What’s The Food Like In Other Countries?

What if I don’t like it!

Of course, the answer to this is completely individual but the short answer is to be open-minded about it. If you’ve already made the decision to move abroad, it sounds like you’re the adventurous go-getting type anyway so don’t let a little thing like food stop you fulfilling your dreams. 

I can only speak for the regions I’ve been to, which are the Middle East and the Far East, but I think these are the countries which might provide the biggest food-related culture shocks. 

In the Middle East (I’ve worked in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia), you can get mostly everything you would normally buy in the supermarket but the brands might be different. Having said that, many of the big chains (Lulu and Carrefour are widespread and inexpensive) stock imported goods, so you might find some familiar brands. On the whole, the quality is good. You won’t find any alcohol or pork on display as these are ‘haram’ (forbidden) in Islam but it’s possible for non-Muslims to get them. In the UAE you can get pork in a special sectioned-off room in some supermarkets. Alcohol is available in bars attached to hotels and there are some off-licenses. Expect the price to be hiked up!

Arabic food is very good!! They love meat and breads in particular. 

Popular dishes are breads with hummous, and fatoush (a kind of salad). 

Zaatar is a blend of herbs and spices, often served on bread. 

Their wraps are called shawarmas and they’re very commonly eaten.

They love kebabs with vegetables and rice with plain yoghurt.

Fish is often on the menu and will be the freshest you’ve ever had.

They also love desserts and a common one is Umm Ali (Mother of Ali). 

Their food isn’t particularly spicy and would suit most palates. 

In the Far East, some of the foods might be more unusual to us, but at the same time, it’s amazing! I lived in Vietnam, where they love rice and noodles. Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) is a noodle soup and is commonly eaten. They also love seafood and meat, but I didn’t seem to see much lamb. Another popular dish is Buncha, this is a dish of pork and noodles originating from Hanoi. They like beer and ‘Hanoi Beer’ and ‘Saigon Beer’ were quite light and very nice for a non-beer drinker like me. 

The restaurants are fabulous in the cities, ‘Blue Butterfly’ in Hanoi serves Vietnamese food and ‘4Ps’ is an excellent pizza chain. 

I’m embarrassed to say I never got to grips with chopsticks! I always asked for a western cutlery which isn’t ideal but they still have forks and spoons. You don’t usually need a knife because the traditional food is bitesize. 

Don’t be scared of the supermarkets in the Far East, I never had a problem finding familiar foods, but again, the brands are different and there are quite a few Korean brands as well as local. Some things which are very usual for westerners to eat, are less common for them such as cheese. The scariest part of supermarket shopping was the live fish section, which basically looked like an aquarium, but instead of looking at the live fish and sea creatures, you pick them still alive and buy them to cook and eat! I couldn’t do that!!

In summary, don’t worry about the food as there are much bigger worries than this. If you’re a picky eater, you’ll find many familiar foods available in every country. I’d recommend you take some snacks and familiar brands with you when you leave. Check what foods you can take into the country, but snacks are usually fine.