Guest post by Teen Advisory Group (TAG) member Colin Lapus
Traveling with food allergies is one thing, but traveling to another country, especially non-English speaking countries, is always a struggle when living with food allergies. I just recently returned from a trip to French Canada, and have also had the privileges of visiting France, Germany, and Italy. In this blog post, I will cover common problems you might run into, precautions you should take, and strategies you can use when traveling in foreign countries.
Although a different language is a beautiful part of a given country’s culture, it can definitely make things hard when dealing with food allergies. I have a few good tips when it comes to the language barrier. Always make sure you know the names of your allergens in the language of the country you are going to. For example, “nuts” in French is “des noisettes.” This will come in handy when trying to read package labels, as well as speaking to waiters in restaurants. A lifesaver for me in Europe was the “Google Translate” app. You can hold your mobile device over a text (i.e. an ingredients list) and it will translate it within seconds.
On my French Canada trip earlier this month, I walked out of a total of 4 restaurants. Here are a few restaurant tips. Many restaurant servers will ask, “How severe is your allergy?” Always, always say that it is very severe. I have been asked this question only a few times in the United States, but it is very common in other countries. If you say it is not severe, they can make it out as being a “preference.” If they don’t seem that confident they can treat you safely, just don’t do it. Also, after walking out of all these restaurants, I learned not to order drinks before asking about allergies. Just a tip! I also like to look at restaurant menus online. For me, allergic to shellfish and tree nuts, sometimes a restaurant won’t have my allergen, so that is a better option.
As more and more people become gluten-free, bakeries are becoming popular that are entirely gluten-free. Most of these bakeries are also free of other allergens, like nuts, and sometimes dairy. In most big cities, there is usually at least one bakery like this. In Montreal, I found a place called “Baked2Go Boulangerie” that was free of nuts, gluten, and dairy-free. This was an oasis, where I knew I could eat safely and have local food. Also, grocery stores are never far, so if you need food to buy, that’s an option.
Make sure to check out last month’s teen blog post, and these resources FARE has created for traveling for more advice and tips. Once you reach your destination, and you get in the flow, hopefully any stress about your allergies will drop, and you can really enjoy your trip. That usually happens with me. Remember to be careful, not stressful, and have fun!
Registration is now open for the 12th Annual Teen Summit this fall in beautiful Newport Beach, CA. Submissions to the 2017 Teen Summit Innovation Tank will be accepted until July 31, 2017. Visit foodallergy.org/teensummit for more information.