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Sweden Study Abroad with Food Allergies

I have spent the past 4 weeks studying in Stockholm, Sweden, taking a photography course through DIS Abroad. I have always dreamt of studying abroad and traveling but food allergies have always felt like a barrier to me. However, in the past few months I’ve been more motivated to pursue these dreams and “make things work” even if it isn’t perfect.

I applied to this program on a whim in the fall, unsure whether I could make it work with my allergies. Once I was accepted, I knew that it was an opportunity I wanted to take and immediately started researching for grocery stores, safe food products, safe restaurants, and labeling regulations. This research was over the course of a few months and continually made me feel more confident with how I was going to be able to navigate my food allergies abroad in a country that isn’t mainly English speaking. I found familiar food brands and products on grocery store websites, emailed with restaurants that were very accommodating with my allergy requests, and at the same time found out that I was able to get accommodations to have my own kitchen in my student apartment. The added benefit of being able to cook for myself made the difference for me and it gave me so much more flexibility and overall improved my experience through allowing me to not have to focus on finding safe food constantly.

The one caveat to all this research was the fact that once I arrived, I found that all the food labels were in Swedish with the occasional English label. I relied on Google Translate’s photo translation feature and asking store workers to help translate the labels into English. One thing that was very nice is the fact that the EU requires the top 9 (I think) allergies to be listed in bold on food packaging.

Despite being able to find familiar products from home, they weren’t always still safe for my allergies since different countries change the ingredients in certain foods. For example: I am able to have Oreos and Ritz crackers, both of which “contain” or “may contain” milk in other countries like Sweden. It was definitely an adjustment for me to find good snacks to fill the gaps between meals. I had tons of fruit because it is especially fresh and beautiful this time of year in Sweden. I was able to find a British store that had more English products as well. However, I kept reminding myself that the food doesn’t have to be perfect as long as I’m staying safe.

Here are some familiar food brands that I found at the ICA and Hemköp grocery stores:

  • Violife cheese products

  • Oatly milk, creamer, yogurt, ice cream

  • Lays chips

  • Barilla dried pasta and sauce

  • Old El Paso tortillas and taco products

  • Tropicana juice

  • Several cereal brands

  • Pop Tarts

  • Heinz sauces/beans

I definitely cooked most of the nights I was there— mainly pasta because it was the simplest safe option. Along with that, I had many great dining out experiences and found every spot to be incredibly accommodating and understanding about my food allergies. English is so heavily spoken in Sweden, which made conveying allergy requests much easier, but I still made sure to use my Equal Eats translation card to make sure that everyone was on the same page about my food. If you haven’t found them yet, make sure to check out Equal Eats!! Their translation cards have made the difference for me when traveling internationally with food allergies and I’m so incredibly grateful.

I truly felt like I was at home in Stockholm and was able to make the most of my trip and studies without letting my allergies consume me. It is such a beautiful city full of such rich culture that I’m grateful to have experienced.

I will be sharing more about my experiences abroad with food allergies and even more details regarding the planning process behind navigating such a long trip. I am happy to answer any questions if you’re thinking about traveling to this part of the world. It is totally doable and the Swedes were overall great with accommodating food allergies. I’m coming out of this trip with such a deep rooted sense of confidence and reassurance with my ability to navigate the ups and downs of solo traveling and adjusting to a new culture and language. Let this be the sign that with the right preparation, research, and planning, you can figure out how to navigate foreign countries with food allergies. Seeing the world is so fulfilling so don’t let allergies hold you back from your dreams!


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