For many teen travelers, one of the most exciting aspects of spending time abroad is all the new food experience that awaits them. But if you know that you’re a picky eater, the thought of having to eat what your international host puts before you each day can leave you feeling uneasy. You may worry whether you’ll offend the locals with your fussy tastes. Or if you should eat certain dishes with your hands instead of utensils.
No one wants to stand out like a sore thumb when visiting a new country. However, completely changing your palate to fit in with the local cuisine isn’t really an option. So, what can you do to make sure that you’re trying new foods and remaining respectful to the locals while enjoying your international travels? Keep reading to learn more about trying new foods abroad and how you can learn to overcome food anxiety while traveling. Here are our tips for picky eaters, and how to conquer your fear of trying new food while abroad.
Tips for Conquering Your Fear of Trying New Foods While Traveling
1. Become Familiar with the Local Grocery Store
When you first arrive, finding local food that you’re interested in can be fairly intimidating. But you need to eat, so it’s a good idea to find the closest local grocery store or convenience store to your lodging accommodations. This will allow you to stock up on a few essential items that you know you can fall back on during those first few days of adjustment. Even if you don’t recognize the brands or aren’t familiar with the local language, you should be able to purchase basic items like breads, snacks, some type of pasta or grain, and fresh produce.
2. Explore Street Food Options
Because North Americans typically only experience street food at fairs or the occasional hot dog stand, the idea of street vendors cooking up food around every corner can seem a bit strange at first. But most of the time, street food isn’t nearly as exotic or weird as it may look at first glance. Street food is a great option for travelers because it is inexpensive, tasty, and extremely safe to eat.
Look for a food stall with the largest line. When a street vendor has a higher turnover rate, you’re much more likely to receive the freshest possible meal. And there’s no need to head straight for the most exotic food offerings available. There’s a good chance that you can find something mild and delicious at a local food stall. Most markets have food offerings that include meat on a stick, grilled squid, or some sort of fried potato option—depending on where you travel to. For example, the bustling night markets of Asia are teeming with street food vendors offering a wide variety of local delicacies.
3. Give Yourself a Little Grace
There’s no need to beat yourself up if you don’t like many of the new dishes you encounter on your travels. The fear of trying new food is a very common one for travelers, so there’s no need to let that hold you back from having the best possible experience on your international adventure. An easy way to try out different foods from different countries is to go to a restaurant with a larger group. You can order something that you know you’ll like and then ask your friends if you can sample their orders. Taking a bite of an international dish is much easier to tackle than eating an entire plate full of unfamiliar flavors.
4. Do Your Research
Still unsure of how to try new foods abroad without embarrassing yourself or your hosts? Then make sure you’ve done plenty of research on the local cuisine before heading out for a meal. Take the time to look at online photos, restaurant options, reviews, and menu items before you go. That way you won’t be faced with a menu full of dishes that you know you won’t eat. If you’ll be eating much of your meals at home or in a dorm setting, research can also help you to understand when you can politely refuse a dish and when you should try a bite, so as not to offend the locals.
5. Discover Your Local Favorites
Traveling abroad may not turn you into an adventurous eater but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your trip and push yourself outside of your comfort zone occasionally. One of the best ways to keep your mind off of your food fears is to attempt to find one local dish in every new country that you enjoy eating. Even if it’s something very simple like potato latkes or chicken fried rice. Once you’ve found your staple meal, you can avoid embarrassing situations and focus on all the other great aspects of international travel!
Start Planning Your Next International Trip Today
Ready to master the art of international travel and discover the best food in the world by country? Take a look at our upcoming international teen travel opportunities or contact the team at Travel for Teens today for more information about our dedication to transformative teen travel.