I'm 15 days into a 30-day trip all across Greece (Athens, northern mainland, islands). Everything has been great except the long wait each time we are ready to pay our bill when we're out to eat or for drinks. In America, cleared plates or a credit card/cash sitting on the table is an indication that we are ready to leave. Here it seems they are in no rush at all. We've even waited 20 minutes (they weren't busy). They print the tickets and bring them out immediately but take much longer to take payment. Multiple times we've had to walk to them - which feels a bit rude.

My question How do I more clearly indicate that I am ready to pay and leave? or Am I just being an impatient American not attuned to the Mediterranean pace of life?

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    If everything else fails, standing up and donning outerwear has always worked for me. – Henning Makholm Apr 15 at 14:51
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    I've noticed this is true in Greek restaurants in North America in some cases, too (I had it happen to me at a Greek restaurant in Toronto's Greek Village a few years ago). The solution is the same. :) – Jim MacKenzie Apr 15 at 15:33
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    It's never rude to come up to the bar to pay your bill, even in the US. – JonathanReez Apr 15 at 16:18
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    One of the biggest complaints among fellow recently-arrived expats in Europe when I first moved there was the glacial pace of the service. Some of that may have been in fact related to glacial pace of the service, but much of it was also that they hadn't gotten used to the fact that it's generally necessary to attract the attention of the staff if you want anything, including to pay. Once you become accustomed to this, everything works much more smoothly. – phoog Apr 15 at 17:08
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    @FabioTurati I can say with certainty that it was a joke, specifically a reference to this – Kamil Drakari Apr 17 at 20:44
up vote 131 down vote accepted

In many parts of Europe it is considered rude for a restaurant to bring you your bill without being asked. Meals are expected to be relaxed, unhurried affairs, and for a restaurant to bring the bill, or ask for payment, without being asked is seen as them trying to hurry you out.

As such it is absolutely expected that you ask for the bill, or if you already have the bill ask to pay it. Attract the waiter's attention. This is more acceptable in Europe than the US, because generally a waiter won't disturb you unless they think you want something. (The endless "is everything alright - how is the food?" questions from North American waiters still faintly irritates some of us European expats.) If language is a problem, then the universal "mime writing something on your hand" usually works. Have a look at what others are doing - they may be paying at the counter (though this is pretty rare in Europe). If you are in a hurry, ask for the bill as soon as your last item is brought, and ask to pay as soon as the bill is brought.

If you are paying by cash, then leaving the cash on the table is also acceptable

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    I always thought the "mime writing on your hand" thing was a bit strange, but I've yet to find a country it doesn't work (having now used it in several dozen, in all continents). – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Apr 15 at 15:27
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    "faintly" is understating the level of irritation, depending perhaps on the server's demeanor, and this is coming from someone who was born and raised in the US. In addition to miming with the hand, I have occasionally, when in a hurry, at least, employed the tactic of getting up with my wallet in my hand and approaching the server or, if one is visible, the cash register/till. I've never noticed that to be received poorly by the staff. – phoog Apr 15 at 17:03
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    I wouldn't say that paying at the counter is rare, but perhaps it is in posher places. – TRiG Apr 15 at 17:50
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    Going to the counter to pay is pretty common, especially when you're in a hurry. Nobody will be offended, and it saves a roundtrip with change/card terminal/etc. – user1908704 Apr 15 at 21:31
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    @Mixxiphoid - Rare? Ok I live in the UK which has a lot of differences to continental Europe, but pretty much every restaurant here has a wireless card machine. – AndyT Apr 16 at 8:41

In Greece you should just signal to the waiter. Either raise your hand or do what DJClayworth said. It is not uncommon for people to ask for extra plates (fries, tzatziki, feta etc.), so they will wait for you to tell them when you are ready to pay the bill. (Also in many restaurants when you signal for the bill they bring a dessert too!)

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    No you will get a FREE dessert. – GiaFil7 Apr 16 at 10:43
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    I can verify. It is quite often (the default I would say) for dessert to come at the end of your meal for free -after you have paid-, as a 'thank you' from the restaurant. – koulini Apr 16 at 10:48
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    @kiradotee Whatever is local, Greece/Greek islands it's usually something like watermelon, as they are practically everywhere, or you may get a shot of the local spirit. Even though you may be full, it's too tasty to pass up, so try to pay at the table and not look in a rush. – Daniel Morritt Apr 16 at 15:06
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    So far desserts we've been gifted for free include: yogurt with nuts and honey, yogurt with beets, almond cake and other types of little cakes that I am unsure what flavor they were. :) – wolves_vowels Apr 16 at 16:29
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    As a born and bred American, I frequently read the comments section of answers here on Travel and wonder why I haven't moved to Europe yet... – Mike Devenney Apr 17 at 1:47

That would apply if you were at an a' la carte restaurant. In general we raise our hand & say the bill please (cos as Giorgio said sometimes we raise our hand & order extra dishes etc). The best I've discussed with American friends is the body language, meaning from place to place things can be different from such things to greetings so feel free to ask.

Enjoy your holidays :)

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