“l’ Hsseib, please” (check please)
There is an etiquette for splitting the bill around the world. Each country has found a solution for that all so daunting time when the bill arrives and quick and smooth decisions have to be made. “Going Dutch”, is when everyone logically splits the bill equally. Of course, being Lebanese, no rules apply to us. We are the makers of our own rules and if we feel that we are loosing the battle of paying the bill, we express our anger very liberally.
Some Lebanese traditions and mannerisms transcend generations, social class, location, and country. Every one of us, at some time or another, has found himself embroiled in a heated, yet determinedly jovial argument on the arrival of the bill. After a perfect evening ,the time to pay arrives. We Lebanese do NOT split the tab at a restaurant. We fight to death for the right to pay up (while sometimes, wistfully thinking that the “opponent” is going to pay it all).
Imagine a scene: crowded restaurant, groups of people sit on tables enjoying each other’s company. Waiters whizz back and forth, while every now and then a laugh cuts the flow of the music in the background. Someone stands up to go to the bathroom. Dim lights and the aroma of food engulf this little setting. It could be any restaurant in the world, from Lebanon, London, Paris, Australia, Nigeria, to Shanghai. Comes 11:30, time to pay the bill, as the waiters rush through finalizing the payment transactions from table to table, a commotion bursts somewhere in the background. Hands fly up in the air. Angry faces erupt in some corner of the restaurant. Commotion. The place falls silent wondering how that table that seemed like just a regular table has all of a sudden become a battle field. But it’s not any regular table. It’s a Lebanese table. A little bit of swearing disrupts the submission to fatigue of the last hours of the night.
“Wehyet Allah… Khallas… Please… Bi Sharafak.. Khallas ya zalame” (I swear to God… Enough… Please… In the name of your honor… Enough man). You can bet on anything you want at that specific moment in time, this table over there is yours truly… Lebanese.
As the bill arrives, faces always appear horrified. Wide gestures are made, while outcry takes place, “wala moumkin, mah khalik, dawre, wehyet allah ma ba’2 idhar ma3ak.” (No way! I can’t let you pay! It’s my turn now; I swear to God, I won’t go out with you anymore!). The fight doesn’t end there; no. Someone will always jump over the table and try to grab the bill before everyone else.
As we all know, old habits die hard and I pray to God this habit won’t die. I love watching people fight over the bill. All of a sudden, I am transported into a set of a comic movie. Somehow it makes me proud to be Lebanese, as outrageous as that sounds. Food always tastes better when you eat it with your family and friends and the night always ends better when you fight over the bill, Lebanese style!
There is a funny clip on that, I highly recommend you watch: