I would usually call the waiter by trying to catch his eye or raising my hand eventually. But I suppose there are other customs depending on the region of the world. What are those? Is snapping ones fingers always considered impolite?

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    Hmm this is kind of asking for a list of many many countries, which we usually frown upon on Stack Exchange ... – hippietrail Jun 19 '12 at 16:50
  • Would you be ok with turning this into a Community Wiki? Currently there's no one answer that would satisfy it - we could potentially have 200 - which is too broad. – Mark Mayo Jun 19 '12 at 19:02
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    Great question. What we find acceptable here in America can be considered rude in other cultures. For example, I was hosting at a resturant one night and I put up my first 2 fingers to indicate to the runner that I had two people waiting for a table. The couple kindly informed me that my 2 fingers in that particular form was a very rude gesture where they were from (i forgot where it was). Last thing you want to do is offend a waiter by accident. – ILovePaperTowels Jun 20 '12 at 4:13
  • Yes, I am especially interested in those, cause I for me as European it's quite clear how to do this in western culture :) – crenate Jun 20 '12 at 9:12
  • I'd love to see the anti-pattern version of this question :) – Möoz Oct 30 '16 at 23:53

In Western countries, it's usually best to be discreet about it. When in doubt, always look around and see what the others are doing, in a normal-sized restaurant there would be always people around ordering and clamoring for attention, so get some clues from there as well.

Generally, I'd usually try to make eye contact the waiter and communicate my desires without them having to come around, i.e. if I'd like to ask for the check I'd make a discrete gesture as if signing a paper, most waiters (especially in restaurants) would understand what I mean, even if we don't quite speak the same language. If I just want to order more of the same (most likely, beer or wine) I'd point to it and raise a finger or two. This applies even more for busy places where waiters are always running around, and their efficiency is key.

To draw their attention for other purpose, I'd slightly nod upwards and maybe raise two fingers slightly when I'm sure they see me, that usually does the trick.

I wouldn't raise my hand unless waiters continuously ignore me, and I wouldn't raise my voice to be heard -- I'd speak to them when they pass around me. However, inordinate waiting times would reflect on the tip I leave in the end, if any.

I also make it a point to always be polite and considerate with service personnel, even in countries where some degree of servitude is common.

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    I agree with you for the most part, but you should always leave a tip. If there is a problem then you cannot know if it was due to you or the waiter. Furthermore, your tip will reflect on all people from your homeland that the waiter will see in the future, so do your countrymen a favour and tip. – dotancohen Jun 19 '12 at 16:08
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    @dotancohen: Not sure if I agree -- I can readily tell if the problem is with the waiter (bad service) or with the food, and would not leave a tip just because "it's expected" and taints how the others perceive my countrymen -- I am a citizen of my country, but by no means should I be representative of them as a whole, and won't go out of my way to do that. Also, not tipping doesn't mean that the waiter should provide a bad service -- tips should be deserved, not required. – mindcorrosive Jun 19 '12 at 20:50
  • I agree that if everyone did as I suggest then the tip/service postulate would be ruined. However, I find that in the places where I travel an insignificant outlay on my part can have a huge effect on the locals' perception of my countrymen. I try to take advantage of that whenever I can, even at the expense of "you were bad to me so I'll be bad to you" vendettas. – dotancohen Jun 19 '12 at 21:22
  • @dotancohen: Doesn't that mean you would also have to feel obliged to buy things you don't like just so eager vendors don't retain a grudge against your countrymen? Even assuming that that's the generalization the waiter would make (as opposed to, say, everyone with the same hair colour, the same gender, the same group type etc. as you), and even assuming that for whichever reason you feel responsible for the impression a group you somehow belong to creates - I'd rather feel responsible for preventing my countrymen from the same experience I made by giving the waiter a clear sign that the ... – O. R. Mapper Aug 19 '14 at 9:46
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    @O.R.Mapper: I understand your position. – dotancohen Aug 19 '14 at 11:08

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