You roll out of your hotel bed and grab the dine-in menu for breakfast. It could just be the jet lag from your 20-hour flight from New York to Hong Kong, but you swear you just read the words 1,000 year-old egg on the menu. What happened to scrambled or over easy?! Seems like your morning routine might call for some unexpected substitutes.
Though cultural differences can sometimes come as a big surprise, what is considered ‘normal’ in one country should not be expected to translate everywhere else in the world. This can be said for communication styles, leadership practices, how much you value work-life balance, and even the typical breakfast fare.
A lot of times, a country’s history has a direct influence on its traditional breakfast foods. If that seems like a stretch, bear with me. Depending on what ingredients were available to certain classes of people—particularly in times of hardship—many cultures have adopted their own regional variant of porridge, for example. Porridges were traditionally used as an easy way to stretch the food supply in a time of constraint, but they’re still widely eaten today all around the world.
From porridge and pastries to soup and sandwiches, here are some regional breakfast foods that you might be able to try on your next international business trip.
When it Comes to Breakfast Around the World, Cultural Differences Abound
In Korea, one of the most common breakfasts is a rice porridge called juk (also known as congee). Juk is typically topped with egg, meat, or veggies and is often served with a side of kimchi and fish, as well. Another popular breakfast food is called haejang-guk, a hearty soup that consists of beef, cabbage, and other vegetables.
A typical breakfast in Brazil might consist of sliced meats and cheese with pão de queijo. Pão de queijo is a cheese-filled bread made from tapioca starch (this makes it a great option for gluten-free travelers). Brazilian breakfasts also tend to include lots of fruit like papaya, banana, and açai—and of course, coffee!
While bacon might be the “king” of breakfast meats in America, salmon is often found at the breakfast table in Finland. Another common Finnish breakfast delicacy is karelian pie, a pastry made of rye crust and stuffed with rice porridge. Karelian pie is often served with “egg butter,” a mix of chopped hard boiled eggs and butter. You’ll also likely encounter several types of porridge, usually served with butter and jam.
Bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches might be a staple in New York City, but báhn mì sandwiches are the way to go in Vietnam. Báhn mì reveal Vietnam’s rich cross-cultural heritage between France and Germany. How so? A breakfast báhn mì might consist of eggs, pickled vegetables, and Maggi (a German sauce), all on a French baguette. Xôi, sticky rice mixed with fried onions, mung beans, meat, corn, or steamed peanuts is another common Vietnamese breakfast food.
In Nigeria, it’s not uncommon for people to eat “standard” breakfast fare like toast and cereal, along with a cup of tea. But many folks also eat Akara, a deep-fried mix of beans and spices. Akara is usually served with Ogi, a fermented corn-flour porridge pudding, but it might also be served with fried plantains and eggs.
To add some contrast to all the savory breakfast choices around the world, I saved the most decadent for last: The Netherland’s Hagelslag. Hagelslag are sprinkles (usually chocolate flavored) used to top buttered pieces of bread (toasted or untoasted, it’s up to you!). Hagelslag is a breakfast enjoyed by children and adults, so it’s no wonder the World Economic Forum found the Netherlands to be one of the top five happiest countries in the world!
Though it’s often considered “the most important meal of the day,” breakfast certainly doesn’t mean the same thing from country to country. Even certain breakfast staples like porridge and breads can vary across cultures. On your next international business trip, consider ditching your bowl of cereal and cup of coffee to try one of the breakfast options above. It might be the perfect start to your day!