Ordering Food When You Don’t Speak the Language

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If you tend toward the adventurous while traveling, or if you find yourself seeking out the newest or most culturally authentic experiences, you may find yourself in the somewhat bewildering situation of ordering food in a restaurant where you don’t comprehend the language. When no one on the staff speaks your language and the restaurant doesn’t provide translated menus, finding a great meal can be tough. On the other hand, you might end up ordering something fantastic, even if you don’t know what it is. If you’re intrepid enough to use a menu you can’t understand, remember to keep an open mind, prepare yourself for food you might not like, and try the following tips:

– Use digital tools. Handheld electronic translators or Internet translation tools might not give you a perfect description of something on the menu, but they can sometimes at least give you helpful information, like identifying whether the item is a soup or a meat dish.

– Aim for a midrange price. Ordering the cheapest item on the menu raises your chances of getting something you won’t like. On the other hand, it would be a shame to stretch your budget only to end up with an entrée based on a food you really don’t enjoy.

– Pantomime. You can order a dish at random by pointing to its name on the menu, or you can ask for a waiter’s recommendation by pointing at the menu, smiling, and shrugging. If you want a specific kind of dish, you might also be able to point at something in the restaurant or act out eating it.

– Use pictures. Many restaurants post photos of dishes that you can point to for easy ordering without saying a word.

– Embrace the moment. If you get something strange or that you dislike, try to relax and laugh about it. Take a picture to remember it by, and then head for a more familiar store or restaurant as soon as you can, knowing you’ll have a great story to share when you get home.

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