13 Things You Should Know When Eating Out in a Foreign Country
Don't mess this up.
By Casey Austin
1. Learn a few basic words.
It's common courtesy to learn at least a few basic words in the language of the country you're visiting. "Hello," "thank you," "may I have" and "please" are simple ones to start with. Learning staple food items is key as well!
2. Ask locals where to eat.
A local's guide to any place is the best guide — they actually live there! Ask for places that are off-the-beaten-path, hole-in-the-wall-type places where locals mingle.
3. If it has an English menu, it’s probably a tourist trap.
This makes sense, right? If a restaurant has an English menu it's a dead giveaway that it caters primarily to tourists. Sometimes it may seem like a necessity to go to a place with an English menu when traveling abroad, but the truly authentic places won't give you that option.
4. Avoid spruikers.
A spruiker is the person who stands outside and tries to get people to come into their restaurant — aka they're desperate. A good restaurant shouldn't need someone to draw you in; the food should do that yourself.
5. Make a few reservations beforehand.
Big cities like Paris, Tokyo and London have amazing food scenes with some of the best restaurants in the world. But these places book out months in advance, so make sure you make a reservation.
6. Tipping is important!
So important! Different countries have different customs for tipping, so make sure you know what the tipping rules are in the country you're visiting — for restaurants, taxis, etc. If you don't know how to tip, here are two things to do: Check the bill to see if the tip is already included, and if it's not, 10 percent is the way to go.
7. Have the right currency.
Does anyone remember the episode of Parks and Recreation when they went to London and Ron tried to buy a blank postcard with a US dollar bill? DON’T DO THIS.
8. Practice proper etiquette.
If everyone else is eating with their hands or chopsticks, please please please don’t use a fork. A quick search online for how people eat is a great way to start, but if you find yourself at a restaurant and aren't sure what to do, just look around.
9. Never eat near a tourist attraction.
This also segues into the rule "never eat in a square or plaza." Restaurants and cafes near tourist attractions are always over-priced and cater to hungry, busy tourists who just want the first thing in site. Walk around the block and chances are you'll find something much tastier and for a much better price.
10. If there’s a line, it’s usually a good thing.
There's no better indicator that the food is good than a place with people waiting to eat there.
11. Eat at the right time.
Different cultures eat their meals at different time of the day, so you don't want to show up for dinner at 5 p.m. when everyone else eats at 8 p.m. –– talk about awkward.
12. Feel the room.
Is everyone else talking with their inside voices? If so, you might want to lower your voice a little bit –– no one wants to be the loud American.
13. Do your research!
Whenever I travel to a different country, the first thing I do is research what the specialties are of the region/country I’m traveling to. Just because you're going to Italy doesn't mean you should have pasta and pizza; risotto is more of a specialty in northern Italy than pasta.