Dealing with Language Barriers

Io sono celiaca. Tengo Celiaca. Watashi wa seriakku o motte iru.

Or, how about “I have celiac disease?”

When I went to Italy, my biggest concern was the food. As it turned out, eating gluten free in Italy wasn’t a challenge. But it did require clear communication — a challenge for me as my Italian accent was probably worse than I imagined. Now, as I plan a trip to Spain, I’m not just learning rudimentary Spanish, I’m also learning to communicate the fact I’m gluten free with waiters and other restaurant staff.

During my Italy trip, I relied upon cards that explained my dietary situation. I think these cards are lifesavers. They clearly define what I can and cannot eat. Not only do I make sure I have cards available in the language(s) spoken where I’m traveling, but I also keep them handy for situations where I encounter waitstaff or kitchen personnel for whom English is not their first language.

I like the cards from SelectWisely for international travel; the selection of available languages is extensive. SelectWisely also has cards that list multiple food allergies to help you. also has an extensive language selection for their cards — very much appreciated! You download the appropriate language in PDF format. Triumph Dining also has very nice cards, though they are a bit large for wallets.

If you travel with a smart phone, there are apps that allow you to communicate your dietary restrictions clearly. The Gluten Free Restaurant Cards app uses the same information as the cards from, so the selection of languages is large. Apps like Find Me Gluten Free help locate nearby restaurants with gluten-free menu items.

Having this information on my phone makes gluten-free travel even easier. The number of apps related to gluten-free dining are increasing, and while I haven’t found a great international restaurant guide, though I am testing the Gluten Free Registery app right now, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. To me, that will be the ultimate luxury!

How do you communicate with restaurant staff when you’re traveling?

Tip of the Week

Before leaving home, make a list of safe restaurants. Keep this list in an easily accessible location so you don’t have to rely upon your phone or computer to find gluten-free food. International roaming charges can be expensive!

Gluten-Free Menu of the Week

I love Thai food — while it sometimes seems complicated, the truth is many of the dishes come together quickly. Spring rolls, once you get the hang of them, are fast and fun to make. The rice cakes mentioned in this week’s recipe are actually chewy, dense Korean rice cakes. They are addictive and absorb flavor so well! The cucumber salad offers a cool counterpart to the spicy dish, and, of course, the mango sticky rice is a sweet finish to this meal. This dessert uses glutinous rice, a type of rice that is sticky and a bit sweet.

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