Zadie Smith on "Takeout" in America vs. "Takeaway" in England
"In London, you don’t tip for delivery. A man on a motorbike arrives and hands over an oil-soaked bag, or a box. You give him the exact amount of money it costs or wait and look at your shoes while he hunts for change. Then you close the door. Sometimes all this is achieved without even the removal of his motorcycle helmet. The dream (an especially British dream) is that the whole awkward exchange pass wordlessly ...
But I’m not going to complain about Britain’s “lack of a service culture”—it’s one of the things I cherish about the place. I don’t think any nation should elevate service to the status of culture. At best, it’s a practicality, to be enacted politely and decently by both parties, but no one should be asked to pretend that the intimate satisfaction of her existence is servicing you, the “guest,” with a shrimp sandwich wrapped in plastic. If the choice is between the antic all-singing, all-dancing employees in New York’s Astor Place Pret-A-Manger and the stony-faced contempt of just about everybody behind a food counter in London (including all the Prets), I wholeheartedly opt for the latter. We are subject to enough delusions in this life without adding to them the belief that the girl with the name tag is secretly in love with us."
Americans are so insecure.