Cos face it, thoughts are the only thing you’re left with when your crappy iphone loses reception while eating out alone 😪
I never really had a huge problem with dining solo, though it wouldn’t be something I’d do regularly back home. However, if I did have any inhibitions before, theyve definitely been left behind now. At first, it was a little difficult walking into nice bustling restaurants alone, while everyone is there with company. And it did make me feel self conscious about being judged or pitied (no one really gives you a second glance though – except if they’re trying to chat you up .. Stories for another day). There are pros and cons – the main con being that the variety of dishes you get to try is limited if youre not ravenously hungry and don’t have people to share with. On the flip side, a table for 1 is fairly easy to accommodate so you won’t find yourself having to wait too long, which is great considering how busy HK is.
Except, a table for 1 in HK doesn’t always mean exactly that, as I’ve since learnt.
Being the economical bunch that they are, it’s quite common to have solo diners randomly grouped together on tables, particularly in local places. The first time this happened to me, I was in complete shock when an old local man nonchalantly slipped into the other vacant chair on my little table and started reading the paper. Naturally, he wasn’t phased by my presence, but i on the other hand, mouth full of crackling pork, went into mental panic mode..
“OMG. who is this person ?! do I know him?”
“Dude this is my space!! My table!”
“Ummm … Isn’t it a bit rude to disturb someone’s meal like this?”
“Wait he’s not even acknowledging me. This is weird.”
“Ok he’s ordering. Guess this is happening”
“Should I talk to him? Are we meant to converse in this situation?”
“What happens if we make eye contact? I don’t know where to look. Look at my phone. Look at my rice. Look at the fridge. Don’t look up.”
“Ok good, I’m almost finished eating.”
“Am I meant to smile or acknowledge the fact that we just somewhat shared a meal together?”
“The pork was so delicious but don’t think I’m ever coming back here again …”
Since that initial experience, I started finding myself in those situations more frequently (probably because I’ve become more comfortable going to local places alone), and now I’ve become pretty accustomed to breaking bread with complete strangers – and no, we don’t talk. Or even look at each other.
So today, I’m having lunch on a 3 person table (actually it’s really only meant for 2), with 2 other solo diners who also happen to be foreigners. The Indian guy on my right seems like he’s been here awhile and knows the laws of the land. But the young Spanish guy on my left appears to be having a freak out at this little lunchtime ménage a trois. He had a seriously reluctant look when asked to sit on the shared table. We’ve awkwardly shared eye contact too many times. He’s had a moan about order numbers being called in Cantonese. He’s having huge frustrations talking to the waiters, who don’t completely understand his order (broken English from both parties). He’s turned to me a few times to whinge about the service, he’s spat out his water onto the ground because it wasn’t the right temperature (by default, drinks come out warm, unless you explicitly ask for cold), he’s complained to management and blown up even more because management seems dismissive (HK people may sometimes come off a little disingenuous, cos that’s just how they are…). I think he’s going into meltdown from cultural shock.
If this was happening back home, I’d be freaking out and trying to get away from the situation pronto. But, this indifference towards something happening merely 30cm away is a sign that maybe I’m now finally getting used to life in hectic, densely populated HK. Just don’t impede on my 1/3 of this table – That’s my personal space.