How can I politely refuse food

hospitality: Can you refuse food?

During a trip to Ethiopia, I refused food for the first time in my life. It cost me a lot of overcoming, because refusing to eat is not something you do - especially in economically poor countries. The travel etiquette says: Never turn down a meal, it is a sign of hospitality. But when we were sitting in the shade of a tree, in the unbearable midday heat of this country, the man I was supposed to portray handed me fresh ground beef. On a metal plate the size of a wagon wheel, next to it the famous Ethiopian Injera bread made from teff flour.

To decline is unusual for me. For two simple reasons. I have an oral cholera vaccine that I refresh every two years. A little tip: It not only protects against cholera, but also against a large number of other diarrheal diseases. This means that you have 57 percent less risk of diarrhea when traveling. So I can eat what I want. Beetle larvae as thick as a thumb in Colombia, a piece of belly fat from an ox hanging on a tree among the Maasai or raw sea urchins in China. I hardly feel disgusted because I know that when people eat it it must taste somehow. Often it doesn't taste good. But it's exciting. But this mountain of ground beef, filled with shiny green blowflies, which probably orgasmic laid their eggs in the lukewarm meat, that was too much.

Because one must never forget: food is a hoard of diseases or at least it can be. Nematodes (roundworms) that live in the ceviche and cause ulcers in the intestines after the tour of Argentina. Salmonella on the breakfast egg. Campylobacter after eating raw chicken. To be honest, I'm more afraid of bacteria than of criminals in the Brazilian favelas.

Thilo Mischke

is on the road 150 days a year. Here he passes on his tips and experiences in loose succession, alternating with Stefan Nink.

"Can I order something of my own?" I ask the man, and he looks at me, startled. "Don't you like beef?" He asks. I nod and say I like to eat beef. But at the same time I think of trichinella that live in raw meat or fish. Think about convulsions and that my research trip would have to be cut short. I'm considering lying, the vegetarian lie that always works. But then I say, "I think my stomach can't take it." The man tears off a piece of bread, using it to scare away the flies, and pulls a large piece of red meat out of the mountain. He chews and nods in satisfaction. "It could be," he says. "You need a strong stomach for that." Then I order bean paste and a cola. We talk in the sun while he eats about three kilos of meat alone.

What I mean by that: It is okay to refuse food, because food abroad is often far too spicy, far too unclean or simply not digestible. And there is usually only one reason for rejecting it, which is never impolite: it would ruin your vacation or business trip. It's best to tell the truth. "I'm afraid of diarrhea" is a tough sentence, but because everyone in the world is afraid of diarrhea, everyone understands it.

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