Does Bringing Your Own Food on a Plane Mean You’re a Jerk?

Dec 25, 2017

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Your personality reveals itself in countless ways, from the type of jobs you seek to the romantic partners you choose. It also directs many of the little decisions you make in daily life, and there is no better petri dish from which to observe human behavior and personality than an airplane flight.

One behavior that’s both relatively common but also hard to ignore is bringing your own food on the plane. Sure, some people will bring their own lunches because they were rushed and the flight doesn’t offer meals, but others bring food on board as a rule. What does it say about a person’s personality if they almost always bring their own food on board?

(Original Caption) 11/21/1949-New York, NY: The remains of what once was a succulent pre-Thanksgiving turkey rests against the well-stuffed frame of Charlie Black of New York, who had himself a feast on an airliner. Now he's looking forward to a Thanksgiving dinner.
Image courtesy of Bettmann Archive.

You May Be an Anxious Person

Food is universally comforting. But people who are anxious need more resources to help calm them. Many people bring food on board because having a personal stash from which to grab intermittent treats and drinks soothes them and reduces their anxiety. After all, being crammed into a seat and having almost no privacy for hours at a time is uncomfortable for anyone, but anxious people feel more uncomfortable because, internally, their mood isn’t regulated as well as everyone else’s. For these individuals, bringing food on board is a smart and effective way to self-soothe.

You May Like Taking Risks (With Booze)

Bringing your own alcohol to drink on a plane is illegal in the US: the Federal Aviation Administration requires alcoholic beverages to be served by certified airline staff. If the law isn’t enough to stop you from smuggling in a hip flash to Irish up your airplane coffee, you’re someone who a) is comfortable taking risks, b) needs alcohol to relax or to feel a certain high, c) has no problem challenging the status quo or d) has his or her own process of deciding what is right and wrong that’s independent of the law or social conventions, or all of the above.

But you can be smarter about drinking on a flight, if that’s what you really want. Just plan to allow extra time at the airport for a drink at a bar near your gate.

You May Be Self-Centered

Odds are that you’ve been on an airplane when someone pulls out a to-go container with food that passengers can smell from rows away. Hot and fried foods tend to produce the most, uh, “aroma,” though seasonings such as curry can be equally pungent and intrusive. As much as you love fajitas, subjecting your immediate neighbors to your food choices isn’t the sign of a person who’s too concerned with his or her fellow passengers. People who bring smelly food on board are focused on themselves and aren’t concerned about how the strangers they travel with feel.

A man eats a "Double Down Dog," in Manila on February 3, 2015, a product conceived and introduced by the Philippine franchise of KFC. Fastfood giant KFC in the Philippines has begin selling a hotdog wrapped in fried chicken instead of bread and covered in cheese sauce to the horror of dieticians and amusement of social media users. AFP PHOTO / Jay DIRECTO (Photo credit should read JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo by Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images.

You May Be a Food Snob

Foodies will reject low-quality or even standard-grade fare in favor of fresh, high-quality, and farm-to-table ingredients. These individuals take pride in not eating just anything, and the food choices they make underlie a good chunk of the decisions they make on a given day — they don’t simply grab a protein bar on the way to work.

On the other hand, some people are really just particular about their food. For example, meat lovers will want to make sure that they have plenty of meat, or greasy-food lovers are going to want something hot, fried and crunchy. For them, food is something to enjoy and savor, and meals are always something to look forward to. Other people, on the other hand, might be really finicky about their food, and bring their own not because they love to eat something in particular, but because they can’t stand the thought of risking their airline meals containing a dreaded leaf of lettuce, or mustard, or tomatoes, or meats that touch the vegetables or ….

You Have a Medical or Dietary Issue

Many people bring food on board to manage medically related dietary requirements or restrictions. For example, those with specific food allergies or diseases such as diabetes can’t eat whatever happens to be served to them. For these individuals, food behavior isn’t personality-driven. So don’t judge them.

Seth Meyers, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist, television contributor and writer based in Los Angeles.

Featured photo by amriphoto/Getty Images

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