Don't let the shrimps kill me!
March 16, 2012 12:43 PM   Subscribe

I am seriously allergic to shellfish (crustaceans). I need to be able to communicate this in several languages.

I am nervous that people misunderstand me at restaurants when I tell them that I have this allergy. It's not a matter of discomfort, it is a matter of anaphylaxis. I would like to be able to produce a little card that explains this in the languages that are common where I live. The restaurants that I frequent are Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Thai. Translators of MeFi, please help! Other suggestions for solving this problem are welcome.
posted by kamikazegopher to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "Allergy cards" are widely produced and recommended for people with food allergies. This company offers Tagalog in addition to Chinese (Mainland and Cantonese), Thai, and Japanese.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:48 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I've got this too, and my reactions have gotten more severe with age. I've found that in the US, it's not really an issue- no restaurant wants you to get ill on their premises, although with thai food you do need to watch out for Oystersauce in curries- even if it is advertized as vegetarian. (yup nasty incident from that one!). Be also careful ordering tempura and fried things; there is no law that requires a separate deep frier for non seafood things.

Previously I've responded to Ask Me's on this topic that what you want/need is an Allergy Card. Google is your friend here.

Also not being a jerk about it, mentioning it right at the start of the meal and in general being less picky about the other parts of the meal really helps you get the service you want.
posted by larthegreat at 12:51 PM on March 16, 2012

Response by poster: I do mention it at the start of the meals. I just recently had an alarming incident where I told the server at a buffet that I was allergic to shellfish. He responded that there was no shellfish in the dish. I then told him that I was a vegetarian (I was not eating meat at that time). He said he would check with the chef, came back and told me that there was crab in the dish.

Also, I am in the US, but in Hawaii and there are often language barriers at smaller restaurants. I didn't know that allergy cards existed- cool! But if anyone can help with a DIY version, I would be grateful. Thanks!
posted by kamikazegopher at 12:59 PM on March 16, 2012

Best answer: The cards are probably your best bet, but for DIY purposes, in Chinese, one way to express it would be: 我对甲壳类过敏,不能食用。 That's for crustaceans; other shellfish come under 贝类. The phrase with that added too would read: 我对甲壳类与贝类过敏,不能食用。
posted by Abiezer at 1:08 PM on March 16, 2012

Best answer: I have very seriously and legitimately conveyed the notion of "shellfish" by doing a crabdance and singing the "Under The Sea" song from the Little Mermaid, and then miming a horrible spasmy death to denote deadly allergy.

It helps if you are already a little bit drunk.
posted by elizardbits at 1:11 PM on March 16, 2012 [24 favorites]

Best answer: In Japanese: 貝アレルギーがあります。
I'm not a native speaker so there might be a better way to say it.

Bonus: in Spanish, with some examples: Soy alérgico a los crustáceos (camarón, cangrejo, etc). If you are allergic to shellfish in general, Soy alérgico a los mariscos y crustáceos.
posted by clearlydemon at 1:48 PM on March 16, 2012

Sorry, I just saw you are female, so it would be Soy alérgica... instead.
posted by clearlydemon at 1:48 PM on March 16, 2012

Best answer: Could you make a picture version? Like:

image of shellfish/crustaceans = image of person turning red and holding hands to their neck (symbol for choking)?

That might help with some of the language barriers--on the other side you could always have the same sentiment written in English, Japanese, Chinese, etc.
posted by stellaluna at 2:03 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You are doubtless already aware of this, but the pragmatic challenge is worse than the linguistic one. I had a friend with the same problem who went through the whole song and dance every time she ordered from a restaurant menu (this was in Taiwan, but I'm sure the problem is similar in many countries) and more than once came close to death because the server had assured her there was no shrimp in the dish, but it turned out there were bits added "just for flavor." She spoke fluent Chinese, so it was not a question of misunderstanding, it's just that the whole concept of "even a tiny bit can kill you" doesn't register. Good luck!
posted by languagehat at 2:08 PM on March 16, 2012

Response by poster: elizardbits, that is pretty much my current method, much to the mortification of my partner. We should do a duet some time!
posted by kamikazegopher at 2:28 PM on March 16, 2012

Best answer: I have been to the far corners of the earth to dine, on food that would make your sensitive stomach crouch.
Heed this: in East Asia, there is a tremendous outright disregard for an allergy that could make you sick or kill you. This is a cultural issue there, no "DIY"allergy card is going to help. The solution is not to eat any such restaurants (because if you are poisoned, cultural attitude of denial will even slow medical treatment).

What you need translated are 2 words: Seafood & Death.
posted by Kruger5 at 2:37 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

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