American eating and food habits


American burger

Living with an American family for a year gave me insight into their everyday life customs, especially American eating and food habits.

Because of their fast-paced and full-of-activities lives, Americans usually race quickly through daytime meals. Lunchtime is usually limited to a half hour or an hour. In public places, people also try to eat fast because there are other people waiting to be served so they can go back to work on time. Sometimes, people would have “brunch” which is the combination of breakfast and lunch late in the morning. Dinner is usually the only leisurely and family time. However, the way Americans prepare meals is mainly time-saving. From my observation, my host family would buy food for the whole week from groceries stores and cook very simple dishes in large amounts to eat in a few days. This is completely opposite to how my Vietnamese family would prepare our meals. Americans also frequent restaurants when they are too busy to come up with meal plans.

Because I come from a culture whose cuisine generally is full of spices and ingredients, I find American food rather bland. The main course in American meals is usually meat, fowl, or fish with large serving size and rarely more than one of these is served in the same meal. Vegetables are usually salads, very rare and not various, which was a problem to a person from a tropical-weather country like me. A wide range of low-fat, low-carb, sugar-free or no-fat food is offered at groceries stores as Americans are increasingly aware of their weight. The way some food products are processed here can cause digestive problems for international students (I was so sad to find out myself allergic to American dairy products, especially cheese). It took me quite a long time to adapt to the food here and when I did, I had gained 15 pounds! (my American friends still believed that I was tiny while my Vietnamese friends were shocked looking at my pictures on Facebook! Be aware of your diet here!)

In restaurants, a variety of drinks is offered such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, fruit juices,… In England, it is considered weird to have iced tea but in America, it is very popular in summer and usually good, served either sweetened or unsweetened. Coffee is a popular drink at all hours in America and varies in quality. Tap water is safe everywhere but you can request a bottle of water in restaurant if you prefer better taste. And try to stay away from unhealthy soft drinks! (Seriously!)

Table etiquette is important. To avoid bad impression, you should:

* Chew with your mouth closed and don’t talk with your mouth full.
* Give the food to the person next to you to pass the dish around the table; don’t reach across someone else’s plate.
* Use a fork, unless you are eating a finger food.
* Place a napkin on your lap after being seated.
* Don’t pick your teeth at the table.
* Say thank you to the host/server.
* Never insult the food. You can appreciate the time, effort and cost involved with making a meal.
* Keep your elbows off the table.

Last but not least, when you gain about 10 – 15 pounds, you know you have become an American! Have a good experience!

Jen Tran – Social Media Assistant


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