Many of us relish the idea of living like a local in a new country. Whether you’ve just moved to a new city or you’re planning your next escape (Covid restrictions permitting, of course), we all want to make the most out of things. After all, locals know their stuff. If you drink and dine like a local, you’ll likely be sipping and sampling the very best.
Plus, you’re also a lot less likely to get ripped off. So if you find yourself in a new city or country, read on.
Here are 5 ways to dine like a local when you’re there.
Do your research
It sounds far-fetched, but it’s true. Arrive in a new country without doing any prior research into potential food places and you’ll likely end up in a) a tourist dive that overcharges b) a fancy-looking restaurant with a terrible Tripadvisor score or c) a fast food joint. We’ve all been there. But by doing your research, you’ll arrive with at least some knowledge of where’s good and bad to eat.
Tripadvisor is a great place to start, as are local food blogs. Simply research the place you’re going and let yourself fall down a rabbit hole of articles, Top 10 lists and social media recommendations. Your stomach and tastebuds will thank you for it later.
Talk to the locals
When it comes to socialising, there are two types of travellers—those who seek out any opportunity to chat and those who keep to themselves. If you fall into the former category, you’ll have no problem striking up a conversation with the person next to you about where’s good to eat. And well done you! But if you fall into the latter category, it’s time to step out of your comfort zone.
Next time a local strikes up a conversation with you, embrace it. Explain that you’re new to the area and ask if they can recommend anywhere that’s good to eat. Bartenders are another great source of information. If you come across a friendly bartender (and that you will), ask them for their recommendations. They’ll likely know the area well and will be happy to point you in the right direction.
Walking the streets of a new city aimlessly is a great way to get your bearings. It’s also an excellent opportunity to soak up the local atmosphere. Oh, and increase your chances of being able to dine like a local.
Link up with your companion or, if you’re alone, put in your headphones and enjoy a stroll. Follow the crowds (but not the tourists) and let yourself stumble into restaurants you like the look and aroma of. Browse the menu choices outside, too. You may discover somewhere to eat for later. The golden rule? Avoid the main streets and don’t even consider stepping foot in somewhere with suitcases piled up outside. (These are tourist traps and you want to avoid them at all costs).
You can also save cafes and restaurants that you like the look of to your Google Maps app, which is useful if you don’t want to forget a nice-looking spot for a later date.
Sign up for a food tour
One of the best ways to get a feel for the area and dine like a local is by signing up to a food tour. Why are food tours a great idea? Where to start?! Firstly, they usually take place in groups, so it’s a great chance to meet new people. You’ll also be taken down streets you’ve never been down and introduced to a wide range of different restaurants. And you’ll learn so many facts about the place and its local cuisine.
On top of this, you’ll be shown around by somebody who truly knows their stuff. They’ll likely introduce you to some of the best joints and dishes that the city has to offer. Feel free to ask them as many questions and be adventurous as you can with trying new foods. Again, do your research before signing up. Some food tours can be overpriced, but a quick look on Tripadvisor should give you a good feel for whether the tour will be worthwhile.
Learn the lingo
It should come as no surprise that being able to speak the local language will do wonders for finding the best spots to dine and drink. If this sounds a little overwhelming, don’t worry. You don’t have to be fluent—a few simple and easy phrases will do. And apps like Duolingo will help you off to a great start.
Not only will a few phrases help to break the ice when you’re chatting to the locals (see previous tip), but it’ll also show that you have deep respect for the country you’re visiting. And that can only be a good thing. If this still seems too much, learning a few numbers and the words for ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ will go far. Bon appétit!