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Order Food by Price Not Weight Travel Tip

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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.

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Filed under: Food, Travel Tips

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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