Travel tip: order food by price not weight.
When you go up to a deli counter or into a market just about anywhere in the world the vendor typically asks how much of a particular food you would like in weight. If you’re in a country where you don’t speak a local language it is sometimes challenging to explain that you would like a quarter kilo of a given food. And even if you do speak the language who really knows what a kilo of broccoli is? How much beef makes up a half pound? What the hell is a kilo anyway? What the hell is a pound? Come on now, you really expect me to compute decimals here just to get some onions?
It is also awkward when you order a certain weight of a food item and the vendor piles it on the scale, puts it in a bag, and slaps a price on it that is far more than what you want to pay. I suppose you could ask the price of what you want, compute the cost by how much you want by weight, covert this amount to your base currency, and then order — but by this time you’ve probably really annoyed the vendor by staring off blankly into space for so long.
There is a simpler way to order raw food.
I’ve often tried ordering by number — I want two of this, one of this, three of that — but, for some reason, 8 times out of 10 this is not understood (even in places where I speak the language well) and I find the vendor scooping up way more of something than what I ordered and putting it on the scale.
Again, there is a simpler way.
To make ordering from markets or at the deli or butcher counters in supermarkets I’ve found it far easier to order by price. I would like 10 pesos of carrots, 2 dollars of potato salad, 10 RMB worth of steak.
Once being in a country for a few days it becomes pretty easy to estimate the prices of basic foods. Almost anywhere in the world you’re looking at a scale between 50 cents and US$3 in the local currency for ordering a reasonable portion of just about any type of raw food. For starters, I usually order a $US1 portion of a given food to see how much it gets me. If it’s too less I order more, too much I tell the vendor to take some off the scale.
Learning numbers and commerce words are the first things a traveler needs to know of a new language, and money is a scale of measurement that everyone understands. When I go into a market or up to a deli I don’t order food by weight or number, I order by the price I want to pay.