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Emily L Says Hello

June 7, 2018

Don’t think for a second Emily L has been scared away by life in the blogosphere. She’s just been out of the country. What I didn’t know until reading her guest post below was how much of the world she’s seen.

Foreign travel is a funny thing. When I was young, I had no interest in it whatsoever. It was only once I turned on to food that I had any desire to visit other countries. Not so much to see the world, but rather to eat it.

That said, being a stranger in a strange land can have a profound impact on an individual. Hopefully, the lessons one learns while traveling can be applied to everyday life back at home, and you’ll be better for the experience.

Here’s a good example of how that works.

Just Smile and Say Hello

I’ve just returned from my last trip abroad. Steve’s comments on my last blog post had me thinking about what is the best way to experience food in a new place. In the past six years, I have been to every continent (except Antarctica!). When people ask for me for advice on food and traveling, I tell them one thing, “Just smile and say hello.”

No matter how much research you do on food in the area, if you really want to eat how the locals eat, you need to talk to them. Start a conversation with your taxi or Uber driver. Take a free walking tour and ask your guide for info. Strike up a conversation with someone sitting next to you in cafe. Be friendly. It’s amazing how many tourists are afraid to smile and greet the local population

People want to share their food stories. Don’t be afraid to talk; the worst that will happen is that someone will ignore you or walk away. And guess what? You don’t have to see them again. Don’t be afraid. You never know; on a recent adventure in a working class neighborhood in Lisbon, I went up to a group of older Portuguese men celebrating the Fest of Saint Anthony to ask them what was traditional to eat during this time. An hour later, I experienced some of the best sardines and wine of my life with my new friends.

So the next time you go to Pho Queen, ask Gaan about her experience immigrating to Schenectady and how she finds the ingredients in the Capital Region to make her Pad Thai. And when you are enjoying Dim Sum at Hong Kong Bakery, ask Mr. Chan about his 30 years in the bakery business. Ask him what else he recommends in the area. Stop by Famous Lunch and chat with Scott about his father Steve and their longstanding relationship with Troy. Or send me a message and I will tell you all about my favorite Ohio foods.

Food love is universal.

Color me impressed. I’ve been going to Famous Lunch for years and never even knew the names of the Famous Lunch guys. Heck, I didn’t even know they were father and son. I’ve never spoken with Mr. Chan about his dim sum.

It sounds like in her short time in the Capital Region, Emily has already gathered a lot of great local food stories. I’m looking forward to hearing more of them.

The only thing I have to add today is how much it helps to approach people in their native language when traveling. Nothing softens up a Parisian on the street like a well-intentioned “Bonjour”. And learning to say “Ni Hao” will get your further in China than you might imagine.

One Comment leave one →
  1. RogerK permalink
    June 7, 2018 12:02 pm

    I have also found that Ni Hao, Chào, Yeoboseyo, Swasdi, and Kon’nichiwa have also been very welcomed and appreciated greetings for me to use here in the U.S. when dining at Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, and Japanese family run restaurants. Especially as a repeat customer. A few other of their native language words (e.g., for “thank you” and “good bye”) are also great ice breakers and sometimes a way to eventually be introduced to dishes not on the menu but prepared by the owners for themselves and their staff.

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