Why do we crave the food from home-

Even though foreign cuisine opens up to you with flavors different to your own, sometimes all you want to do is to enjoy a burger with a glass of cold Cola, or grab a wok-to-go in a nearby restaurant.

But you know what? That’s ok. Everybody who lives abroad experiences strong desires for certain types of food. Not just any food to satisfy your hunger, but specific food. This strong urge to eat particular foods is called food craving.

Usually we crave for foods that increased our ancestors’ chances of survival – high in carbohydrates, fat and salt. All our five senses – sight, taste, smell, touch, and hearing – detect these qualities. We prefer red-colored food as we associate it with sweetness. We interpret cracking food as fresh and nutritious.

However, whether we like a dish or not is not so much about its physical or chemical features, but probably much more about the feeling that the dish evokes. Food is successful not only because it tastes good, but because it tells a story, connects us to our values and traditions. The type of food we eat, how we prepare and consume it, tells a lot about our personality and the society we grew up. It is one of few things in our lives that seem to be stable, continuous and usually within hands reach.

And then there you are, abroad, where you lack many of the typical things that provide anchors in your life. You try to turn to one thing that seems to remain constant – food. But that’s the time when you discover you can’t get the same brand, or that exact flavor, or whatever it is that you’re craving. Even if you try to cook the same foods as back ‘home’, you find that the ingredients are not exactly the same, or you are not able to get certain things. You feel desperate, stressed and exhausted.

At those moments remind yourself that the longing for food ‘from home’ is normal and lessens over time. Eventually your new home will develop the same familiarity as your old. You will discover a type of bread that is practically identical, you will find better yoghurt for your breakfast, and discover that local sweets are just as satisfying.

In the meantime, try to sample new food. Taste local dishes and flavors you find strange, over and over again. Do it gradually by adding small portions of new ingredients to the dishes, or focus on adjusting to one at a time. The solution is to make the food not new.

Figure out where you can find comfort food or learn to prepare it. Talk to other internationals about where they find food they miss out, go shopping together to investigate local alternatives, or get together to cook traditional dishes. It will not only fill your tummy with dishes you like, but satisfy your emotional needs, and ease your intercultural adaptation.

Bon appétit!

Lina Butkute
Expat psychologist, www.internationalcounseling.nl

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