Not all of us were equally bitten by the travel bug or the urge to travel and explore others’ cultures.
While some people will want to see and try everything in their travels, others are much more reluctant and careful about what they expose themselves to, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
On a vacation with their wife in her home country, Redditor Glass_Tear_2525 offended their wife by not wanting to try the street food because of the working conditions.
When she stated that they often were unwilling to try things from her country and accused them of being too uptight, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if they were actually in the wrong for being careful.
They asked the sub:
“AITA for not wanting to eat street food on vacation with my wife?”
The OP visited a street food vendor while on vacation with their wife.
“My wife and I are currently on vacation to her home country here in Southeast Asia, and she really wanted to take me to a street food stall.”
“I would normally never eat that, but she convinced me to go with her.”
But the OP was critical of the setup upon arrival.
“When we got there, it was really unhygienic. The guy wasn’t even wearing gloves or anything.”
“I refused to eat it because, well, who knows where his hands have been.”
The incident may have soured the whole vacation.
“This caused my wife to be mad at me for being too ‘posh’ and refusing to eat something because the guy wasn’t wearing any gloves, which she claimed was perfectly normal.”
“She brought up a couple of other times I refused to do things with her because they weren’t up to my normal standards.”
“However, I think I was correct in this specific scenario because, well, I’m not eating food that some stranger without gloves or running water cooked.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some understood where the OP was coming from and said they wouldn’t eat the food, either.
“All the well-seasoned travelers in my life have always told me to be very wary of street food, in any country. The things they’ve seen would make the average stomach curdle. I don’t even eat street food in my own country where food safety is ranked very highly. The average food stall simply has so much less oversight and protection than a restaurant. It’s essentially the Wild West of dining experiences.”
“I don’t care how good the food tastes – if it’s made in unsanitary conditions, if it’s served on dirty platters, if the food is stored improperly, if the cook pees outside while wearing gloves then immediately gets back to cooking w/o changing gloves or washing their hands, if the cooking oil was sourced from the sewer (an actual thing my father has seen abroad)…”
“I don’t care, I’m not eating it. It has absolutely nothing to do with any country or its people; I just don’t want to eat dirty things.” – princess-sauerkraut
“I don’t even want street food in the US… I’ve traveled a bit, and yea, some street food can be super dodgy. Not everyone is practicing hygienic, safe, clean spaces when preparing meals. Depending on parts of the world, it’s advised to travel with tums and things to help with dehydration in the event you get food poisoning.” – Dry-Use8680
“I know when I went to Mexico City (I’m American), I was warned not to eat the street food except at specific taco stands the locals knew to be hygienic enough to outsiders… Not because Mexico City is less hygienic than what I’m used to, but because the bacteria is just different and locals are often immune.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I WANTED to eat street tacos everywhere; they looked and smelled amazing! But it’s not worth getting food poisoning and ruining the rest of my trip.”
“I hate that people are calling the OP racist. I can’t speak to SE Asia, but I can’t imagine it being drastically different, with locals being immune to certain bacteria and such. I’m not a germaphobe at all, but it’s just a whole different thing when you’re traveling… It can literally ruin the rest of your trip because you’re sick the entire time, and you might end up having to navigate the medical system if things get bad enough.” – Gold_Statistician500
“Have you ever eaten street food? I’m Indian and I ate tons of street food when I was living there but now that I think back, it was horribly unhygienic.”
“I saw the vendors pick their noses and dive right back into preparing the food on many occasions. There is zero cleanliness, zero sanitation, and I guarantee you would puke if you saw the water they use.”
“When I go back to visit now, I absolutely do not feed my kids the street food there. It’s deliciously tasty but incredibly nasty as well. There’s a reason street food is cheaper than restaurant food. Because they can get away with not having any safety practices.” – throwawayzzzzzz67
“The guy didn’t have gloves or running water. This makes it very unlikely that he’s appropriately cleaning his hands between touching raw food and prepared food.”
“He also has no idea what the guy did with his hands before touching the food, just that they were not cleaned in between.”
“The fact that he’s okay with his wife eating it actually speaks to the conclusion that he’s probably not racist: he just doesn’t feel comfortable eating it himself.” – Elegant-Pressure-290
Others pointed out that wearing gloves wouldn’t have necessarily helped.
“Gloves are generally less hygienic because they give a false sense of security while people cross-contaminate the f**k out of the surface of the glove.”
“The amount of times I’ve seen someone at Chipotle or similar make food, touch the counter, touch the register, take money, hand someone a receipt, and go back to making food without changing gloves once is insane.”
“Just wearing gloves isn’t magically good sanitation; they’re just an alternative surface for your possibly contaminated hand surface. You have to see what they do while wearing the gloves.”
“People are also generally more aware of what they touch with bare hands vs gloved hands.” – OrigamiTongue
“Gloves do not mean anything and can even be worse. For me, it is more to do with the type of food, grilled or fried I would eat it, I would be way more wary of salads and fruits.” – jthechef
“NAH. But just so you know. Gloves are usually worse.”
“People are more likely to wash their hands than change their gloves. As an ex-long-term food and beverage manager, gloves are usually a red flag for me. I wouldn’t eat there.”
“However, I wouldn’t usually touch street food with a ten-foot pole either, haha. But I’d probably trust my spouse or at least want to keep them happy enough to take the risk.” – northerntropicaz
“This is the first thing that always strikes me, too. We get this false sense of safety from gloves as if a freshly washed pair of hands is somehow a greater threat than a pair of gloves that haven’t been changed in several hours.” – SpecialistFeeling220
“In the past, I was a cook who used gloves and was meticulous about changing them and so went through three times more gloves than everyone else (and management complaints to go with it). When working deli (it was a corporate cafeteria), I would change them mid-service with a line up of the patron in front of me I knew to be Muslim or Jewish, and I would make my partner change theirs as well.”
“All of that to say, gloves are really, really, not as hygenic as bare hands*, despite what in the western world we’re lead to believe.”
“People won’t change their gloves as long as they have to and there’s lots of contamination. If a street food vendor has locals returning, they’re definitely not making people sick. Yet I had a glove-wearing coworker many years ago not change gloves after dredging raw chicken and making clientele and coworkers sick.”
“I realize this was outside your comfort zone to see this, OP, but unless you’re randomly expecting restaurants where you eat at home, cross-contamination happens way more often than you think, even with gloves.”
“Edit: *bare hands that are being washed regularly are safe just like in your own home.” – canbritam
Some were also suspicious of ulterior motivations on the OP’s part.
“You must never eat out then? because restaurants would never let a customer go to the kitchen to watch their meal being prepared, so why would you take that risk?”
“Who cooks at home? It must be you, right? Or doesn’t your partner mind when you stand over her as she’s cooking dinner, to make sure everything is hygienic?”
“What do you do on holiday family get-togethers where everyone either has a sit-down meal or (gods forbid!) a barbecue or a potluck? It must be an absolute nightmare for you, to keep having to explain why you aren’t eating what Cousin Jill, Grandma, and Uncle Pete want to put on your plate.”
“It can’t be that it’s only when you’re in SE Asia that you’re suddenly concerned about hygiene, for that would be inconsistent, and would reflect badly on you.” – Ma-Hu
“OP sounds culturally racist.”
“This prejudice against street vendors sounds reflexive rather than rational. What was the food? How was it being cooked? Why was OP okay with his wife ordering it?”
“Does OP think most customers get sick from eating there? Were the guy’s hands dirty? Did the guy have his hands down his pants rubbing his junk or butthole? Did the food look undercooked?”
“Honestly, this is a very controversial issue! For what it’s worth, I travel internationally a fair amount, including to developing countries. I love street vendor food as part of my travel experience.”
“I do believe in following appropriate risk management assessments in all aspects of travel, including eating street food. I think a blanket prohibition on eating street food is unreasonable and based on subjective factors and the way OP described his position, I stand by my opinion that there is likely some cultural racism taking place, likely unexamined.” – Curious-One4595
“I’m European but live in SEA with my spouse who’s from here. Street food is not some ‘curiosity’ over here, it’s a way of life and a lot of people eat what’s considered street food in the West multiple times a day.”
“Unless you were at the end of some shady alley, I’m willing to bet that there were other street vendors and stalls near the area you were going to eat at, and likely plenty of customers. Similarly, this is the vendor’s livelihood; if people regularly get sick from their food, or even if it’s not very tasty, they will soon be out of business because their money comes mostly from locals, not from tourists.”
“If OP’s wife has been going there for so long that it’s one of her long-standing favorites, it’s not gonna be dangerous. Sounds like OP needs to address his internalized racism, especially if he’s married to a person of color.” – -mephisto-
“My dear homie, do you think chefs wear gloves?”
“Soft YTA. I’ve lived in Southeast Asia and I’ve eaten some amazing street food, and I’ve seen some disgusting street vendors. But being completely closed off to the experience is not the way, especially if it’s her culture.” – Verdukians
“Imagine marrying someone from a different culture when you’re this rigid about what’s ‘normal’ and ‘better.'”
“This happens all the time when men marry Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, etc. women. It’s a racial fetish. They want the ‘exoticism’ of an ‘Oriental’ woman but do not want to deal with any of the ‘subhuman’ or ‘barbaric’ behaviors of their culture.”
“I have met hundreds of guys like OP, and I have nothing positive to say about any of them.” – Baronsdad
“YTA. Not because of the gloves issue, but because you’re declining your romantic partner’s ‘bid,’ and have apparently got a history of doing so.”
“She wants to share part of her self-identity and cultural heritage (yes cultural food counts as cultural heritage) with you and you’re rejecting it. By rejecting an attempt to share herself with you, you’re rejecting her on some level.”
“And that’s just going to build resentment, as it’s already begun to.” – Psykillogical
While the subReddit could understand the OP being careful, most were skeptical of the precautions the OP was taking, stating that worrying about gloves would not make the difference they were expecting.
Some went so far as to suspect racial implications, but others felt it wasn’t so serious as that and admitted they would have had their concerns at that moment, as well.
Though it remains unclear if the OP was truly only concerned about germs and contamination, this couple clearly needed to work some things out in their travels to prevent resentment from growing and harming their relationship.