I’m on a business trip and had to eat dinner alone. This made me think of my experiences as an Expat. There are times you find yourself having to eat alone. But, when you’re already struggling to make friends in a new place, having to dine alone can sometimes be depressing or disappointing.
I always find that eating dinner alone is worse than lunch as you see fewer people doing it. Of course you can eat alone at home with the TV, but once in a while you may get tired of that or maybe there’s nothing appealing to eat at home so you go out for a change.
As I searched for a restaurant I of course noticed how all the tables had multiple people. I found a diner where someone else was eating alone but most people there appeared to be much older than me, and the menu was a turn-off. I ended up finding a pub where I felt at ease. My waitress was extremely friendly. Though I was alone at my table I didn’t feel alone. And if someone had been seated near me I would have felt comfortable starting a conversation.
I realized that a big part of what made me feel at ease eating alone was taking the time to notice how I felt in the restaurant. You can do this by walking in and asking to see the menu and notice your thoughts while you’re there. If the menu is outside, then see if while you read it you feel like going inside. If not, then move along. What I mean is, when you walk in, do you have that “everyone is going to stare at me because I’m here alone” feeling? Or, do you walk in and notice only that you like the place and you feel like having a meal?
Even though eating alone may not be a comfortable experience, making sure to eat out, among other people, is an important thing to do in order to avoid isolating yourself. In my experience, I only spent one evening in a place that was unknown to me. But, when you’re spending a large chunk of time in a new place, you have the ability to go back to the same place enough times that you’ll actually get to know the watiers, or the owner. Believe me, this goes a long way. They will usually hook you up with a nice table, check in on you and make sure you’re doing ok. So, even though you may be alone at your table, it will feel like your friends are present all around you.
Another nice thing to do, especially in Europe, is find a pub you like – I’ve actually been fortunate to be part of a “lock in” – after the bar closes, when you know the owner and the staff, or are with someone else who does, they let you stay after closing, drink for free, and socialize!
In these economic times, I realize you might not be able to eat out every night. So, make some budget for it – whether once a week, or whether you choose a less expensive place so you can go 2 – 3 times a week, make sure to plan to do this. Though you’ll start out alone, you’ll end up surrounded with new friends.