Food is an integral part of our daily life. When you move abroad, sampling the local cuisine can be an exciting and exotic sensory experience. Your new location may present you with the opportunity to try new spices, meats, fish, vegetables, grains and desserts, to name a few. Your destination may also have different eating schedules than you’re familiar with (like late lunch times or after-dusk dinners) as well as styles of food preparation that you’re unaccustomed to. By all means, enjoy the various feasts you find before you! But sometimes we also crave food from “home,” as well as may have food allergies to take into consideration. Use these quick guidelines to manage the culinary adventure you’re about to embark on.
Embracing the Culinary Culture
If you’re a foodie by nature, trying new foods is a welcome task. If you’re not so open-minded when it comes to food, try to adopt an adventurous approach as you sample the local fare of your new city. Sometimes the food is familiar, just presented in a way or time you’re not used to, such as the case in Melbourne where they put baked beans over toast or in Laos where they eat noodle soup for breakfast. Adopt a curious stance to it all and give it a shot. You may discover some new favorite dishes that you start to eat regularly. And the worst thing that happens if you don’t care for something is – you just don’t eat it again!
Food Sensitivities & Allergies
More and more people are discovering food sensitivities and are making a concerted effort to integrate that knowledge into their daily eating. Introduce a new culture and location and it can be tempting to loosen up the reigns on your diligence. That’s understandable. There is going to be an adjustment period as you experiment with different foods and see how your body responds. If you know you have food sensitivities, however, try to exercise some restraint when eating out as you often can’t be sure exactly what is in the food. There’s no quicker way to kill the buzz of exploring a new place than to be home sick with a stomach ache because something you ate didn’t agree with you!
A good strategy is to find your local supermarket as soon as you can upon arriving and stock up on some trusty staples you know you can comfortably eat. Make that the base of your eating and then plan some special meals out. Before going, check if the menu is online, and see if there are meals that look compatible with your restrictions. If the menu is not online, you can call ahead, explain your restrictions and see what they say.
This is another time when language training will save you as you’ll be able to communicate effectively about what you need to eat. You can also bring a friend who is more comfortable with the language and can inquire in person when you are sitting down to eat. Special note: if you have a full-blown food allergy as opposed to a food sensitivity, you’ll obviously want to take special precautions to avoid those foods altogether. If you require an epi-pen or a histamine, pack those before traveling.
Craving Comfort Food
As much as you may be enjoying the new fare, at some point you’ll crave a familiar food from home. It could be Cheetos, Mountain Dew, or sour cream (all foods that my coworkers seemed to crave after about six months of living in a new country). You have a couple of options. The first is to attempt to recreate it yourself from scratch with a tried and true recipe. The second is to try to find it locally. The last option is to have it shipped, either from an online retailer, a sympathetic friend, or family member back home.
The World is Your Oyster
Make the most of your time abroad and sample what you can. Food is a great way to connect to your new home and feel as though you’re getting integrated, as well as step out of your comfort zone. After all, variety is the spice of life!
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