When I first arrived in the UK, there were was definitely many things I missed about my home country. Slovak food, especially my mum’s cooking, was only one of them.
Embarking on this new adventure meant that I had to adapt to a new cuisine. Even if you want to cook traditional food of your home country, it’s inevitable that sooner or later, you will have to taste a local cuisine.
When you live here, it’s not just British cuisine you will come into contact with. Over the past decades, immigrants from all over the world have settled here which means new tastes and dishes have also emerged with the arrival of various cultures. Plenty to sample, that’s for sure.
On that ‘famous’ British cuisine
British food doesn’t have the best reputation, to say the very least. It’s considered to be bland and boring, just like the weather here. But is it really that bad?
Over the twelve years I’ve been living here, I have tried and tasted and even (surprise surprise) started to like certain (not all) British dishes.
At first, I would roll my eyes and shake my head over some of the traditional dishes, such as fish and chips with mushy peas, full English breakfast, steak and kidney pie (any pies really) tea with milk (bleh, why would anyone put milk in their tea).
Then I actually started to sample some of them. And to my astonishment, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be. Quite the opposite, I would say. The occasional full English breakfast, fish and chips, bangers and mash are a great addition to my multicultural Menu now. Even things I considered to be quite disgusting before, that mushy peas for example or chips with vinegar, have become a norm by now.
Oh, and did I mention that I drink tea with milk every morning for the past, I don’t even know how many, years? That once weird combination seems so natural to me. Even when I’m back home in Slovakia, tea with milk is the only way to start the day for me. My mum knows by now that she needs to stock up on black tea (no one else drinks it in my family) every time I’m visiting.
Not all dishes, however, have made it to my recipe book. Sunday roast dinner or pies still don’t look very tempting for me. Perhaps because I’m not a big fan of gravy. I’ll have a bit with my sausages and mash but that’s as far as my gravy tolerance goes at the moment. Regardless of that, I think I’ve made a great progress and who knows, maybe one day (another twelve years down the line), I will be fully converted British food lover.
On the other ‘British’ cuisines
As mentioned earlier, there are numerous cuisines in the UK that you will certainly be exposed to at some point. You can find restaurants of any world cuisine you can possibly think of. Some of them worth mentioning are Italian, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Mexican or Greek.
Two of my favourite cuisines are Italian and Indian. I first came into contact with Italian cuisine while spending a summer in Italy years back and I instantly fell in love. So much so that it would become a life-long affair for me. The pasta dishes I’ve tasted in the UK are not as authentic and delicious as I’ve tasted in Italy, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy them any less.
Growing up in Slovakia, the only pasta in our house was spaghetti with ketchup and cheese, so I definitely make up for lost time.
I used to work in an Indian restaurant when I moved to the UK and it was there that I first came into contact with Indian cuisine. That’s where I developed a taste for chilli too. Oh my, anything that’s got chilli in, I’m having it. So yes, Indian dishes with plenty of chillies (vindaloo is just a liiiittle bit too spicy for me as I sadly found out), is definitely my kind of thing.
Other cuisines like Thai or Chinese I’m only now starting to explore a bit more. Everyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not a fan of these specific cuisines. The sweet and sour taste of some dishes never appealed to me. However, we do make the occasional noodle stir fry at home now, and that’s a massive step forward for me.
Other changes of my eating habits
When I was living in Slovakia, I used to hate mushrooms, peppers, oh and olives. I would not touch olives if someone gave me million pounds. Ok, maybe for that money I would, but, you get the picture. I wasn’t the biggest fan.
I have definitely become more tolerant to foods, which I never ate back home. I can proudly say that I love mushrooms now, same with olives.
Coming from a landlocked country means that fish is very rare on the Menu in our family. Seafood? Never seen any in my life before I came to Britain, never mind tasting it. It took me at least a couple of years until I finally plucked up the courage to sample it. The result? Absolutely love it.
I also tried frogs legs while on holiday in Albania. Not something I would eat on a regular basis but hey, at least I gave it a try.
Some of my habits changed in a negative way. While in my country it’s a common practice to say Bon Appetit (we say Dobru Chut) when eating, it’s not very common in Britain. So every time I’m in Slovakia I feel like I’ve forgotten all my manners when I don’t say it to my family.
As you can see, there are likely to be many changes in your eating habits when you move to a different country. Your tastes might change and adapt to your new environment. A whole new world of ingredients and dishes opens up to you and I can honestly say that I love it.
Adapting to your local community, which is so important when living abroad, also means accepting different foods. Don’t be afraid to sample new dishes, even if it doesn’t look very appealing at first. You may surprise yourself when you actually start to like it.
It may take some time before you start accepting certain flavours, but that’s fine. Some dishes you may never accept, and that’s fine too. But if you stay open-minded and are willing to try new things you may even find your new favourite food. How does that sound?
Please share with me how your eating habits have changed since moving abroad.