A list of Vegetarian Phrases In Other Languages, via Incoming Signals, where you will find an unhinged rant about it:

I imagine it must be very important to have those phrases handy in that part of the world since the phrasebook gives so many options for making your wishes known. Perhaps they have a habit of forcing fish on the unwary traveler, and only a quick response will stop them. Perhaps just at the very last second, before they cram the fish down your throat, live and wriggling, according to their custom. But they will understand. They will sigh dejectedly…

The Russian sentences are given in a virtually unintelligible transcription, which may be a good thing, considering the in-your-face wording of “Yah lyublyu gihvahtnihh poehtahmuh yah nye yem eeh (I love animals, so I don’t eat them).” Might be more sensible to just ask for potatoes and skip the propaganda.


  1. In Eastern Europe, it’s always better to stick to religious reasons, as I and my friends have found. In Bulgaria, my feeble explanations of “az sum vegetarianka” got me answers of “but it’s only fish” and “chicken is not meat”; a smarter friend who requested “postno yadene” (fasting food) got what she wanted without provoking lengthly ethic discussions. And yes, if you care, always ask if your vegetarian soup has chicken stock – because it almost always will.

  2. I am not so sure about the sentence “Non bevo il latte”. It doesn’t sound Italian enough 😉 I would say “Non bevo latte” or “Non mangio carne, burro, uova etc….”

  3. I had to extend my definition of vegetarian to cover herbivores (either I am vegetarian, or the things I’m eating are vegetarians) on fieldwork, where refusing would have caused huge offense. That covered bullock meat, turtle, dugong and kangaroo.

  4. I’ve been a vegetarian for the past four years, and I can state with confidence that the best policy for most Americans is to eat only where the staff understands well a language you speak fluently. Since I live in Houston, that is not as easy, or quite as banal, as it sounds.
    As for you world travelers… my experience does not extend that far.

  5. I was, for several years, a vegetarian and during that time I took to advancing the “explanation” that I _hated_ animals, and had decided to boycott them in an attempt to provoke a demand-driven slump in production. (Although only in English.)
    I gave up in Norway – there were no langwidge difficulties whatsoever, but there was also no vegetarian food. Whatsoever.

  6. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    One of my colleagues in Sweden was a vegetarian, because animal welfare, which meant that even Thai food with tofu was out (fish sauce). Thai lunch places in Stockholm all run on the pick-a-sauce-and-a-“protein” system, with protein being chicken, pork, beef or tofu. Pizza Hut and McDonalds were actually safer because they had explicitly vegetarian options. Eggplant or potato pizza is not to be sneezed at. (Other options were sushi and traditional meat and potatoes, which obviously weren’t).

    I suppose there can be animal welfare issues with fish farms, but naively I think of wild caught sardines and like that live a relatively free life. There are other problems with commercial fisheries, of course, and maybe he was against fish sauce for other reasons.

  7. I worked in Uzbekistan in the late 90s, and back then there were no vegetarian restaurants or even vegetarian dishes in normal restaurants. Once we were going for dinner with a visiting group of consultants that included a vegetarian (the poor guy really had come to the wrong part of the world); all of the dishes on the menu contained meat or fish, but luckily, you could order extra sides of boiled potatoes and vegetables, so for him, we ordered the extra sides without a main dish.

  8. HappyCow suggests that the situation may have improved, at least in Tashkent.

  9. That doesn’t surprise me. The last time I was in Tashkent was in 2018, and it seemed that at least that city had stopped being stuck in the post-Soviet depression of the 90s and early 2000s. There were flashy restaurants and hipster coffee shops, so vegan places are only to be expected.

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