Dining Alone in a Foreign Country – A Guide for the Abnormally Anxious.

Annecy, France is without a doubt the most picturesque city I’ve yet to come across. Nicknamed “The Venice of the Alps” Annecy is a truly majestic area to explore.  The Old Town is idyllic and full of people bustling through, both local and tourists while Lake Annecy with its crystal clear water and stunning mountain views offers many of it’s own attractions.  I opted for a 1 hour boat tour around the lake and was completely mesmerized by every second of the captivating views we sailed past.  I found myself content to wander the canals, head in the clouds, mind completely shut off.

pont de amors annecy

Rumor has it if you kiss your true love on this bridge, you’ll be together forever.  I kissed my own hand and called it a day.

And then my stomach growled and I nervously resolved to indulge in a properly delicous French meal.

It seemed like an easy task.  Find a restaurant that excited my appetite, walk in, order and eat.

IF ONLY.

Having recently spent an absurd amount of time circling the canals of Old Town Annecy to the tune of my stomachs persistent and offensive rumbling, I can now confirm that dining alone in a foreign country whose language you do not speak is anything but simple.  You see, there are all sorts of irrational worries that accompany dining out on a regular day:
“What if I order something dumb and the waitstaff mock my odd choice of meal?”
“What if my meal arrives and I’ve no clue how to properly and elegantly eat it?”
“What if I dribble sauce all down my front(god bless my lack of hand-eye coordination)?”
“What if, what if, what if?!”

Add solitude and a foreign language into the mix and I’m doomed.  I’ll be the first to admit – it’s completely bonkers.  The thought that goes into sitting down for a meal on my own is borderline insane.  And this is again where my anxiety becomes quite selective, for I’ve no problem walking into any old pub on my own.  In fact, it’s a favourite pastime of mine.  Wandering into a small pub, befriending absolutely anyone who dare make eye contact with me.  I even had the honor of signing my name on the ceiling of a wee pub in coastal southwest England last year.  Pubs and I? We get along well.  So why is it that restaurants have the ability to turn me into a trembling, stuttering, mess of a human being?

D88552F8-7C35-48E1-B996-0F353BFD9E6A

Dirty hiker at the famous “First and Last Pub” in England at Lands End, Cornwall.

After 3 laps around the canals, my stomach could take it no more.  It had moved past the point of low rumbles and was loudly growling every time it got a whiff of something tasty.  So I did my thing (took a deep breath, tapped each of the fingers on my left hand to the pad of my thumb while internally counting to ten, then let the breath out) and…I walked into a restaurant.  I wish I could tell you the name of the restaurant as it was so perfectly charming, with red and white checkered tablecloth’s and a balcony overlooking the canals.  But alas, I was too focused on not tripping over my own feet and maintaining a steady heartbeat that I missed many details.  The waiters were all incredibly helpful and (and pleasing to the eye) and before I knew it I was ordering off the menu.

 

Needless to say, dinner went by just fine.  I devoured a salmon fillet absolutely smothered in butter (god bless French cuisine) and even had the guts to ask for a wine suggestion from my waiter.  I ate and wandered back to my hotel, pleasantly tipsy and content.  I indulged in a glorious bubble bath and fell into bed, perfectly sated and properly pleased with myself.

The next morning I went through the same routine, this time with a tiny bit more confidence.  You see, today I was not only wearing my “France Dress”, but I had slathered on a layer of red lipstick to accompany it.  I felt GOOD and if the wolf whistle I got from the elderly gentleman sitting on the park bench counts for anything, I looked as good as I felt.  As I meandered my way through the canals of Old Town, I found myself relaxing once more.  Before I knew it I had sat down at a small cafe along the water and ordered a cappuccino IN FRENCH.  As I sat there sipping my coffee, wearing red lipstick and my French dress, writing down the beginnings of this post, I momentarily felt like the very definition of a cliche tourist.  But then I realized – my mind was quiet, my heart was content, and my inner voice of doom was silent.  Why disturb that peace with thoughts of self deprecation?

france dress

The France Dress and the magnificent view.

 

It may have taken me a while, but I did it.  I conquered dining on my own.  My thoughts on the process?
It’s okay if it takes time to conquer your fears and anxieties.  Even if you know deep down that your worries are irrational and even when they frustrate you to no end, never beat yourself up for it.  We all struggle in different ways and what may be an anthill to one, is a mountain to another.  Accept your boundaries but give yourself little pushes out of your comfort zone.  They don’t need to be big shoves off a cliff into the unknown, a mere nudge in the right direction will do.  Accept your limits, but gently push yourself to do better.  Most importantly, never let anyone call you and your anxieties weird.  You are perfect, irrationally weird fears and all.

Many of my biggest anxieties come from how society will perceive me in various settings and situations.  What are some of your (self-labelled) weird and/or irrational worries?

 

 

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