Dietary Restrictions Abroad

Traveling abroad with special dietary needs can be a very daunting task, especially in a country where certain foods are expected to be eaten regularly. The key task here is to plan everything in advance and as soon as you get there. Contact your program to see if there are any options available for your special needs including special markets, special goods, or even local festivals celebrating certain dietary habits (such as vegetarianism). Find out exactly how to say the word “vegetarian,” "kosher,"  “I don’t eat meat (cheese, wheat, etc)”, or "I'm allergic to (nuts, dairy, etc) in your local language so as to not cause confusion or disappointment in public restaurants. Also be prepared for finding few alternative options in some of your destinations. Check again with your program about this obstacle. It is also wise to research some recipes in local cookbooks so that you can prepare a meal for yourself or your family when you have the opportunity. You may need to think about bringing some specialty items for nutritional health, as your health is linked to how you deal with many things while abroad.

Once you've arrived, be very clear with your host family or roommates of what your needs mean, as your needs may not exist where you are, or are interpreted differently (meats vs. fish vs. eggs). Try to have an explanation ready (religious, medical, etc.) as some people understand very little about what being a vegetarian (or being kosher/halal/etc) entails. All of this will prevent the awkward moment of having to turn down a nicely cooked meal at a family or group dinner.