No matter where you are, you’ve got to eat so you might as well eat well! A rule of thumb when in a new city is not to dine at chain restaurants. An important part of a new cultural experience is the “taste” of each city. Admittedly, this can be challenging when traveling with children who are lured by the familiar menu of meals wrapped in bright characters accompanied by the current toy rage. The traveler-penned tips below, when followed, should make your dining experiences more enjoyable.
Enjoy Your Meal Time
Americans lead a fast paced life. Regrettably, the heightened pace often translates into our mealtime. Extend your meal. Europeans are never in a hurry when it comes to eating. Instead, they savor the food and camaraderie of a good meal by extending it well into the evening. Thus, if you are in a rush you will usually have to alert your server that you are ready to pay. She or he will rarely hurry you to do so. To risk sounding cliché, savor the flavor!
Sometimes the greatest satisfaction comes with exploring new and unfamiliar foods. Don't hesitate to try something new, especially local drink specialties which are often unavailable elsewhere. Eat everything, don't get too hung up on exactly what a dish is before you order it. Don't be afraid to try the local flavor! Don't be alarmed if you see younger children with alcohol, in many countries the legal drinking age is 18 and sometimes lower.
Speak to Locals
Ask locals their recommendation on good dining. A hole-in-the-wall establishment often offers the best flavor and variety. The locals know something that travelers don’t. Local food is authentic, hometown cooking at reasonable prices and usually a unique experience. This dining theory can translate into any culture or country. Who better to ask than the ones that live there, the ones whose good opinion is sought for repeat business?
Tipping is a personal choice but also something that most travelers stress about. Gratuity varies across the globe and some countries have legislated gratuity. French law requires 15% be added to tickets. In Italy a surcharge will be added. A rule of thumb is if the meal/time spent is satisfactory or better, leave a little more. If you find it sub-par, don't penalize too much. Being a generous tipper is something people remember and is a good habit to develop.