How to communicate my food allergies in a different country?

The language barrier

Communication and the language barrier was my ultimate worry when I was going overseas for the first time I can’t deny this, but it didn’t need to be.

It was that horrible feeling that you won’t be able to communicate your allergies and risk an allergic reaction whilst trying to enjoy yourself.

We all know a food allergy whoopsy can happen at any time even in your own country but the fear and risks of it happening may be greater in a country where communication maybe a issue.

However, fear not. There are several simple ways you can make sure that you are understood when eating out or shopping on your holidays.

Learn the lingo

My first trip overseas with my gluten allergy was to Disneyland Paris. Just next door to us in the UK but what felt like a million miles away in a communication aspect.

I thought the easiest way to communicate my allergies is to learn what I am allergic to in their language. I might not be fluent in French but the simple phrase “sans gluten” saved the day on many occasions.

We shouldn’t presume because we travel to their country they should speak our language. Your going to their country at least learn a tidge of their language enough to help communication.

Google translate is brilliant for a quick phrase check and it will read out the phrase too, so you can practice before you go.

Top tip– make sure you always have a screen shot of the phrase you require on your phone and have it written down somewhere, so if you have a data or phone issue and can’t access Google you have a hard copy to show someone.


This is also very important to have for safety reasons, especially if you become unwell you can hand this to the health care professionals so they know you have an allergy.

And make sure you alway state food allergy on you travel insurance.

Look for the signs

Finally the world is starting to communicate to its self regards communicating allergy logos. Many countries now have the same or very similar logos to note food allergens in their products.


The cross grain symbol


This symbol has become a staple in identifying a product as gluten free and suitable for coeliacs.

Don’t know if you have ever noticed but there are different numbers on the bottom of the crossed grain symbols and these numbers represent what a product has in it and where it is made.

  • CUK-M-001– these are gluten free products by companies based in the UK and selling mainly in the UK
  • GB- 001-001– these are gluten free products and the number represents the country in where the company is based. For example, GB is the UK, BE is Belgium and GR is Greece
  • OATS-GB-011-011– this code shows the company is gluten free, where is it based and that this product contains oats
  • CUK-G-011– this shows that the product is gluten free but sold outside of Europe

There are also many companies that supply their products to a huge amount of different countries all over the world. These are what I refer to as my “staple foods”. These products are guaranteed to be safe and can be picked up no matter what continent you are on.

Don’t worry!

Venture out and try other foods, find niche restaurants in new countries you’ve never explored before just be safe, plan your communication before hand and pack appropriately.

travel banner