There are couple things that I really enjoy about the US– although they are not exclusive to the US. On the top of this list is going to a restaurant and always finding a non-smoking section that is not smoky. Too many other places I have been (I am looking at You: Chile, Moldova, Argentina, Romania, etc.), allow people to smoke anywhere. Some bars or restaurants have told me they have a non-smoking section. After being seated, I find that there is no barrier between smoking and non smoking, no wall, no separate ventilation system, nothing.
I have to commend Almaty in this area. While I was there, they started to implement their brand new no smoking in public areas law. There was a visible difference. I could even, if I knew the words in Russian, complain and have the management of an establishment do something about the person a table over smoking.
Second, nitpicking point: I like customer service. I like going to a restaurant and having my waitress care if he/she gets my order right. Let me tell you a story of Moldova. I went out with a couple Peace Corps volunteers to a pizza place. I don’t even like pizza! We ordered 3 large pizzas and beer (basically a lot of food). When the pizza came, two of them had anchovies on them— we NEVER asked for any fish. When we complained, the waitress clarifies that it was our problem and we had to pay and she would not change anything. We ended up paying in small coins.
Move on to Chile. In Chile, you can get good service, but not always. If you ask to change something on a plate– for example no mayo on my sandwich please, you would likely be told, no substitutions. Sometimes you can get substitutions for an extra fee. When you are asking to ad avocado, this makes sense. When you are asking to not have mayo or tomatoes, this makes no sense. Still, I have paid to not find things on my plate. Waiters in Chile don’t make a lot of money from tips, unless they work in establishments frequented by tourists. Therefore, the wait-staff has little incentive to go out of their way for you.
In the US, I expect better service. I still don’t always get it. At an Ethiopian place on Saturday night, we did not get it. At one point, we (table of 7), decided to order a bit more food. Some of us wanted dessert, others wanted appetizers. We flagged down the waitress and she said they might be out of the appetizers. She went to check. She came back and told us that they did have appetizers left. Instead of taking our order, she informed us and walked away. We flagged her down. The first three people ordered appetizers. She walked away before the next two (S and I) could order. We called her back. We ordered. She walked away before the next two could order. All in all, it was out of character for the US and she got less tip.
S commented, after returning from Chile, that he has accepted the American restaurant way. In Chile, he was annoyed that no one came to see how his food was or offer him another beer. I am with him. I like eating our here.