What will the food be like? What about vegans and those with allergies?
Food abroad can be one of the most exciting/daunting aspects of travel! Embracing local cuisine is a great way to dive head first into the local culture.
Depending on your location, food will vary from much better than the familiar (Italy) to the very unfamiliar (Northern Thailand). We encourage all of our participants to be brave in this regard and try new things - however terrifying it may look! You'll often be surprised about how your palate changes while living abroad - you may return to the UK with a love of spicy food, raviolos or ' express trains' (Thai grub). We design programmes to expose you to the wonderful array of local food options, so we hope you are excited to try new things.
Food often holds great social and cultural importance in some parts of the world so it's worth doing some research about how to avoid offending your hosts when it comes to meal times. For this research, Google is your friend!
All of our programmes will provide meals to participants and we try to work closely with our local partners to ensure any dietary requirements are met. If you have any particular dietary requirements, make sure you let us at Gotoco know, as well as your local host, so we can do our best to help make necessary arrangements.
A special note for vegans and vegetarians:
Every effort will be made to cater to the special dietary requirements of all participants, however please be aware that outside of the UK, it can be quite challenging to obtain menus for vegans.
This is particularly true on programmes in Asia, where the style of cooking is to mix eclectic ranges of ingredients together in a wok and to use animal products as seasoning, e.g fish sauce or simply small chunks of meat. Western-style cuisine doesn't tend to mix everything together, so is sometimes easier for vegans.
Our programmes will always do their best for everyone, but if you won't consider taking a flexi' approach at times when travelling, then you are very likely to face difficulties on programmes in Asia and parts of Europe.
Vegetarianism is usually more manageable, and Richard (Gotoco co-founder) lives as a vegetarian on projects.
Participants that strictly adhere to veganism join our projects all over the world every year and thrive, but we are just issuing the above to manage your expectations. Several of Gotoco's team members are vegetarians and at least one is a vegan as well and has been on programmes in Bali and Thailand: so it is possible, but everyone needs to be realistic about the challenges involved and take ownership in overcoming them.
It will be manageable and we will help you, but you need to be mature and take ownership of overcoming hurdles. In the most globalised of places, you can find similar things to what you'd find in e.g London, but we strive to offer programmes in 'authentic' places that differ from what you might be used to back home, inevitably there will be joys and challenges when you face cultural differences.
These anecdotes indicate the kinds of things to look out for:
-A friend took a train in China and was presented with a pork dish. They explained to the waitress that they couldn't eat meat, the very hospitable waitress then came back later having extracted all bits of meat from the dish, leaving just a few chunks of fat and gristle. Meat was interpreted to mean the bits of animal that are not fat and gristle...
-Also in China, occasionally we hear that people think vegetarians are actually just adhering to halal. So vegetarians might be given beef...Additionally, linguistically/culturally interesting fact: pork is such an important part of Chinese cuisine that the Chinese word for meat also can just mean pork, so explaining that you don't eat meat can sound like you don't do pork.
-In lots of countries, it is often considered that poultry is not meat, so those that don't eat meat might be presented with chicken...Commonly in Europe, pescatarianism is mistaken for vegetarianism, it is regularly assumed that vegetarians eat fish.
-In many parts of the world, meat is used as seasoning. You might find tiny chunks of meat on vegetarian dishes. Fish sauce seasoning is also highly popular in SE Asia.
-In SE/E Asia, look our for 'pork floss cake', a popular cake that is iced with pork shavings.
A note for participants with allergies:
You are responsible for confirming that hosts are aware of your allergies, we strongly advise you to check at every meal and to take full control of your safety. We recommend anyone with allergies to fish/seafood and nuts to refrain from joining our programmes in Asia or to exercise extreme caution, there will be regular risks that you'd face if you choose to disregard this warning. Fish sauce and peanuts are ingrained in the cuisine across SE Asia - a large proportion of dishes contain them.