Vegetarian Travelers: Speak Up and Be Prepared
As a vegetarian, it is essential to make your dietary preferences clear to the waitstaff when dining in Europe. Many Europeans interpret “vegetarian” as “no red meat” or “minimal meat consumption.” To avoid any confusion, write down the appropriate phrase for your dietary restrictions, have it ready, and show it to the waiter before ordering your meal.
Affordable Dining: Seek Out the Inexpensive Eateries
When looking for budget-friendly meals in Italy, keep an eye out for terms like “osteria,” “tavola calda,” “rosticceria,” “trattoria,” “pizzeria,” or “self-service.” A meal-sized pizza, which can be found for under $12, accompanied by a cold beer can be a delicious, fast, and inexpensive dinner. For an even greater bargain, try a pizza rustica shop where pizza is sold by weight. Point to the best-looking pizza and indicate the amount you want (200 grams is sufficient for a meal). They’ll weigh, you’ll pay, and you can enjoy a delicious and affordable meal.
Don’t forget about panini – these sandwiches can be found just about everywhere and are both cheap and readily available. Ask for them to be toasted (calda) for added deliciousness.
University Cafeterias: A Meeting Ground for Open Minds
University cafeterias, although typically closed during summer holidays, provide a perfect opportunity to meet educated, English-speaking young people eager to engage in conversation and share their thoughts on politics, economics, and culture. This is a great chance to practice your language skills as well.
Tourist Menus: Embrace the Convenience
Europe’s tourist zones often have restaurants offering “tourist menus” (menù turistico in Italy, menu touristique in France). These menus provide a stress-free, three-course meal at a set price, usually inclusive of service, bread, and a drink. While locals may not opt for this choice, it can be a convenient way to sample regional flavors at a reasonable and predictable price.
Dining in Scandinavia: Make the Most of Your Meals
Scandinavia, known for its high cost of living, requires a bit of strategy when it comes to dining. Make sure to fill up at the breakfast smorgasbord, which is typically included in your hotel stay. Also, be on the lookout for daily lunch specials called “dagens rett.” Most restaurants allow you to have as many vegetables (often potatoes) as you desire when ordering an entrée; simply ask for seconds. Many Scandinavian pizzerias offer all-you-can-eat deals and robust salad bars, but be aware that your bill may double if you order a beer. Cheapest cafeterias often close around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., so plan accordingly. Eating in Scandinavia doesn’t have to break the bank if you know where to look.
Tap Water: A Budget-Friendly Alternative
The price of drinks at most European restaurants can be off-putting, but remember, you can always ask for tap water. Learn the local term for tap water, or simply use the international charade of holding an imaginary glass in one hand while turning on a faucet with the other. Emphasize that you’re content with tap water by clicking your tongue and drinking with a smile.
Navigating Groceries and Open-Air Markets: Learn the Lingo and Watch the Scales
In European groceries and markets, most food is priced by the kilo (roughly 2.2 pounds). Keep an eye on the scale when your food is being weighed, as it will often display results in grams and kilos. Also, pay close attention to the signs for pricing, as some items may be priced by the quarter or half kilo, 100 grams, 500 grams, or even by the piece or container.
Be cautious when no prices are posted, as travelers are often overcharged by market vendors in tourist areas. Seek out markets that display prices, and assume any market without printed prices operates on a double price standard: one for locals and a more expensive one for tourists.
Shopping Etiquette: Point, Don’t Touch
In Europe, it’s considered impolite for customers to touch the goods at produce stands and outdoor markets. Instead, simply point to or tell the vendor what you want.
Dairy Tips: Know Your Milk Options
Milk drinkers in Europe can check cartons for local words like “voll” or “lett” to differentiate between whole and light milk. Opt for refrigerated, fresh milk, or try the long-life milk found on unrefrigerated shelves. This type of milk doesn’t require refrigeration until opened and has a long shelf life, although the taste may not be ideal.
Staying Healthy: Be Mindful of Illnesses
While traveling, maintaining good health is essential. Be cautious of any potential illnesses linked to local cuisine and follow food safety guidelines. If you do fall ill, seek medical help promptly. Remember, prevention is key, so be sure to wash your hands frequently and practice good hygiene throughout your trip.
In conclusion, embracing these tips will help ensure an enjoyable and healthy dining experience while traveling through Europe. Be prepared, budget-conscious, and respectful of the local customs to get the most out of your culinary adventures.