the other day i found a coffee shop in town that had a sign saying:

share the table – european seating’

it's cold outsidenow: i don’t know any coffee place in portugal where people share the table with strangers. moreover, i don’t think that it happens anywhere in europe for that matter – please let me know otherwise. so, i inquired a local about it and the explanation was a bit surprising; it seems that, for an average american – at least in this part of the country -, if you want something to look stylish or modern, you just have to add the ‘european’ component to it – people will immediately associate it with something that has to be cool. even if it’s just a label in the name.

anyway, seating apart, if you exclude the lousy espressos served sometimes in huge tea mugs with soup spoons, there is something i have to love on american coffee places: free wireless internet. i find it so useful, and luckly, there are a few of those in town where “working from home” has a new meaning. specially, with european seating.

10 strings to “european what?”

  1. Inês Martins says

    Só queria deixar um “olá” de Portugal, e parabéns pelo postcrossing!

  2. rita says

    Well, sometimes in those coffee shops in Portugal in which tables are organized in a row, you “sort” of sit toghether…
    But that reminds me of what two american friends told me they wondered about well-dressed men: is he gay, or is he a european?

  3. moonrose says

    In Austria it is possible to share tables with other people. When the coffee shop or a restaurant has only a few tables and each table has four chairs and only two of them are taken by people, so you can ask them to join them.

    When Austrian or German people go to Portugal they can read in their travel guide that they should not do this in Portugal. So you see, here it is possible.

  4. paulo says

    a-ah! so, there is a reason behind it! good to know. nonetheless, that is not enough to call it european style as it is not common or anything. but thanks a lot for sharing, i love to know this little bits and pieces of cultural differences :)

  5. Joanna says

    As an American living abroad, I have to add my two cents. I have had to share a table in Germany and Switzerland, but only in very busy restaurants and on weekends. I never see it in the states, but hey, we Americans like our personal space! Adding the word “European” only makes the place sound classy and interesting to people who never travel outside the country, which is um… 94% of Americans*, so it’s not a bad marketing strategy!

    *Just don’t quote me on that figure!

  6. postkartenfranz says

    Funny thing happened to us in Dijon, France. We were two tourists looking for a place and a coffee in the sun and thus asked a guy sitting alone on a table in a crouded cafe if we could join him. This man, a local retired teacher, agreed and started immediatly a conversation we did not really look for. So we had our seat in the sun and also a man telling us all about his family and his trips arround the world and he was so glad to be able to talk to someone that he said: in France this would never happen, strangers sitting on somebody elses table. So intruding other peoples space is a way to meet them, wheter you look for it or not…

  7. Sofia says

    it is cool to share places and it is used in Italy too…just ask for the place… but it is sad that it’s not easy to meet interesting people this way as everyone tends to mind his/her own business… It’s easier for me to start good conversations in trains

  8. maia says

    hi mate. just happened to see this post… this may be, in fact, rare… but it happens. Some years ago i met a guy in the train in my way to braga, he was from norway, and, amongst other things we discussed, he said that he found it very weird, that in Portugal, people become upset if someone sits next to u in a table (e.g. at a coffee). He said that in Norway people do that all time instead of sitting in the unoccupied/isolated table :) curious uhum? hug mate

  9. Fiona says

    Hello, I just came across the Postcrossing and somehow it led me to this website. It is not uncommon in Hong Kong to share the table with other people in the morning when we eat dim sum. I mean the atmaosphere of dim sum restraunts is quite chaotic; you got older ladies maneuvering carts of food around the tables and you have the waiters throwing the dishes on the table (pretty good aim actually) and other people reading their newspapers. An enlightening experience I guess, but the food is great, and that is what matters! ^^

  10. Anda says

    I am from Latvia and we also usually don’t share a table with a stranger – an exception could be a small coffee shop with 2-3 tables, very warm atmosphere and then somebody could offer to share his table, but only if there are no other options. :)