One of the best ways to find a good place to eat is ask local people. I’ve found more really good restaurants by asking locals and ignoring guidebooks and restaurant review guides than anything else. There are some interesting reasons why this is so. One of the main thoughts is to consider why the person is reviewing the particular restaurant. Some restaurant reviewers are concerned solely with reporting the quality of the food and the service as accurately as possible. Others seem to want to promote their own article writing skills, or their own culinary expertise. Of course, if that kind of thing is important to you, eating in a restaurant that has been compared with many other well-known and famous restaurants, then by all means. And I mean that sincerely, without any sarcasm.
My favorite kind of food is cheap and good. I am not a big fan of ambiance, or presentation, or the view from my table. I’m not even that concerned with the cleanliness of the restaurant. Some of my all time favorite meals have been eaten for less than a few dollars from street vendors of questionable sanitation.
Tacos in Mexico, Grilled chicken in Thailand, who knows what in Taiwan. It’s all cheap, and it’s all good.
I guess the difference is asking somebody who really knows, versus asking somebody who wants to pretend that they know, or is afraid of admitting that they donâ€™t know. Sometimes one is a cover up for the other, and vice versa. Here in Japan it is considered socially rude to say, “I don’t know” to a customer. I learned that the hard way when I went looking for a specific map. I went to three bookstores before I realized that they didn’t have the map I was looking for. But because of social rules and constraints, they could only tell me to try and search in another bookstore, even though in hindsight I suspect that they knew I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for.
Sometimes it’s hard to admit that you don’t know. Maybe it’s because when we were kids and you did something wrong, and your parents would say, “Why did you do that!” When our best response was “I donâ€™t know,” we got into more trouble. Maybe because every time in school when teacher asked us a question, and we said “I donâ€™t know, ” we felt foolish and the teacher gave us a dirty look. (Or maybe this only happened to me!)
Whatever the reason, as adults it can be really hard for us to say, “I donâ€™t know,” when somebody asks us a direct question. I was talking to this guy the other day, and he was telling me about his two neighbors that were talking once, and he overheard one of them explaining what his uncle told him when he was a kid:
An admission of not knowing is the starting point for all knowledge. When you allow yourself to admit to somebody, or even yourself, that you have no clue, that opens up space in your brain for more information and experience. When you pretend you know, and you really don’t, you are actually closing yourself to from these things.
Which is I guess why a lot of business management and sales books advise to answer with “I donâ€™t know but I’ll find out,” and then to actually go and find out, and report back to the person in a timely manner. That will show you are honest, resourceful, and dependable, AND they will have the answer to their question. For many people though, this can be hard to do, as it sometimes feels dangerous to the ego. The secret of the ego is that most of the things that it is scared of are actually the opposite of what will really make you happy. When your ego thinks it is keeping you safe, it is actually keeping you from experiencing more success. But you don’t know that until you take a tiny leap of faith. I guess that’s why so many people live the way they do, behind the protective wall of imagined comfort.
But you’re not like that, right? Because you are reading this, and because you’ve had those experiences in your life, you can naturally take that tiny step beyond imaginary fear and experience life the way it was meant to be experienced. One of the greatest things about stepping beyond the imagined limits of the ego is that because so few people are willing to do that, you will be seen as some kind of super human demi-god. Or at least most people will look up to you. Which, paradoxically, will get you all those things you thought you were preserving, but didnâ€™t really have, behind that protective wall of ego safety.