Before coming to the U.K., I had so many preconceived ideas of what the food culture of London would be like. I thought everyone would be constantly eating fish and chips and would drink tea around the clock. Although many British people do enjoy partaking in these options on occasion, BOY WAS I WRONG! I have learned that there is so much more to British cuisine than what I thought! Since I have lived in London for a little over a week now, I thought it would be appropriate to share 7 of my best tasty tips, from one summer student to another.
- Try the stereotypical foods– It is good to expand your horizons while traveling abroad, but I also found it rewarding to experience what I had envisioned the “common food” to taste like. Eating “touristy” foods produces an understanding as to why the stereotypical foods in a certain area are as popular as they are. This tip is not just a license for bragging rights back home; it is also to lay a foundation for the rest of your culinary journey while abroad. Examples of stereotypical British foods to Americans are items such as fish, chips, tea, and crumpets; all of which I tasted during my first week in England.
- Take suggestions from locals- Locals are a great source of information like: how to get back home when you are lost on the train, teaching you how to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, and showing you where the nearest toilet is! They are also experts when it comes to finding out what foods you should try before you leave. By engaging with your host community, you will be able to ask for recommendations to the best cheap/fast food, the best diverse foods, and, most importantly, the most delicious foods! While I was in a Tesco supermarket within Hammersmith, a friend and I caught ourselves stuck in the candy aisle. We scanned the entire selection of candy, but we were unsure of what the local favorites were. A young woman behind us then noticed our difficulty choosing a candy. She recommended we try this gummy candy called Strawberry Flavour Laces, which are not sold in America. She also suggested a chocolate candy called Twirl that are complimented when paired with a cup of English tea! We eagerly took her up on her suggestions.
- Visit the local supermarkets- You may be thinking “Why would I go to a grocery store in London when there are so many great restaurants to try?” Although there are an endless supply of restaurants in London that are extraordinary, part of the experience of traveling abroad is to compare the similarities and differences of typical life in your home and host countries. This includes grocery shopping! From my own experience, I have learned that the majority of foods sold in the England are also sold in the United States, but there are small differences. For example, eggs are sold both in American and British supermarkets, however, British eggs are predominantly brown and they are sold without refrigeration. In contrast, American eggs are predominantly white and are sold refrigerated.
- Try cultural foods- Studying abroad in London has opened my eyes to how much diversity this city holds! Of course, with diversity comes cuisine and there are so many different ethnic foods to taste that you might not even know where to start. On a class field trip, we ate at a delicious restaurant by the National Portrait Gallery, but I could not pin-point what origin of food I was eating. I ordered a plate of chicken, rice, and a salad, which was cooked with a mixture of spices that were unlike anything I had ever tasted. After we left, I looked up the restaurant on Google (Gaby’s Deli), and I realized we had eaten at a Mediterranean restaurant. This was my first time trying Mediterranean dishes and I really enjoyed it! Had I not been in the culturally diverse city of London, I might not have realized how much I enjoy this culinary style.
- Sit down for a nice meal- As most students can admit, being a summer study abroad student usually means not spending as much money on food as you want to. BUT, at least one time during your visit abroad, spend a little extra money on food with decent ratings. With fast food being such an easy companion while traveling, sometimes it is nice to experience another element of culinary immersion in the country you are living. I am not saying you have to go to a five-star restaurant and get the most expensive item on the menu but branching out in this way can introduce you to foods you may never have known you appreciate.
- Eat some gelato!- Once I started exploring deeper into the city of London, I noticed more and more gelato shops. In fact, there were so many that I actually thought I traveled to Italy! The beauty of all these gelato shops is that no two are alike. Some are more traditional and serve the classic flavors on waffle cones, others have flavors you’ve never even heard of, some stick waffle wafers into the centers, and some hard-dip their cones in chocolate. The certainty of all these gelato shops is, no matter which shop you choose, you will not be disappointed.
- Say, “Yes!”- My final, and perhaps the most important tip is to say, “Yes!” (and I do not mean to a wedding dress). Say “Yes!” to the foods you’ve always been scared to try. What’s the point of cultural immersion if you don’t invite your taste buds to tag along? Immersion is not just a feeling, it is an experience that deserves to be enjoyed by all of the senses in the body. So, say “Yes!” Say “yes” to a delicious experience that will open your eyes to a whole new realm of culture!
About the Author – Hannah Brown, Summer 2018 London, England Storyteller & Bluffton University Student
Hannah Brown was a summer 2018 storyteller in London, Engalnd. As a Food & Nutrition major with a concentration in Dietetics at Bluffton University in Ohio, Hannah finds enjoyment in connecting to culture through food and cuisine!