Experiencing a Culture Through Food

Bjorn Koch food header


If you’re anything like most of the habitual travelers around the world, you likely have a few things planned out before you decide to embark on a cross-country (or cross-planet) expedition. You figure out where you’re going to stay for the duration of the trip. You plan out–to the minute sometimes–what you’ll be doing, where you’ll be going and who you’ll be seeing. But far, far too often does one of the most important parts of a vacation fall by the planning wayside. The dining experience is paramount not only to making a vacation the best it can be, but in fully immersing yourself in the culture of your destination.


If you went on a trip to Philly, would you wind up in the drive through at McDonalds every evening, or would you rather have one of the City of Brotherly Love’s famous cheesesteaks? Once the plane touched down in France, would you grab a bite at the Wolfgang Puck express in the airport, or wait it out a bit and sample the finest wines, cheeses and macarons that France has to offer? The answers here should be obvious; those who travel but ignore the native and delicious food a place has to offer are also ignoring the culture of the destination as a whole.


There is a reason so many cities and countries are known for their foods. It isn’t merely an advertisement for “here’s what we eat in Germany, looks good right?” Seeing a steaming plate of German bratwurst and sauerkraut placed in front of you isn’t just eating “tourist food,” it’s fully immersing yourself into the culture of Germany. You’re not eating the food simply to try something new, you’re eating the food to experience everything–everything– Germany has to offer.


Food is often the identity of a culture–or at the very least a large part of it. More so, food can be a connection between you and those who live and breathe the culture you’re immersing yourself within. Who better to ask when deciding where to eat than locals? Asking those who live in the area you’re in is a sure bet to experience some of the most authentic and delicious dishes that a country or city has to offer.


The American food culture is seemingly less diverse than what you’ll find abroad. Driving city to city within the US will lead you to experiencing a very similar menu regardless of where you stop. Yes, Chicago, Illinois might have better deep-dish pizza than Key West, Florida, but the variety and cultural-diversity of the dishes found in the states pales in comparison to what you can find abroad. And whatever you can find abroad you absolutely should do your best to experience.


IndependantTraveler.com compiled a list of six tips for readers intending to eat aborad. Five of the six tips are perfectly agreeable and advisable. However number four, “stick to what’s familiar,” is one that I’d have to disagree with. Don’t stick to the same old that you eat everywhere–explore new cuisine, immerse yourself in culture, and broaden your horizons by trying a new dish at every opportunity (dietary restrictions aside).