Mollie Caselli writes for GulliverGo, a new study abroad and travel Web site.
When I studied in Paris I took courses in French language and history. Classes were challenging, but my experiences with the local cuisine introduced me to the real Parisian culture. Whether you’re at a food market, birthday dinner, or learning to cook homemade pasta, the local recipes will teach you about daily life.
You can mark the days, seasons, and holidays by what you eat. If you’re Greek, it’s sweet bread at Easter, Baklava at Christmas, and Greek Avgolemono (lemon and rice) soup on Sunday. My Italian family savors a pot of Crab Cioppino every Christmas Eve. Christmas in Paris: I overindulged in La Bûche de Noël (cake bread) and Stollen bread. You know it’s a hot day in Spain when locals spoil themselves with Gazpacho. Anyone can experience these cultural treats; you just have to be a little open-minded.
Visit Local Restaurants
Don’t just open a tourist guide and find the most popular restaurant. Check out those hole-in-the-wall joints. You know, the homely ones where people speak the native language. Carry your language dictionary and you’ll be able to translate what’s on the menu.
Learn to Cook
Take a cooking class abroad. Whether it’s a day or a week, learn how to create your favorite food. You will not only discover its history, but you’ll also take a piece of your host country home with you.
Live With a Family
It might sound daunting, but live with a local family. Maybe you already have family abroad. Get to know them. I lived with a host family in Paris. We shared conversations over dinner. I even helped cook for a birthday party. Some locals invite travelers for one night. You’ll enjoy great food, but you’ll also learn how families value their time together.