The expat diet – a shift in food habits
Moving internationally can result in a huge change in diet. From change in ingredients, cooking styles and ‘eating out’ culture, the unforeseen effects on what you put in your body can be momentous. But a change in home country can also be a great opportunity to make positive dietary changes. We look at the expat diet shift, changes to expect, and ways to use this experience to improve your health.
Change in ingredients
Unfamiliarity with the local ingredients can be the biggest change to your diet when moving to a new country. A change of palate can be overwhelming but approaching the change with a sense of openness and adventure will help you acclimatise. It’s important to be aware that your diet will change: from more or less access to processed and fast food, new vegetables and fruit, to a change in cooking styles, and your ‘staple’ foods may no longer be available to you.
In order to maintain a balanced and health diet, you need to learn about the health benefits/detriments associated with your new country’s diet. Try to learn from the healthy parts and limit your access and intake of those that are less great for you. Wherever you move to, try to focus on eating a good amount of local, seasonal fruit and vegetables and fresh unprocessed produce.
As well as a change in type and variety of ingredients and meals, be aware that eating habits may be substantially different to what you are used to. Whether that means eating very long lunches or eating dinner very late in the evening, changes in eating routine and pattern can be hard to overcome. If this is the case, try to throw yourself into the local routine as soon as possible: think of it like conquering jetlag! The sooner you get into the routine, the sooner it will become part of your new life.
New food shopping behaviour
Unfamiliar shopping habits can lead to a really unhealthy diet reliant on grab and go food, forgoing home cooking for meals out. And this can lead to a restricted diet full of high fat and high calorie meals.
In order to eat healthily in your new home, you need to learn how to shop like a local. From buying your produce at local markets, to how to use local ingredients to create your old favourites or learn new ones. There may also be specific days and times to shop, as well as days when shops close completely. Your colleagues, friends and neighbours in your new area can help you, so ask! Spend time exploring supermarkets, markets, and stores locally and try to follow the patterns and behaviours of the locals.
Try everything, and be adventurous
Get out there and try new things. This is a certain way of combatting food culture shock. There may be invites from new colleagues and friends who want to showcase local cuisine or invite you to their home to share a meal. Remember that in these cases, and when you’re out at restaurants and shopping, that refusing or criticising an ingredient or meal may come off as rude or insulting.
Be open to trying new things, even if it’s just so you can confidently say it’s not for you. And getting to know how to cook and prepare a new item of food or asking what something is in your local store or market can be a great way of making new friends.
But while we suggest always trying new things, be conscious of food hygiene. It’s important to remember that how food is handled and cooked can have real implications on your health. If in doubt, steer clear. And just because the locals are eating at a particular venue, does not make it safe.
Many expats are motivated to move country by a great job offer, resulting in more money to spend on entertainment and exploring your new home. But this can often result in more meals out – especially when you’re unfamiliar with your local area, where to shop, or how to cook the local ingredients. The issue with this is that it can often lead to making unhealthy choices, eating more than we would usually, and an increase in alcohol consumption. Alternatively, our unfamiliarity with the local food can lead to expats leaning on familiar fast food chains.
Instead, get familiar with where to buy fresh local healthy ingredients and learn how to cook those at home. Cooking at home can be a great way to spend time with your family, while also enjoying healthy food. We recommend booking a local cuisine cooking lesson: learn where to shop and how to cook fresh and tasty local meals, so you can enjoy them at home with confidence.
Drink plenty of water
Wherever you’re moving to, this is the best health rule. Drink plenty of water every day to improve overall health, increase your energy and benefit from the mental improvements and stamina that comes from being well hydrated.
It’s important to know the safety of the water in your new home: can you drink straight out of the tap, do you need to fill up water at a local freshwater font, do you need to buy bottled? Safe, clean water is key to health, so make sure you’re only consuming and washing your food in safe water.
For more help and advice before or after an international move, our team are here to help. Our local experts design perfectly personalised tours of your new local area as part of our Orientation service, alongside guides to local customs and behaviours. The more prepared you are, the sooner you’ll feel at home. At Santa Fe Relocation, we make moving home easy for you.