Although it’s a great experience once you get used to the concept, it is daunting and the first few times you eat on your own can feel a little awkward. There’s no need for it to be though, so here are a few tips to take the fear out of it.
1. Bring something to do
Often, the eating part of eating alone isn’t the problem. While you’re occupied enjoying the smells and tastes of what you’re eating – or, if you’re in a place with unfamiliar cutlery, focused on not looking like an idiot – it’s easy to forget you’re on your own. The worst part is sitting waiting between courses or for the bill, with no one to talk to or look at as you twiddle your thumbs. Whether it’s just your phone, a book to read or some puzzles to do, make sure you bring a between-courses activity!
2. Try and change your mindset
Although it’s always easier said than done, one simple way to eat alone without feeling weird about it is just to reframe it mentally. Why does eating alone have to be awkward? Tell yourself it’s empowering, or super confident. If you struggle to dive straight into the ‘strong & independent’ mindset, then start out by reminding yourself that nobody else knows why you’re eating alone – for all they know, you’re on your way to a big job interview and want to treat yourself beforehand, or you were about to catch a train and it was unexpectedly delayed. There’s just as much chance that you’re eating alone for a good reason as that you’re just on your own.
3. Remember: people won’t remember you
In the nicest way possible – nobody cares! At the very most, someone might clock that you’re eating on your own and think ‘oh, they’re eating on their own.’ After that, they will go back to their own food and their own lives and never think about you again. They might even be on a bad date, look at you eating alone, and envy your good fortune.
4. Enjoy that you can order what you want
Worrying what other people think of your order is not a good habit to get into, but it is easier to do what you want when you’re not around other people. It’s similar to when you’re in the house alone; it isn’t as if your housemates would really judge you for eating a whole pizza, but it feels so much better to do it when there’s no one else there at all. If you’re eating out alone, go the whole hog – do you want the biggest bowl of pasta on the menu? And some chips on the side? And then some dessert? And two large drinks? Go for it. No one is with you to care, and if anyone in the vicinity looks like they’re judging you – they’re probably just hungry.
5. Eat at the bar
If you’re at the right kind of venue, you should try eating at the bar. For a start, many bars have a TV you can watch while you eat (and other people will likely be eating alone and doing the same). If there’s no TV it will be easy to get a conversation going with the bartender or, if you are worried about being looked at funny, people are more likely to assume you’ve just popped in for a quick bite than are dining out. Also, you’re nearer the alcohol – so if you’re really feeling awkward, you can just order another drink.
6. Enjoy watching the people go by
Although a favourite pass time of writers and poets and very reminiscent of Parisian philosophers, people-watching isn’t just the preserve of the intelligentsia. If you’ve ever enjoyed a good eavesdropping session on the train or in a shop, people-watching is the next level up. If you’re in a country other than your own, watching the people go about their daily lives is seeing a different culture in action, and it can be a great way to get thoughts flowing for a travel blog. Even if you’re not, anywhere exciting, it’s a great way to get out of your own head and become absorbed in your surroundings rather than what people are thinking about you.
7. Pay with cash
No matter how wonderful the meal or lovely the venue, at the end of the night it’s nice to make a quick exit – and this is especially true when you’ve eaten alone. Make sure you’ve got enough cash on you, and try to leave the right amount (plus a tip, of course) so you don’t have to hang about waiting for change and can make a smooth exit.
8. Don’t feel bad if you don’t like it!
No matter how much it seems like the mark of the seasoned traveller, some people just don’t enjoy eating alone, and that’s fine – you don’t have to do it. As well as a chance to ‘find yourself’ and live self-sufficiently, travelling is also an opportunity to make connections and meet people all over the world – you won’t struggle to find people to enjoy a meal out with.
Eating out alone might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but take these tips on board and try it a few times – between the people watching and the chance to savour your food without interruption, you might just have found a new favourite way to eat.