Wanna go grab something to eat?
If someone asks you to describe what you have experienced during the first month in Toruń as an Erasmus student, from where would you start?
Of course, you can write about sightseeing this charming city, about facing the challenges of encountering different cultures, about hanging up with the new people you have met, about the amazing parties, about your studying… there are hundred of options. The one I have chosen today is food. Why? Well, because I have realized it`s actually a very important aspect of my Erasmus experience so far.
It`s been a month since I`m in Toruń as an Erasmus student. The time spent here has flown really quickly, which is great and a bit scary at the same time. Every Erasmus student can probably relate to that feeling of time slipping through your hands when you just stop for a second and look at the calendar. Yes, at the beginning you could have a bit of hard times, because you might miss your family, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, your pets…but all in all you are having a really good time enjoying and collecting a bunch of new experiences. I surely am.
You might have come to Toruń with some friends like me, or alone. Either way, during the lectures you will see lots of new faces. You obviously would like to make some new friends, so basically there is always the question of how to smoothly continue to hang out once you are out of faculty. Some people have problem with that, others don`t. Here is a friendly advice which might work for you at the very beginning: just ask if someone wants to go to lunch. Seems silly? Come on! Think about it…after hours spent on the lectures I assure you there is always going to be someone who wants to eat. People get hungry. I`m saying this from personal experience because, if I leave out the lectures and parties on which I was going this first month, most of the time spent in company of new people for me was lunch time.
Manekin. The magic word and food temple.
Being in Toruń and not going to Manekin – the restaurant so much loved by Polish as well as Erasmus students – could easily be called a sin towards your stomach and taste buds. There is nothing typically Polish about this place, but, come on, who doesn`t like pancakes? They are prepared in so many different ways that you really should be able find at least few meals you like. Take into account the acceptable prices. Plus, there is a menu in English, which is not so common for the local restaurants. The atmosphere in Manekin is relaxed and suitable for casual talking. Just to be clear, I`m not writing this because I`m paid to do marketing for Manekin for a free meal (which I wouldn`t mind). You should also visit other restaurants in Toruń, because if there is something you can litteraly find on every corner in Toruń, that`s a place to eat…heaven here I come!
For me, Manekin is one of the first places that made me feel like home and it`s a place where I got connected to other Erasmus people. It has so quickly become a familiar place in an unfamiliar environment and I already have inscribed in it memories about the time spent there. It`s a place where, maybe surprisingly, just from the first sloppy talks about the preferences in food or the funny efforts to traduce all the mentioned ingridients in the menu, I have learned so much about the culture, tradition, habits and personal attitudes of others.
By now you probably get that the purpose of writing this post wasn`t actually to talk about food - although you really should visit Manekin - but to talk about the social apect of consuming food from my personal point of view. Eating is not just a biological need for us, it`s a special type of social engagement even though we don`t often think about that. Going to lunch usually implies a not so formal atmosphere in which is much easier to deal with potential problems you might have at the beginning of this wonderful Erasmus experience. Shyness, discomfort, language barrier – food will not resolve those - but it`s a good starting point for socialization aiming at overpassing them.
You know what? After writing about food I`m a bit hungry, so maybe we should go grab something to eat. Who`s up for it? :-)