With the France trip right around the corner and their course focus being all about “The Ethics and Culture of Food,” this topic seems appropriate this week. When traveling abroad, you are learning a lot about a different culture, such as what is considered respectful and disrespectful and seeing all the cultural artifacts that particular nation has produced. It is easy to forget that what people are accustomed to eating, when and how they eat are also a part of the experience.
Some cultures place a lot of emphasis around food and eating. They eat five or more courses throughout a meal spread out over several hours. This is their time to socialize with their family and friends. In many cultures, unlike the United States, it acceptable and legal to drink alcohol before the age of 21, and it is normal to see children and young adults drinking wine with their meal. Some cultures use different utensils, such as chopsticks to eat. Some cultures have tea ceremonies or have tea at every meal.
For Americans, some of these practices can be shocking or off-putting or even intimidating. What is important to remember when traveling abroad is to observe what the people around you seem to be doing. This will help you to blend in when traveling.
Sometimes, you are going to run into food that you don’t think you are going to like that is a considered a delicacy in other parts of the world. You should always try something new! If nothing else, just to taste it and experience it. You may not get a lot of opportunities to travel to exotic locations like this once you have graduated from college (depending, of course, on where your career path takes you!). These experiences can become some of your favorite stories to share with friends and family when you return. They are often your most memorable experiences!
It is also interesting to check out the fast food chains while you are abroad. Many times, what is offered in America at McDonald’s is not what is offered at a McDonald’s in Italy or France. When a group of us from Hiram went to India, we had the opportunity to visit both a McDonald’s and a KFC. At the McDonald’s they had shake shake fries. They provided masala seasoning to put over your fries and shake them to coat them in the seasoning. The menu items also were completely different. There were no beef products, since beef is considered sacred to some of the major religions in India. One student was especially sad to learn that there was no mashed potato bowl at KFC. Instead, they substituted rice for the mashed potatoes. But these are some of the memorable moments we had in India.
When you are traveling, if you are willing to open up your mind and try new things, you will never be disappointed!