottom of this. If you have not had a similar experience in three years, then I guess it IS just bad luck and I can lay this issue to rest and try to forget the whole thing.


Maybe you should stop using all caps when you speak Taiwanese.

I think you just ran into bad service. It happens sometimes, unless you’re hexuan, in which case it happens every time you eat out :smiley: .

I rarely run into bad service here.

I guess I read some books or something where things written in other languages were written in all caps. Sorry about that–won’t do it again.

I’m not saying that I remember getting great customer service in Taiwan, but experiences like you describe were pretty uncommon for me. Now, if you want bad service at McD’s, try going to one in the US. There are some exceptions, but for the most part the service is awful. If you want really bad service, go to a doctor’s office in the States. Last week I walked out after the doc kept me waiting 30 minutes with no explanation. Still last week, my wife went in for an appointment only to find her doctor had moved offices without bothering to notify her.

Nothing beats home cooked meals. Fast food is unhealthy crap. Bake your own biscuits and you won’t have anyone but yourself to blame if they are 3 minutes late.

My comments only apply to “Western” restaurants. I’ve very rarely had bad service in Chinese or Japanese places.

I don’t know if this is still the case but the Mikonos Cafe in Taipei used to have a third rule in the Chinese section, that wasn’t in the English section, that said that damage caused by your children will be paid for by the parents. I know some wealthy and urbane Chinese-Koreans walked out of the place, much to my chagrin because they are my wife

Blame it on the education system?! If you’d ever worked in a restaurant or fast food place you’d know exactly why service is so crappy. Slaving in a hellhole where everything’s rushing at you all at once for peanuts. There’s time and there’s fast food time. Burgers are slapped down and tossed into the microwave one every 7.5 seconds, with three dozen customers demanding their food NOW, and if food isn’t delivered 2 minutes after the order is taken the customers stomp their feet, “I can’t wait all day!” For some reason when you’re a customer in a restaurant time slows down, have you noticed that? - one minute waiting on your food feels like 5 minutes; there’s some sort of rupture of the space-time continuum going on with customers in line. And on top of that, realize that while 90% of customers are polite, at a minimum 10% are raving assholes who treat the help like shit and all you can do is smile and apologize while gritting your teeth.