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Savoring Safely Abroad

Moving to a new country with a food allergy is difficult. You need to figure out where to go. You need to figure out where to eat. And if they don't speak the same language, you don't know what dishes might send you to the hospital. So you might as well cook at home, right?

What if you're a social butterfly? What if you absolutely hate cooking but absolutely love food? How do you figure out how to navigate

the food world, then?

Six years ago, I moved abroad from America to South Korea. I had only been abroad in Canada. I had never branched out of the comfort of eating the same few guaranteed

nut-free dishes.

But moving abroad requires you to be brave. It requires you to branch out. You need to find friends that feel like family. You need to figure out the local language. And most of all, find food that brings you comfort.

I had to learn as many food words as I could in Korean. I had to learn various ways to explain my allergies at a restaurant. I also had to explain what foods were nuts and what foods

weren't nuts.

"Yes, almonds are nuts. No, corn is not a nut. Yes, I can eat eggs. Sesame and soy are okay."

Not only did this help me learn the language, but it also helped me develop a list of restaurants that I could frequent. These restaurants had good food and a friendly, understanding staff. I could also share this list with friends with allergies or dietary restrictions. And my friends with dietary restrictions (allergies, vegetarians, vegans, halal) grew, as well.

After a while, Korea no longer felt like home. I visited Singapore to see my childhood best friend right before the pandemic. I felt the tug of Singapore calling to me, "Move here! It feels like home." However, I was very nervous about the food. Many of the dishes in Singapore contain a variety of allergens. So it was essential to do as much research as possible on how Singaporeans handle food. Korea isn't a country that takes allergies seriously, but Singapore is. So I told myself, "If I could do it once, I can do it again."

I took the leap and moved to Singapore.

During my first ten days, I visited many restaurants and took pictures of the food. I began to review places that I had tried. I noted if the place had nut-free, vegan, vegetarian, or halal options. I also described how the food tasted and whether I'd return.

Throughout the years, I've had a few hiccups with nuts. Thankfully, Korea and Singapore have reasonably priced healthcare. Also, hospitals are pretty near. So, a trip to the hospital was less scary than in America. I survived, I got through, and I continued to try again.

I even felt brave enough to travel to Bali with a nut allergy and survived the entire trip.

Of course, you must act with caution. Take allergy pills, carry your EpiPen (they're cheaper outside of America), look at the menu, carry an allergy card, and explain the severity of it. No restaurant can guarantee complete safety, but doing your part helps put the chef and your friends at ease.

I hope you can read this and think, "I can do it! I can find a new home. I can eat safely." You've got this. Food should not hold you back from trying new things.

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