How to Handle Food Culture Shock in China

One of the most difficult parts of living in another country is changing your expectations about how things, “should be.” This wasn’t something we discussed in detail, or at all, before arriving. It’s just another part of culture shock and the transition of moving abroad that you need to be prepared for.

You could just give up and go eat American Chinese Food in Shanghai at Fortune Cookie. (Yes... they do give you a fortune cookie)

You could just give up and go eat American Chinese Food in Shanghai at Fortune Cookie… and yes, they do give you a fortune cookie.

Food culture shock is real and looks can be deceiving. Of course that brown liquid with the pour spout is soy sauce, ha! Think again as the smell of vinegar wafts up from your ‘soy-sauce’ drenched rice.

Basically, food is going to taste completely different from what you imagine. The taste of sauces/veggies/meat will be inconsistent with the western food you are used to eating. It’s not a bad thing. Different ingredients and preparation equals a changed taste, it makes sense. It can be disappointing that perfectly tasty meals don’t seem right because of what we think it should taste like from looks. Eating without any preconceived ideas about the taste is a much better way to enjoy this city’s wonderful food scene.

Beef Fried Rice for 12 Qua-- Yes please!

Beef Fried Rice for 12 Quai – Yes please!

Ordering food is easier than actually eating it in Shanghai! Most places will have a menu with descriptions in English or at least pictures of the dish that you can point at to order. However, chopsticks are not an easy task when you’ve grown up with a handy dandy knife/fork/spoon-combo for every meal. You’re really not supposed to eat with your germy hands here, but hand cramps from the awkwardness of chopsticks and continuously dropping food in your lap can make you genuinely consider scooping up a handful of rice. Fumbling around with chopsticks can be a hilarious undertaking or completely aggravating depending on your outlook for the day.

Through the reality of it all, we are still having a wonderful time exploring a beautiful city and adjusting to a new culture. Have you had food issues during your travels from skewed expectations?

Through the reality of it all, we are still having a wonderful time exploring a beautiful city and adjusting to a new culture. We will continue to post about our fun experiences. Have you had food issues during your travels from skewed expectations?

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