9 December 2021
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Table for one

Maureen Jordan
5 November 2009

I’ve just returned from a month abroad where the best part of my four weeks was spent in Germany and France. For a considerable amount of this time I was travelling alone, something I haven’t done since my university days, and though it was a learning experience in many ways, it’s not a mode of travel I'd want to repeat too often. Not that I have any trouble with being me. In fact, I unashamedly say that I’ve always rather liked myself! But if I had a choice of flying solo or in good company I’d always opt for the latter.

One observation during my trip was that many women don’t travel alone. Even less dine out alone. I did this regularly as the alternative of eating in my hotel room dulled my appetite. Again, I say that I’d rather have a companion but I made the best of it — and enjoyed it. In fact, I learnt many valuable lessons.

Here are some observations and tips for the lone traveller, which are no different to a person who runs a business!

  1. You set out on an adventure and things don’t go according to plan. That’s no reason to hightail it home. Assess the situation and readjust your plans to get maximum mileage out of your time abroad.
  2. You’re away from home... and you’re alone. Take the time to look around you to see how things are being done in other time zones. What level of service are you receiving? How are products and services being marketed? Are there innovations that you could import back into your business?
  3. Take calculated risks. Get out of your comfort zone and join activities. Get on the bus, Gus, and go and learn things. You will talk and meet people and be pleasantly surprised. (Remind me to tell you about Berlin, one day...)
  4. Tell everyone about your business and your website. Give out your business cards. They will look at your site. You never know what doors will open because of this.
  5. Try speaking the language. Get a phrase book to help you communicate. Have a go. No one will judge you and no one knows you so now’s the time to be brave and forthright and make every effort to communicate. Pushing yourself in this way is a great confidence boost. When you return home you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to communicate in your first language!

And, finally, the most valuable lesson of all was that when I got out of my comfort zone and did new and different things, I really enjoyed them. In fact, being out of my comfort zone was actually a lot of fun.

P.S. Just a further note on point 5 above. I like to think I can speak French. While visiting my family in Strasbourg, I exercised my second language skills to the max and in shops I was highly successful!

Though, this was a far cry from my experience in an Alsatian restaurant one night.

Strasbourg is on the French German border and is the most beautiful city full of regional restaurants. There’s been a tug of war about who owns the city for centuries and now I know why! I proudly walked in and told the waiter, in French, that I wanted to practise my French and he was charming as French men are. I was all dressed up and sat down at the table very confidently and was brought the menu. But it was full of regional dishes and I didn't know all the words as some of the ingredients were things I’ve never heard of. I saw the French words for fresh salad with what I thought was herbs and out came a whopping big plate of shredded cabbage with some kind of thinly sliced bratwurst. The waiter's words – "Bon appetit madam" – were small comfort. I texted my husband and said, "Oh, they've stuck a bowl of shredded cabbage with sliced hot dog in front of me” and he said that he would LOVE that! So I thought, "here I go" and confidently called the waiter over and asked him in French if he could bring me some moutard (mustard).

It didn't taste any better!

But it was better than the second course. I saw the words in French "something of veal in cream herb sauce". It looked safe. Out came the French-style potatoes. Yum. Next, a green salad. Spot on. And then la piece de resistance – rognons de veau. Now I know what rognon means – kidneys!!!! And I had a bloody bucket load of them! I proudly sat in that restaurant for nearly three hours trying to look oh-so-sophisticated as it was such a lovely place. But, finally, I got it right – creme brulee.

I will never forget that creme brulee.

Here’s my tip: take a risk. There’s always something worth savouring.

Important information:This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.


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