Dining in any foreign country can be tricky, even if the locals are English-friendly. Germany is one of those places that has many English-speaking residents, but you can’t always rely on it to get by.
So to ensure that you and your family have a great time when traveling and eating out you’ll need to come up with a plan to eat and travel safely.
5 Ways to Have a Great Dinner in Any Foreign Country
Eating out in Germany can be stressful if you have a picky toddler, mild to severe allergies, or dietary preferences. Here’s how you can make it easier to navigate ordering food in Germany.
1. Learn Key Dining Phrases You’ll Need
Milk, eggs, nuts, shellfish, wheat, soy, and fish are the most common food allergies. If you want to ensure something isn’t in your food, you would have to scan the menu for that ingredient in German or ask the staff. For example, “Milch” means “Milk,” and “Eier” means “Eggs.”
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, look for “vegan,” “veganer,” or “végan” to check if the menu item is vegan, or “vegetarier,” “vegetarierin,” or “vegetarisch” if you want to order vegetarian food.
You will find plenty of delicious dishes with tofu (is tofu vegan?) and mock meat. Or if you are like me, you can just go with a full vegetable dish.
If you want to immerse yourself in the language and culture before you get to Germany, try Lingoda. Their platform sets you up with native language speakers, so you can check your pronunciation and ensure you’re using the right tense. Plus, they can teach you polite German.
2. Use a Translation App for the Menu
Phone translation apps are really helpful if you need to translate something that’s written instead of spoken. Apps like Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, and iTranslate allow users to photograph short lines of text in English or any other language you or your companion speaks.
Keep in mind that most of the free (and paid) translation apps aren’t exact. Most German to English apps can translate sentences almost perfectly because both languages have a similar sentence structure. But, you need to know what’s in the food, so structure can come second.
3. Look Up Restaurants Before You Dine
It can be stressful to pick what you want to eat while you’re at the restaurant, especially if you don’t speak the language. If you’re shy or you don’t like to draw attention to yourself (leaving after being seated), consider looking up restaurants online instead of choosing randomly.
This can be really helpful if you have a child, as some restaurants may not have a kids menu or traditional American kids menu items, like chicken fingers, fries, spaghetti, and ice cream.
If you have dietary preferences, you also need to know if your restaurant of choice has menu items you can eat. But If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’re in luck, as Germany has one of the highest vegan/vegetarian populations in the world and over 333 strictly vegan restaurants.
4. Point to Pictures or Create a Food Sign
Restaurants do take allergies and dietary choices seriously in Germany. If you can’t have an ingredient in your food, prepare a picture or a food sign. This document should be on your phone and should say what you can and can’t have in German, so the staff can offer suggestions.
If you’re just passing through Germany and you want to have a light snack, avoid food stalls or trucks, if possible.
Since there’s an expectation you’ll need to order quickly, you won’t have time to ask for substitutions or how they prepare their food so ordering take-out may be a better option.
5. Try the New Food and Hope for the Best
We’re not suggesting that you break your diet while on your trip, especially if you could get sick if you do. However, if you aren’t adopting a diet due to a health, moral, or environmental reason, consider trying out a new dish. Who knows, it may even become your new favorite meal or food!
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being picky. If you’re getting all the nutrients you need and the dish has an ingredient you really dislike, then there’s no harm in ordering something else.
But if you think your pickiness is stopping you from trying new things, then it’s time to take the leap.
Why not make eating out even more fun by making a game out of it! At the restaurant, close your eyes and point to a menu item or ask your companion to pick something. Whatever you point to, you have to order!
Such a great way to try new dishes and make the eating out experience exciting. We are sure that at the end they would have been a great deal of laughter too.