I suddenly became very nervous when I sat at dinner in Zaytinya, an eastern Mediterranean restaurant in Washington, D.C. I was anxious to try a new cuisine and nervous about connecting with the people I would be with for next three days. However, as the courses came and went, the conversation flowed easily, and I quickly connected with my peers. There seemed to be something freeing and unifying about trying new foods together and discussing things outside our favorite dishes throughout the night.
Everyone around the table came from different schools, backgrounds, and cultures. From an outside glance, a cynical viewer might assume it would have been hard to find common ground or a discussion topic outside the usual small talk. However, the food provided a pathway into deeper conversation. We united in trying a new experience; before that moment, many of us never had the opportunity to try.
We found that many of us had the same opinions regarding the food at dinner that night (for example, the Brussels Sprouts were the best ones we’ve ever had) and enjoyed anticipating which dish would come next. While waiting for courses, the conversation opened up to deeper topics such as family history, career goals, and dream vacations. Seeing how quickly we all created friendships during the evening was fascinating. That night’s conversation gave me an insight into something I had never thought of before; trying new food together can be a unifying bridge between people and their differences. It helps us find common ground and shared experiences.
One of the things we discussed around the table that night was our family’s favorite recipes and how no one else seemed to be able to make them right. We bonded over restaurants needing to offer more authentic versions of the food and yet struggling at home to make it the same. There was a sense of connection between everyone when we realized that while the foods we were talking about were different, many of the experiences we shared with them were the same.
While trying new foods and meeting new people can be intimidating, combining both into one experience may be the most beneficial and unifying in the long run. Everyone at that moment feels just as you do, and this opportunity allows people to be a little more vulnerable than usual. In addition, by creating the common ground of a new experience, such as trying a new restaurant or food, the experience should make everyone feel united instead of isolated.
So next time you need an icebreaker activity, consider trying a new restaurant together!