Food and Interculturality.
Last week I thought I would go for some foreign food – so I found a cultural ghetto and chose some typical food of the ghetto. It always helps to be familiar with local ghetto food.
Mushy Peas ?
So I chose Fish & Chips with Mushy Peas accompanied by Tea with Milk. Where was I? Benidorm, Spain inside the English ghetto. Potato Chips (French Fries) made from real potatoes without emulsifiers etc, And most British wouldn’t know what Mushy Peas is.
Most places in the world have cultural or food ghettos. What do you do if you are invited to a ghetto restaurant by a client from that country, or indeed elsewhere?
Forget the “I know what I like, I like what I know “ brigade. Your client is entertaining you and it’s incumbent on you to know what you are ordering and to eat it.
You have two choices – either understand the menu and make your own choices or ask your host to choose. And in all cases take into account you or your host’s religious restrictions. Whatever you receive you better know the custom and eat all of it to show appreciation or leave a little or the host will order more on your behalf.
Building Intercultural Relationships through food
This is how good relationships are formed. And that can lead to business. So what can you do to make this a success ?
- Learn to understand the menus. This is crucial. Spanish dishes have names from which you cannot tell the ingredients nor the way they are made. So do Philippine ones. I ordered enough for 6 in a Filipino restaurant in Dubai.
- Learn how many dishes to order – the size of the portions. In Europe: Starter – main course -desert – cheese. (except in France where the cheese comes before the dessert). In Spain they have Pinxos, tapas, Media Raciones, Raciones and that’s just for the starters or instead of a main course. In Britain Spaghetti Bolognese is considered a main course, in Italy it isn’t. It’s what you eat before the main course. In Italy, as a guest I requested a second plate of delicious home-made pasta, then had to eat two more main courses to not insult the chef.
- Learn who you might or might not meet. I was privileged to be invited to the home of one of my Pakistani clients. While I never identified what the food was, it was delicious,. The chef, who was his wife, I never met because that is the custom.
- Understand Cutlery. Some people eat with their right hand. Learn how to do it as you may not get an option. Some people, likewise, eat with Chopsticks. Learn how to do it. In Spain and Italy you get one knife and fork no matter how many courses (I went to an Italian dinner with 14 courses – I ate all of the first 7, some of the next three then fell asleep). In UK you get an array of cutlery learn what to use. And use the fork in the left hand to put food in the mouth, Americans use a fork in the left hand to cut the food and then transfer the fork to the right hand to eat.
Just a few of the things to consider on the way to becoming interculturally competent while eating. Read more here
Smart Coaching & Training works with 20 associates, in four continents speaking 12 languages and raised and working in a wide range of cultures. See our associates here.
In conjunction with Professional Speakers Association (Spain) , SCT’s David Rigby will be present at the TEDx Marbella Spain event on June 9 focussing on Entrepreneurs