Whether you travel to a country on the other side of the world or visit somewhere nearer to home, you can really get a taste of the local culture by eating their locally-sourced and traditional food. Not only will you give yourself the opportunity to try out something new, you will also be helping to support the local community by eating local.
Food is part of the culture
The traditional produce and foods of a country are part of its heritage and so what better way to get a taste of the local culture than by trying out their local dishes. If your tastes are more conservative you may not be able to bring yourself to eat the Cambodian delicacy of fried tarantulas or the Australian witchetty grub (the large white larvae of several moths) traditionally foraged by the Aborigines or Swedish Surströmming – Baltic Sea herring which has been left so long to ferment that when you open its container, the smell is so strong it has to be eaten outdoors.
You may also not wish to risk your life in Japan by eating Fugu (pufferfish) which is lethal if the toxic parts aren’t removed. But fear not, there will be many other less daunting ways of trying out new flavours and methods of cooking.
Avoid the major chains
Almost wherever you travel in the world you will find the ubiquitous global chains which try to tempt you in with their promise of familiar and safe food which you may be used to at home. However, before you are tempted, remember that these food outlets are unlikely to be using local ingredients and little (if any) of what you pay will actually benefit the local community. On the other hand, if you visit local cafés and restaurants or try out some of the local street food, you will have a very different culinary experience and you will also be helping to support local businesses and the local economy.
Where to eat
As a visitor you may prefer to head for the tourist cafés and restaurants which are a safer bet and which may or may not offer authentic local food. However, if you really want to eat like the locals and experience real local life, look for the places where the locals hang out. If you didn’t do any research on where to find local restaurants before you travelled, why not adopt the empirical approach and just ask someone. Ask them where they would recommend to go to eat and also ask for some some tips on what to order. This is the best way to avoid overpriced tourist restaurants and to find some of the best authentic cuisine using locally-sourced ingredients which caters for locals rather than tourists.
When to eat
If you really want to embrace the local culture, deciding when to go out to eat is arguably as important as deciding where to eat. For example, just when you may think it is time to go to bed, in some countries people will only just be thinking about going out to eat. In Spain for instance, restaurants don’t really get going until well after 9pm. Going out earlier to eat is fine but remember you are more likely to be eating with other tourists rather than the locals.
2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development
The United Nations has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and in one vey small way you can contribute to this – simply support the local community by eating local.
“With more than one billion international tourists now traveling the world each year, tourism has become a powerful and transformative force that is making a genuine difference in the lives of millions of people. The potential of tourism for sustainable development is considerable. As one of the world’s leading employment sectors, tourism provides important livelihood opportunities, helping to alleviate poverty and drive inclusive development.”
World Tourism Day message 2015 by United Nations Secretary-General, Banki-moon