A guide for those picky eaters staying with a host family in a foreign country.

Authored by:
Madison F.

Hello and Welcome all!

I wanted to make a blog about something that I have found to be a struggle just for me personally since arriving in Spain so maybe others who are also picky can read and take these tips into consideration before traveling to a foreign country and staying with a host family. So firstly about me, I am a VERY picky eater I must admit. I was very nervous about the food before coming here because it is very different from what we eat typically in the US, particularly for me in the south. My mom has always said she does not understand what went wrong with me (thanks mom) because I was never picky when I was little, but as I got older the pickier and pickier I became. Now do not get me wrong I will try anything no matter how strange it may seem to me, but that does not mean I will like it. I have found since staying in Spain so far with a host family that it has been a little difficult for me to be honest with my host family about what I do and do not like. Here is a list of tips and advice I have for those who are like me and how to appropriately address food restrictions you may have. 

1. Research the cuisine of the country and city you will be staying in. 

- Getting an idea of what foods are typical of the country you are traveling to is recommended in order to grasp what to expect and not be surprised when you can not easily access your favorite food or restaurant. This will also help you tremendously when staying with a host family because in my situation my host mom texted me before I arrived to see what my favorite foods were, what I wanted to try, and what my dislikes were. When staying with a host family too, you have to realize that 9 times out of 10 they will cook a meal for you of what they normally eat (especially when they have little ones) and not go to fast food places or restaurants, if there even are any in your city. Honestly, I believe if you are traveling to a foreign country you should already be open to new experiences so I recommend trying EVERYTHING offered to you. 

2. Be open and honest with your host family about your likes and dislikes. 

- When my host family had texted me asking me about food, I do not have any required dietary restrictions so all that was left for me to do was to explain what I like to eat and what I do not. The thing about it is, that I did not want to come off as rude or ungrateful over text sending an entire grocery list of what I prefer not to eat so I told them I am willing to try anything and did not clearly explain my dislikes as I should have. I promise you being open and honest with your family upfront is better than later being served something you will not eat and possibly result in hurting their feelings and wasting good food. My family is very kind and wants me to feel very comfortable here so with anything they cook or want to make they ask me if I like it, I try to keep an open mind and say yes most of the time because you never know, you may actually find a new favorite food! Also if you are vegan or vegetarian, I have heard two different responses from Spainards to this situation 1. they will either respect your diet and work with you on it, or 2. they will still respect it but ask why, not to offend you, but because meat is an integral part of life here in Spain and they simply can not fathom the idea of not eating something that is served all day, every day, and everywhere. 

3.  Just try new things!

- I do not like coffee, beer, or wine, and one of my goals while here in Spain is to find and try as many as I can until I find one I like! I mean Spain and wine, come on it is a no-brainer, and I know that I will find one that I like here one of these days! If you did not know, (I didn't until orientation with Laura when we first arrived here) that Spain has the most pubs/bars in the world! With so many possibilities and opportunities I know one day that I will grow to like beer and hopefully, that begins here while in Spain! I have tried foods I never thought I would like and have found one of my favorite meals here so far to be Paella. Another woman who was in the orientation with me has shared in our group chat that she has tried sheep's head and brain! The sky is the limit here in Spain so no matter where you are YOLO it up and have fun, do not let prejudices or preconceived notions hold you back when it comes to trying the wonderful food of Spain. 

So to wrap it up, I hope you have enjoyed my little spill about being a stubborn picky eater and traveling to a foreign country. I hope if you are like me, that you take my advice and broaden your horizons in as many ways as you possibly can. Create a recipe book, take back what you have learned and tried, share it with your family, and never forget about what a great experience you will have or have had teaching abroad in a foreign country! 

¡Gracias y Adios!

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