General Etiquette > Family and Children

Traveling with picky eaters

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I recently took a week long trip to a foreign country with a large group of friends, with two picky eaters.  Unfortunately their pickiness didn't coincide (ie, they both ruled out different foods). I'm a pescetarian and I had assumed I would have the hardest time finding food, but the difference was that I was willing to compromise and eat sides/salads/pastries if it came to it, since I figured my dietary restrictions were my problem.   These two were both unwilling to compromise and we would spend hours every day trying to find a restaurant that was acceptable to everyone.  I think a large part of traveling to a foreign country involves eating local fare, and I was a bit frustrated since one of the picky eaters didn't want to eat unfamiliar food.  And the country wasn't even that culturally different than ours!

I tried suggesting we split up, but one of the picky eaters refused to do that and instead insisted on coming with us and then complained that she didn't want to eat at that restaurant the rest of the trip.

Any thoughts on how to handle this situation?  We are likely to travel again at some point, and the experience has left a sour taste in my mouth.

Simple.  Don't go with the picky eaters.  It could not have been any fun.

"I am willing to travel with you, but I am going to eat where I want to eat, if you don''t want to try new things, that's fine. I do want to try new things, just as you do not want to be forced to eat what is unfamiliar to you, I do not wish to be limited by anyone else's comfort zone. I think we need to agree before we leave that if we can not agree on a place to eat together in X amount of time we will separate and find the places we are comfortable with.. if we have to go that route and you decide to join me, I expect you to not complain about my choices."

   What you describe would drive me nuts and I would resent my companions.  I do hope you work it out before you leave next time

I would not have put up with it. This is a HUGE peeve of mine. At first I would have been nice, but by the 3rd or fourth meal and or whining session I would have told the person off.

Eat or don't eat what ever you want, but don't make it someone else's issue and don't ever, ever, ever say "no" to an idea unless you have a counter idea ready. If someone says "Chez Meathouse" and you open your guide book and say "oh, actually how about Hummus Chateau 3 blocks way", that's cool, but if someone says "Chez Meathouse" and you whine and say "but I can't eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeat there!" you can just just sit outside and pout by yourself while the rest of us get our carnivore on. Bonus if its raining and we get a window table.

Guide books, for tourists and most likely for locals as well, are not hard to come by and list restaurants by all sorts of methods - by food, by neighborhood, by price. Picky eaters especially should invest in one or more.

In a group, everyone has to compromise a little, and sometimes in a restaurant of "familiar" foods is super fun (McDonalds in Japan has rice balls, in London people eat Pizza Hut with utensils, etc) to see how is done there, but food exploration is a HUGE HUGE HUGE part of traveling and under no circumstances would I let someone's pickiness stifle my foodie-ness continuously. People can make do, or separate but dictating and whining are not ok.

I would make arrangements to meet up after the meal, and eat where I wanted to.

For me, a huge part of travelling is the food, and it's not something I want to compromise on.  There are people with restricted diets that I will travel with  - vegetarianism for example - but inevitably it's someone who is flexible, and has an attitude more along the lines of "as long as I can eat something" rather than insisting on choosing all the restaurants.

In the future, you can make this clear while planning the trip - ask people directly about food restrictions and pickiness, and say straight out that if your dining styles are incompatible, you'll arrange to meet after meals.

If you travel with the same group, you can bring it up in context of the previous trip, and you can be pretty blunt about it - you're going to enjoy the local food, and you're not going to plan your eating around other people's incompatible pickiness.


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