© Sudhamshu Hebbar - Fruit stall in Mylapore, Chennai

Vegetarian Survival: My Experiences and tips

Veg · e · tar · i · an
(NOUN) A person who does not eat meat or fish and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious or health reasons.

No steak or chicken or bacon has ever reached my mouth. OK, wait. Bacon did but besides that ,meat never appealed to me in a way some people are simple ecstatic about it. At the age of 10 I completely stopped eating meat and started my veggie-filled life.

Travelling and vegetarianism may sound like an odd combination. Especially when travelling in meat-devouring countries for instance in South America, or where the language barrier can be an obstacle like the Asian countries. In fact, it isn’t that bad after all. Here are some of my own experiences and tips.

  • Knowing how to say you’re vegetarian in a foreign language is pretty useless.

Vegetarian (English), vegetariano (Spanish), végétarien (France) and vegetariese (Afrikaans). The difference, as you see, is so small, but why don’t people understand it? Well, basically it has to do with what someone defines as vegetarian food.
How many times did you get asked (or asked someone else) if fish isn’t allowed, too? Or chicken. Well, there you have it already. Benny of Fluent in 3 Months explained it just right:

“Using this word can result in someone only feeding you lettuce, imagining vegetarians as nothing more than scurrying rabbits, or someone packing ‘thin slices’ of meat into your food and actually thinking that they are helping. It’s not their fault, the word itself simply does not translate well”.

  • A ‘modern’ country doesn’t always equal a big variety of vegetarian meals.

I live in The Netherlands. Now, I don’t go out for food often, I’m content with just one vegetarian meal on the menu to choose, as I pretty much eat everything, unless it is a salad. Don’t get me wrong, I do love salads big time, but not when eating at restaurants. Come on… When I travelled to Indonesia I was a little anxious about maybe having to live of plain rice or biscuits bought in the supermarket. In the end I had far more to choose from compared to my own country.

  • Get to know about local vegetarian-friendly dishes

On my first solo trip to Indonesia, on my first day, I was lucky enough to meet this great guy who asked if I was hungry and we got some food. It was the end of his Indonesian adventure and would go back home in a day or two so he had gotten pretty familiar with Indonesian. Besides helping me to learn basic Indonesian words he also helped me on my little quest for vegetarian food. The amount of confidence I lacked at that moment, he filled with his knowledge and in the end I somewhat got familiar with Indonesian dishes and was able to distinguish veggies and rice over chicken and rice. Without him I’d probably be visiting groceries stores a lot the first few days.

  • Being vegetarian and being picky is nearly impossible

This is a whole new world to me as I am not a picky eater at all. If all those quirky, regional specialties weren’t all animal-based dishes I would definitely have a bite. But being a picky vegetarian can be a little hassle. Restaurants (still) don’t serve as much vegetarian dishes as they serve dishes with meat or fish. Therefor, you sometimes have to make do with what you have. Trying new veggies or eating veggies you don’t really find that tasty is part of it. No-one can live on plain rice only and we need our vitamins :)

  • Respect has to come from both sides.

The discussion about eating meat or being a vegetarian has always been there and probably will go on for a long time. I find the most important thing is for people to accept someone else’s lifestyle. No vegetarian should preach about their way of living, trying to convert the other and neither should meat-eaters.

Vegetarians are still a minority in this World. OK, so be it. Don’t make it to hard for yourself. As a vegetarian, do some preparations, inform others when you come over for dinner and always thank them, for that person may have taken a complete different route then they normally would, just to make sure you would end up with a proper meal in stead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.


Tell us your experiences as a fellow vegetarian traveller by leaving a comment and share this posts with your (veggie) friends. Meat-eaters, you are more than welcome to comment and share too, of course :)

Photo:  © Sudhamshu Hebbar – Fruit stall in Mylapore, Channai

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