Enjoying the Local Cuisine 

While you are abroad, there will certainly come a time when you and a few others within your group may venture off to enjoy a meal in your free time. This has been one of my favorite activities on my trip so far. Getting to experience different cuisines and flavors locally is truly a fantastic opportunity and one that I recommend doing as often as possible. 

Finding a Seat 

There are a few things to keep in mind when you are preparing to eat at a restaurant. The first is about the guests’ customs and expectations. In some regions of the world, they operate much like American restaurants, seating you as normal, and providing you with menus. It is best to do some research into what the social norms at restaurants are in your region of the world. For more information on the topic, this Silverdoor blog provides a basic summary of what some cultures’ expectations at the table are. 

Choosing An Option

Once you have a menu, there is a strong likelihood that it will not be in English. Some restaurants provide English menus, but you will not be able to always rely on this. A nifty tool to overcome this is Google’s translation tool for pictures. If you go to the search bar, tap the camera icon, snap a picture of the menu, and hit translate, then you will get a translation of each item on the menu.  

Eating Your Meal 

Again, depending on your local areas culture, there may be some stark differences in the mannerisms that what you are used to at an American restaurant. In some cultures, it is common to order food for the whole table and to share it, as opposed to just ordering a plate for yourself. This may differ from restaurant to restaurant as well, it is beneficial to see if the restaurant has any information online about the food they serve or images of people eating at their establishment. 

Also, remember what is appropriate to discuss over a meal. Discussing business may not be expected and be taboo for some cultures. Have an idea of what to talk about if you are sharing a meal with locals. 

Paying For Your Meal 

When you pay for your meal, be aware of some differences you would not expect. For example, in Spain, it is considered rude to ask for the bill to be split amongst each person at the table, even if everyone ordered their own meal. If you are dining with friends, have a designated person that handles paying and have everyone Venmo that person what they owe. If you plan on using Venmo, be sure to transfer the correct amount of USD over! It is not always a clean 1 to 1 exchange rate. 

You may also not need to tip the usual 20% where you are dining. In many areas of the world, the staff do not have their pay based on tips, but rather it is calculated in accordance with the price of the meal. While tips may still be given, it is usually a fraction of what you are used to tipping. Do some research into what is expected in this regard before eating out. 


Enjoying a meal at restaurants is a phenomenal way to immerse yourself in the culture of the area you are staying in. Just be sure that you know what you are stepping into before you sit down to enjoy your meal!