I’ve acquired a bit of a reputation among my colleagues for being persnickety when we’re on business trips. No, I’m not a spoiled traveler who has to have the comforts of home. On the contrary, I actually DON’T want to experience the familiar. One of the benefits of traveling is that I can experience different things and see the world–including different corners of my own country–through different eyes. In that vein, part of understanding the local culture includes learning it through its food.

Over time, I’ve developed what I call my Travel Rules for Eating. Though they are often the subject of friendly teasing, I think they are quite reasonable. Whether I’m on the road for business or pleasure, I try to follow these rules:

  1. Don’t go to any restaurant where I can go at home.
  2. No chains! (With the possible exception of local ones)
  3. Don’t go to the same place twice on the same trip.
  4. When deciding what to order, give preference to what is indigenous to the area. Don’t order seafood in Tulsa, for example; save it for a coastal visit.
  5. Breakfast doesn’t count. Many people have a particular regimen they consistently follow for breakfast: yogurt, fruit, coffee, whatever. Don’t sweat it; just get your breakfast and move on.

A person can learn a lot about an area through its food. The ritual of eating is so entwined with culture, I view it as an important part of putting on the glasses of that area or learning the accent (click to see related posts). Besides that, it’s fun.

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