Just yesterday, a fellow blogger and Gluten-Free Globetrotter reader sent me a link to one of her most recent posts on the blog Culture Shock Toolbox. I really enjoyed her post because so much of my favorite travel memories revolve around food. For me, one of the best ways to learn about a new culture is through their interaction with food. From the markets, to the restaurants, to even how and what people eat, I am so intrigued about such a simple yet universal thing. Everyone eats, but not everyone eats the same. Whether in the United States, Prague, or Thailand, food has been an integral part of my travel experiences and lingers in my memories. Being gluten-free has not stopped me from traveling the world and learning about food and culture along the way.
With permission from author Helene, of Culture Shock Toolbox, I am reposting her blog that really struck a familiar chord with me when I read it. Thanks Helene!
Eat your way through culture shock
Eating your way through culture shock is effective in many ways.
In Mumbai, a local saw us browsing through our guide and heard us talking about food. He approached us and said: “you know what you MUST try?” He named the dish, the restaurant and explained how it should be eaten!
We ended up going to that place 3 or 4 times and I will be eternally grateful to this man for introducing me to a delicious local specialty that was so much fun to eat! Hello, fingers!
So how can food help us deal with culture shock?
- Food is a part of culture and a very tasty way for us to get an insight into a country’s culinary world. How does that help? Well, a full belly isn’t the wrong way to start…
- Food is a source of comfort, obviously. On a primal level, it keeps us alive. On an emotional level, a hot bowl of yummy soup can work wonders. This is true at home and abroad.
- Taste is dynamic, constantly changing and developing. Trying out new dishes and ingredients helps develop our taste and incorporate a bit of that new country into our lives. It bridges a gap.
- Showing interest in another country’s food tradition is a way of showing interest for its culture and getting to know it a little better, again bridging the distance between us and our new environment.
- Showing interest in another country’s culinary specialties is a way to communicate with locals too. If you’re shy, not sure what to talk about or how to approach people, why not start with food? You’ve got to eat anyway, so you might as well ask questions: what’s your favorite local dish? Where’s your favorite restaurant? What do you recommend I try? What’s the best way to eat this? Where do you recommend I eat [insert name of dish]?
- Being interested in local food is also a way to bring us out of our shell. When we’re dealing with culture shock we might feel completely overloaded and ‘shut down’. In that situation, food is a way for us to be in that new culture, to get to know it while taking care of ourselves, because eating well equals care and therefore comfort.
Food is powerful in many ways, so don’t be afraid to eat your way through culture shock!
Helene is the author of Culture Shock Toolbox. She is gluten-intolerant, fascinated by all things culture shock, loves yoga, animals and the outdoors. Connect with her on Facebook @CultureShockToolbox or Twitter @helenerybol
4 thoughts on “Guest Post: Eat Your Way Through Culture Shock”
Absolutely spot on! Helene encourages us all to experience the culture as fully as possible when we’re visiting a new place. So fundamental to do as they do. (“When in Rome, …”) We should at least try doing it their way. This gives us insight to new place and culture. Always something to learn from another way of doing, eating, traveling, etc. Thanks for the repost.
Thank you for the repost and the great intro, Erin! I completely agree with you – food is a wonderful way to learn about a new culture. It brings people together and I love finding out about new dishes, new ingredients that I might be able to incorporate into my own cooking.
@ackdavis: Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! Right there with you – there’s always something to learn, which is one of the many things that makes traveling so exciting!