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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?

About Yo Samdy Sam

Sam is an autistic advocate, renewable energy and EV enthusiast, mother to a toddler, living in the Netherlands but originally British. She makes YouTube videos as Yo Samdy Sam. Tip Jar ---> https://ko-fi.com/yosamdysam


4 thoughts on “My first trip abroad as a coeliac

  1. Good luck and if you find anywhere worth a mention we would love to hear about them. On the site we have one suggestion for Zurich so maybe if you are really struggling for ideas when needing to fend for yourself…

    Best of luck, it was daunting travelling overseas the first time but it sounds like you are well prepared.

    Posted by Travel Gluten Free | September 6, 2011, 3:49 pm
  2. Well done you on being invited as a guest speaker.

    We went to Zurich last year en route to Milan by train. There’s a post on my blog about it….amazingly the hotel we stayed in had gluten free bread – I couldn’t believe it. Before the trip I’d heard great things about availability of gluten free products in Zurich supermarkets but I didn’t find this to be the case. We went into loads of shops (including the big supermarket by the station in the centre of town) and didn’t find much at all. So definitely a good idea to take crackers and sealed dry products.

    The good news is that rosti is gluten free!

    Best of luck.

    Posted by Gluten Free Mrs D | September 6, 2011, 9:43 pm
    • I have now been assured that the hotel will offer me a gluten free breakfast and the venue is catering me a gluten free lunch. I’ll definitely be reviewing them!

      That’s great to know about rosti – will tuck into them with delight! 🙂

      Posted by samanthastein | September 7, 2011, 7:35 am

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About me

I'm Samantha, a freelance writer from London, UK. Since being diagnosed with Coeliac Disease in March 2011 I have embraced the gluten-free lifestyle, and am committed to finding delicious alternatives to my favourite foods!

I also have a personal blog.

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