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.

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