Encounters of Accidental Tourists: Maintaining Boundaries Through Food Consumption

Fleura Bardhi, Northeastern University, UK
Anders Bengtsson, Suffolk University, USA
Jacob Ostberg, Stockholm University, Sweden
This study examines the tourist paradox of striving to experience the cultural different Other while never leaving home through the lens of food consumption. The study attempts to provide an understanding of the ways that tourists relate to local and home food and the role that these relationships play in tourist experiences. The study is conducted through interviews with 29 American tourists after their first tourist trip to China. A semiotic data interpretation revealed the ways tourist informants made sense of their cultural experience in China through a continuous process of categorization of foods. Even short-term mobility can become a frightening and alienating experience emotionally and existentially. The encounter with the Other challenged tourists as competent consumers, decision makers, and alienated them from the Other. We find that tourist grapple with these negative experiences by creating a symbolic distance towards the Other through food categorizations. We further elaborate on the symbolic project of restoring normality and dealing with alienation through consumption of familiar home foods.
[ to cite ]:
Fleura Bardhi, Anders Bengtsson, and Jacob Ostberg (2009) ,"Encounters of Accidental Tourists: Maintaining Boundaries Through Food Consumption", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36, eds. Ann L. McGill and Sharon Shavitt, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 683-683.