The Benefits of Eating Out Alone
And why you should do it more often
People don’t usually choose to eat out alone.
Unless they are really busy, they would certainly avoid eating alone at all costs. Most of their reason is due to certain social anxiety.
The other reason is boredom.
Because most people get bored of eating without someone to chat with. But I have some good tips for solving this problem.
In this article, I am going to share those tips and hope they can help you to ease your fears. More importantly, to get you to try it out and see the benefits for yourself.
And let’s get started.
The beauty of human interaction
I like eating out alone during off-peak hours.
Because during peak hours, restaurants are packed with mostly office workers. The interactions between them — a group of colleagues or friends — are more or less the same.
But during off-peak hours, there are more different types of customers. They can be parents with kids, elderly couples, etc. Observing their interactions can be interesting or even delightful.
For instance, watching an elderly couple with the husband cutting a steak for his wife was a pretty rare but romantic scene. Because in my hometown or most Asian cities, it is usually the other way around — the wife cutting the steak.
Perhaps the husband didn’t do this often. Or perhaps it was their anniversary. But seeing the warm smile on their faces and the way they meet each other’s eyes. I felt fortunate to catch that scene at that moment.
In fact, there were other examples where I was not only delighted but actually inspired.
The importance of different perspectives
One of those examples was watching a mother eating with two young children.
Each child was holding an iPad in their hands. Her older son was enjoying his meal by himself with his iPad. But she was having trouble feeding the younger one yelling and kicking the chair.
The first thought that came to my mind was several studies have proved long exposure to tablets is bad for kids’ vision. And parents are told it is bad to have their children watching tablets during meals. But when I saw the mother struggling to feed her kids, I had a second thought.
I am not saying I disagree with the studies. But in real-life cases, a tablet or phone may be the best “nanny” a parent can have. Because when taking care of a young child, you need to pay total attention. So it is physically impossible for a parent to take care of more than one child at the same time.
The situation would get more desperate for single-parent families. For them, having to use a tablet or similar device as a “temporary helper” is almost inevitable.
Watching the mother that day reminded me to look at things from different perspectives. Regardless of whether it is scientific studies or just the daily news.
And I have a hobby of writing — mostly nonfiction. This reminder has helped me more times than I can remember during my writing.
The elegance of character images
As a matter of fact, observing others around us not only helps in writing nonfiction. It is even more essential for writing fiction.
The award-winning novelist Haruki Murakami has talked about this idea in one of his books. Observing people around him is — what he does often in his daily life. And how he gathers materials for all his novels.
Here is a condensed version of the example he mentioned in the same book:
One day he was riding the subway to work. And there was an angry father scolding his kid inside the cabin.
Just like all other passengers, he was annoyed by the father’s behavior. Because in Japan, it is disrespectful to others for speaking loudly inside a subway cabin. No matter what the reason is.
But unlike other passengers, he didn’t move away from the noisy father. Instead, he listened to every word and observed all the body language of the angry father.
His reason was, that even though he didn’t like what the man was doing at the time. He would still want to create a mental image of the man in detail. So that when he needs to write a similar character in his novel, he would have a solid reference to depict from.
And that’s how he accumulates a mental images library of different characters for his novels.
The joy of self recharge
For me, eating out alone is often the best time to brainstorm new ideas.
When I am stuck on something — like training for my next 10K run, I would simply go for an early lunch by myself. And as I am enjoying my food while watching others enjoying theirs, fresh ideas would just come up in my head.
Sometimes those ideas help with my current problems. And sometimes they trigger new directions on existing plans. So every time I come back from lunch by myself, I feel recharged.
Both physically and mentally.
So next time, when you have a chance to eat out alone, try not to rush the meal. Use the time to observe others around you. And you may find it much more enjoyable than you’ve expected.