Dining Alone

Photo by Lars Ploughmann.

Whether you’re on a business trip or on a solo backpacking adventure, at some point, you will inevitably find yourself eating alone. Sure, you might have business dinners to attend some nights, or you may join forces with other travelers to explore the local eateries, but the time will come when you have to endure a meal alone.

It’s not until you’ve gone through the experience that you realize how awkward it can be. With no one to talk to while you wait for your food, and nothing to do as you sit there alone, you look about you and realize everyone else is there with someone – and they all look like they’re having so much fun. It might sound melodramatic, but the whole experience can really suck the pleasure right out of your meal.

Now, I realize some people might not be bothered by any of this at all. However, despite being comfortable with my own company, I still find eating alone very uncomfortable, and I imagine many of you do too. So with that in mind, here are a couple of ways you can take the awkwardness out of dining solo.

1. Take a book or magazine to read. You’ll want something to do while you’re waiting for your order, or to occupy you in between chews. If you’re traveling, bring along your guidebook and plan out your next day’s activities.

2. Bring along your journal or files. A lot of travelers like to keep records – whether it’s their expenses or what they’ve done that day – so use this down time to update your notes. If you’re on business, bring along some files or papers to review.

3. Sit at the bar. Somehow it doesn’t look as weird to be sitting there by yourself and you’ll often strike up a conversation with the people working at the restaurant, which can be a great experience in itself.

4. Eat at restaurants with communal seating. Some places have just a couple of large tables and will put different groups of patrons at the table all together. Again, this can be one way of meeting other people if you’re so inclined.

5. Eat at cafeteria-style restaurants. These types of venues are full of people dining alone, so you’re likely to feel less awkward than at a romantic restaurant full of couples. You’ll also get your food straight away so the whole eating alone process isn’t drawn out.

6. Choose restaurants that have some type of entertainment. Certain restaurants will have a stage with dancers, musicians or some other type of performance that will give you something to do while you eat your meal. You won’t feel odd about not having anyone to talk to and other patrons will be too busy to notice you.

7. Find a quiet corner to sit at. If all else fails, choose a seat away from the hustle and bustle. You won’t feel so awkward if no one can really see you.

Ultimately, it’s worth realizing that no one else in the restaurant really cares if you’re there by yourself. Think about it – when was the last time you noticed someone dining on their own and even gave it a second thought? Nevertheless, until you (and I) can come to terms with that idea, these tips will hopefully take the discomfort out of dining.

What do you think? Do you have any other suggestions on how to eat alone with feeling so darn self-conscious?