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How to Be a World Traveler in Your Own City

Updated on June 29, 2022
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Mary works on international development and always find ways to promote global understanding.

International Food is the Way to Go

What do most world travellers talk about when they come home? Maybe a beach or a funny-looking building, but they'll talk about the country's top cuisine, the most delicious food they ate and the menus they saw.

But you know what? You don't have to leave Cleveland or Hamilton to have the same stories. And remember, food is a cornerstone of culture. Many restaurants in almost every city offer the food of different ethnic origins.

So, here are your best chances to experience what your friends had on their last trip:

  1. Explore the international restaurants in your city.
  2. Eat food you have not tried before
  3. Shop in ethnic stores
  4. Use exotic spices

Octopus Salad
Octopus Salad | Source

Experience the World through Cuisine in Your City

In the picture above is a delicious Octopus Salad I had in Dubrovnik, but I know that I can get this dish in Danforth, Toronto.

Somewhere in your city is a Thai restaurant that wants you to have a great food experience. Not the local rice mill that last week was the Heart of Korea and next week will be the Soul of Harbin, but an authentic Thai restaurant with at least one Thai in the kitchen and a menu that looks at Pad Thai as just a little dish.

You are what you eat; even more importantly, what you eat tells the world about who you are. Get up, go out and follow the wafting aroma in the air. Ask around, especially among the immigrant community where they go, if they want some comfort food from the country they came from.

Spanish Traditional Cuisine
Spanish Traditional Cuisine | Source

Eat food you have not tried before

Twenty years ago, the only Chinese restaurant in town sold greasy chop suey and other not Chinese dishes. Today, you'll find a Sichuanese restaurant, indeed one from the south, and if you're lucky, a Mongolian restaurant (Inner Mongolia), with someone in the kitchen who understands local cuisine. Also, French, Italian (not a pizza house), Greek or Turkish. Let the smells that began in the streets of Athens and Ankara. Part of this is just attitude.

Jump into Wikipedia and spend ten minutes about the cuisine of your chosen country. Whip up Trip Advisor and get a sense of some culinary highlights people to enjoy in the country. Get in the mood, and then off you go.

If you did this once every two weeks all winter long, you might still live in Destin, but your tongue has more air miles than the boss's ex-wife. Then, let your language talk as your body's actual world traveller.

Specialty Food Store
Specialty Food Store | Source

Shop in Ethnic Stores

But if restaurants are not your thing, you still can be a world traveller in your city. Check out ethnic stores, particular gastronomic stores, or ethnic aisles in your grocery shop.

I bet there's one selling Italian food or a Vietnamese grocery shop in your area. If not, you can always order online. I ordered some Spanish food from an online retailer in the United States called La Tienda and sent these as Christmas gifts to people. They had fun sampling some of the sweets, cheese and jamon.

When you visit these specialty food stores and sample some dishes unfamiliar to you, you will be surprised at how much you learn about other cultures when you do so. Taste the intercultural nuances in particular cultures. I always enjoy tapas and mezze and find out how these two came to be so much alike yet uniquely different.

Use some exotic spices

Try out some exotic spices you have not yet used in your kitchen. See what it does to some of your everyday dishes. We just got some paprika and saffron from Turkey, but even there, the merchants claim that the best saffron comes from Iran. Persian cooking at its best. So if you find an Iranian restaurant, go in and taste some of the best in Persian food.

Exotic spices of the world - Delight your palette with a few

Spices of Korea
Spices of Korea | Source

Cuisine and Culture - A Meaningful Relationship

Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People
Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People
Read this book and let your imagination go so you can let the food you are tasting tell you of the culture where it originated. You will be surprised. This book shows how historical events have influenced the different culinary traditions in the world. Most of the cuisines now are fusion except for some of the ethnic food still made from local ingredients in traditional cooking pots and following the same age-old recipes. Food has changed, and this book shows how events in history brought about the similarity of tastes we now have worldwide.

Some Specialty Food from other Countries to Try Out

Just to help you, here are really good regional dishes to go for so you get a real smell and taste and feel for the country. Please break down and have a bottle of the national wine along with the meal. It's all part of the package.

And for heaven's sake, don't go all pinched lipped when the dessert menu comes around. Some of these are really distinctive from the countries you visit and they're part of the world traveler package. And if you show an interest in what you're eating, you will be amazed at who might pop out in the kitchen for a chat.

New Dish of Octopus on the Side
New Dish of Octopus on the Side | Source

1. Artisanal Cheese Made in French Villages

For me, the cheeses of France have no equal in the culinary world. The variety gives you so many choices, mostly the best you have ever eaten. If you have a chance, go to the local markets in French villages and sample their best artisanal cheeses.

You can also get a few of these in some specialty stores in your city. So, don't despair and head to these places. Some French hotels may have a small store where they sell some cheeses, foie gras, and baguettes.

More on Cheeses - Try a different one each week

Cheese Store
Cheese Store | Source

2. Spanish Jamon and Chorizo with Olives

Who wouldn't enjoy chorizo or olives marinated as only the Spaniards know-how, little meatballs and Iberico ham?

You can start your Spanish experience with a sip of one of the best Tio Pepes or a Rioja.

Spanish Food

Jamon and Rioja
Jamon and Rioja | Source

3. Parmigiano in Fresh Italian Pasta

With Parmigiano in fresh Italian pasta, Parma ham is so distinctively the best, especially when sliced paper-thin that you can read the newspaper through. It will blow you to an explosion of flavours that only the people of Parma can explain.

4. Soba Noodles and Tempura that Melts in your Mouth

These noodles are heartily delicious and made from really fresh ingredients so typical of the Japanese and the best Japanese sushi rice. Tempura is often my measure of an excellent Japanese chef. When they can make delicious tempura, it melts in your mouth.

5. Indian dishes

Indian spices are not hard to find as many Indian stores worldwide carry them. Many standard groceries also stock them, so learning to cook Indian food is not a big challenge.

North Indian Thali Meal

6. Turk Ikmegi and beautifully spiced kebobs

Not Donaire definitely. Eat this with Turkish bread, Turk Ikmegi, and your mouth will water at the kebob spices. Try the mezzeh, too. Often, we just choose the mezzeh they have in the menu and we can't anymore eat after tasting all these.

Eat these in the heady atmosphere of Turkish coffee and you'll transport yourself to the ancient palaces smelling of myrrh and frankincense.

Turkish Dessert - Kunefe

Kunefe | Source

7. Thai Tom Yum

I am coughing or choking, perhaps from the hot spicy soup made from tamarind base. After a cough or two, you get into this soup and delight in its exotic flavour. Just so unfamiliar with its blend of lemon grass, galanga leaves and other spices. I love this with shrimp that makes me taste a bit of the ocean.

How to Prepare Tom Yam and other Thai Dishes - From the best Thai cooks

So, what is the top world cuisine for you? - Vote for your favourite


Which is your top world cuisine?

See results

Which of the three great cuisines has made the best contribution to our menu today?

See results

French Cuisine

In 2010, French cuisine was included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage, recognizing its value to the world's culinary wealth. And guess what the other one that got such distinction is? Mexican Cuisine.

People say, however, that there are only three great cuisines in the world and all the rest are just derivatives of these three. Of these three, which do you think has contributed the most to the human menu?

Traveling the World through Food

There are so many other ways of travelling the world without leaving your city, but there is nothing like food to attract many of us to sample something of a particular culture. There is also nothing like food to make us know a culture. Food easily binds us no matter how different we are.

So, start your world travel by sampling some of these dishes from other countries.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Mary Norton


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