My first trip abroad as a coeliac
On Thursday, I will be travelling to Zurich, Switzerland, to speak at Denkfest, a science and critical thinking festival organised by the Freethinkers Association of Switzerland.
As well as being the first time I’ve been invited to speak at an event abroad (whoo!), it is also the first time I have had to eat a gluten-free diet without the comfort of my native language.
Several years ago, I spent 6 months in Munich, Germany, at the Goethe Institut, learning German. I came out fluent, although I’m a little rusty these days. However, I never learnt the vocabulary required for eating out gluten free – it’s hard enough trying to communicate it to English restaurants sometimes!
Since I am a guest speaker, some of my meals will be catered for me – I have been assured that I am not the only speaker requiring a gluten free diet (hooray!), and that my dietary requirements will be taken care of. However, there will be some meals where I will have to fend for myself, so I am taking the following steps to prepare:
- Emergency supplies! It’s tricky taking food on aeroplanes, especially fresh food. However, for a 4 day trip, I am planning on taking some gluten free biscuits, cheese crackers, and other sealed, dry snacks. Also plenty of tea to calm the nerves. When I arrive in Zurich I intend to find a supermarket or convenience store and buy some apples and bananas (and possibly check out their gluten free selection!)
- Restaurant cards! I have downloaded and printed out the German restaurant card from CeliacTravel.com: http://www.celiactravel.com/cards/german/, as I do not trust my German language skills not to falter when confronted with a harassed Swiss waiter.
- Travel insurance! I’ve used Insure and Go in the past, and they did not need me to declare coeliac disease as a medical condition (quite rightly too, since any glutenings would not lead to hospitalisation, rather me curled up in bed clutching my stomach!)
- Patience and understanding! I have to take this with me everywhere I go out to eat *cough*NANDO’S*cough*, but with the additional language barrier, I need to prepare myself for conversations to take a lot longer. I am hoping that in the course of the festival I will make friends with a German who will help me phrase all my questions about food!
- Painkillers/anti-nausea medication? I’ve not yet discovered anything that can make the sickness from a glutening go away. Painkillers are a must (especially with the drinking that usually comes with these sorts of events!), but I’ve never seen anti-nausea medicine at a chemist.
Have I forgotten anything?