When you travel abroad fast foods brands like McDonalds seem like a perfect option. They’re familiar, you don’t need to speak the language to get what you want and there is a high chance food is fresh even if not necessarily the healthiest. A choice of someone who is guided by common sense you could say. But every time you chose McDonalds over some local – no matter how strange – cuisine, you lose a chance to truly explore the place and it’s culture. After all, you can always have your Big Mac at home. When abroad try the local food – I found at least 4 good reasons to do so.
Just to make it clear. I’m not lovin’ it and this post will not be objective. I really hate when people eat garbage food. Although I always try to be tolerant I can hardly accept the existence of instant meals and fast foods. Especially nowadays where access to good healthy food is easy and it’s slowly becoming less and less expensive.
Ok, maybe it’s a good time to finally explain to you why I am talking you into this. I must have some rational arguments for that. And I do.
I’m a huge fan of tasting the food, that’s why I don’t understand why people travel and eat the same food they can eat at home. How are you going to know and understand the country when you don’t know it’s food. In most of the world people spend hours a day on their meals, that means it’s a very important part of their lives, wouldn’t you agree? That’s why wherever I go I eat where the locals eat and what the locals eat. And where is that? Usually off the main streets, in small places. From my experience I can even tell that the more dodgy the place looks, the better food they serve. And if you see a rat somewhere in the neighbourhood you can be sure this is the place you’ve been looking for. Most of the visitors consider eating in places like that as very risky, where you can easily get food poisoning. Of course don’t forget that it’s still your health at stake so stay a bit alert. But if you see the locals eating in that place it becomes more trustworthy.
You can learn a lot about the people by how and what they eat. Do they eat in a rush or maybe they spend hours on every meal. Do they eat with their families, friends or usually eat alone. How they serve the food, what spices they use, what are their national meals, what is the most common meal. Give yourself some time to sit and observe. That can surely let you understand their culture more.
What’s next. Where people eat, people talk You can find out a lot more about what is going on around than if you visit tourist spots. The locals will advise you where to go, what to visit, where are the best and cheapest places to stay, what are the best ways to travel around. You will learn about places that are worth seeing but you would never find a mention in a guidebook. If you have good negotiation skills there is a chance that they would even show you around. It’s not only the locals that you will meet in places for locals. There are more smart travellers that will pick spots off the main streets. You can be sure that those are travellers that know how to travel like a pro. You can share your experiences with them, ask for advice or maybe even start travelling together.
Now why local food would be better than any other food. Simply because unlike you, food is best when it doesn’t travel and is even better when it’s seasonal. Local cuisine is usually based on local products. It’s not only much more healthy, but it also tastes better because they‘ve been working on the same products, veg, fruit or meat for ages. They must have come up with some brilliant recipes, right? Why not give it a try? I’m pretty sure you will not regret that decision.
This paragraph deserves a personal story to tell, of course one of those favourites, from the times I had “supersmart” ideas while traveling
I’m one of those that are not afraid to eat the food from the street. Lucky me, all my experiences with that had no sorry consequences. My stomach was handling my experiments really, really well. I felt even better than on the food back home. I was doing so good until I came up with a “brilliant” idea of ordering a pizza. In Thailand. On an island. I honestly must have been exposed to the sun for too long because I still can’t believe I’ve done this. I’ll save you the details of my body’s reaction on having european food in Asia. What I can tell you is – don’t try it One thing that it tastes like sh*** the other thing is that well… this is actually all you get
There are two things I remember from every trip I’ve ever taken. The people I’ve met on the road and the food I’ve tasted. Travellers, don’t be afraid to try. That is what will create your memories. And I can assure you, you don’t want to remember eating Big Macs and chips in Italy.