Whilst researching solo travelling, part of the advice that popped up time and time again was preparation for dining solo. I read articles explaining how and why to embrace it, and its importance in the world of travel. I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons to eating alone.
- We’re watching you
When you enter a restaurant, you can pretty much choose any table you’d like. You’re alone, so you’re not taking up much room, right? Make the most of this by picking a table by the window. Of course watching how groups of people behave differently in an eating environment is always fascinating; from spitting bones onto the floor in a Chinese restaurant to the gossiping duo lighting up cigarette after cigarette in a Czech café. But by gazing out the window, you can be nosey and call it cultural. I treated myself to Pizza Express in Shanghai, which was up on the 3rd floor, and I gazed down at mothers pulling their children along, businessmen strut together on their phones, tuk-tuk drivers pestering tourists for journeys. Also, it can get a bit awkward for places to look once you’ve read every word of the menu whilst waiting for your meal to arrive. No, man with the suspicious-looking coldsore, I am not giving you the eye, I’m trying to patiently wait for my frickin’ dumplings already.
2. No sharin’, no carin’
There is no-one there to remind you this is the third day in a row you’ve ordered dumplings. You can try such a variety of different dishes too- I’m not implying that your friend/partner refuses to let you have a garlic/onion/chilli infused dish, but you know what I mean. You can order the spiciest, smelliest dish and know that later on that evening (or as soon as you see the empty toilet in your dorm), no-one will be complaining about you ordering that garlic/onion/chilli infused dish. In fact, it is a bonding experience; in Mix Hostel, Chengdu, on the inside of a girls toilet, someone had made a tally-chart of how many times in one evening they’d visited the toilet as a result of trying the infamous Sichuanese hotpot. Other girls had scratched their condolences underneath. We all have to stick together, right?
3. U + I are in Productivity
It might sound a little gap yah-ish, but you can get on with other things whilst dining out. For example, whenever I was waiting for my meal to arrival, I would usually pull out my travel journal and fill it with notes as to what I’d done that day, remembering all the little details and ordinary scenes that I would’ve forgotten had I’d done it right at the end of the day. I could read my draft blog posts and edit them before they were typed up, or I could write little moments I was seeing right there and then, from the way someone smiled to the style in which someone crossed the road.
- Hello from the other side
I won’t lie, I’m not entirely fearless when I look for somewhere to eat alone. I have passed so many restaurants that I would have loved to have tried, however they just didn’t look right for me to walk in and have a table to myself. Especially in Asian countries like China where eating is a social experience, with everyone sharing food and sitting round a large circular table together. I get the impression that some restaurants are too snazzy for solo-travellers, and I’d feel a little bit silly if I plonked myself down and ordered the expensive dumplings (I really like dumplings, okay?). So sometimes, you find yourself looking through the window at snazzier restaurants that are not designed for Tables For One and end up in an alright-place.
2. I’m still here?
Sometimes, you are forgotten about. In invites, being left at the supermarket, WHATEVER. Because I am extremely British, I will politely sit at my table and smile at my waitress for the fifth time she passes without my drink. When I know my bus leaves in ten minutes but she still hasn’t cleared my plate away and given me the bill yet. I think sometimes we can get lost in the crowd, no matter how crazy we look choosing to eat alone, and can be accidently, momentarily, forgotten about. Of course everything is always fine, and you try to show you weren’t in a rush anyway by taking extra long to pack your bag back up or put your coat on. It would just be nice in those situations to be treated like I was prioritised equally with everyone else who weren’t dining alone.
Um, so that’s all I could really come up with. Overall, there are more pros than cons to eating alone, so you should try it! Embrace it! Be the change you wish to see in the world! No, seriously though, it’s really not weird to eat alone, I don’t really understand why it’s ever a ‘thing’ people feel the need to mention (even though I just wrote a post about it). It’s really normal? It’s actually really normal. Just don’t think it’s weird, and then it’s not weird.