Telling someone “I’m vegetarian” or “I’m vegan” when there’s a language barrier involved isn’t easy…
It’s there, on the menu. There’s nothing suspicious about it. It has an appetising name in Spanish: “bocadillo vegetal” (vegetable sandwich).
You’re starving, and can’t wait for that first bite. Finally, the waiter shouts “¡vegetal!” (vegetable, referring to the sandwich). Your sandwich is here and… it has tuna in it.
Why? Because in Spain “bocadillos vegetales”, despite what the name suggests, often come filled with tuna.
Communicating that you’re vegetarian or vegan in another language can be tricky, especially when the name of a dish suggests there are no animal products in it.
But fellow veggies, don’t worry! As someone who has been a vegetarian for more than 20 years and comes from “jamónland” (aka. Salamanca), there are definitely ways to make it clear that you’re vegetarian or vegan when speaking other languages.
A few key survival phrases under your belt (or written down in your notebook!) can go a long way.
Here’s how to say you’re vegetarian or vegan in different languages:
Let’s start with the language I know best!
- Immediately filter whether you can eat in a restaurant by asking: “¿Tiene algo vegetariano / vegano en el menú?” (Do you have any vegetarian options on the menu?
- Another useful phrase to describe your preferences is: “No como carne, ni pescado.” (I don’t eat meat or fish), and you can add to the list “ni jamón, ni atún” (neither ham, nor tuna) just to avoid any ham or tuna ambiguities…
- “Soy vegetariana / vegana” (I’m vegetarian / vegan for female speakers) and “soy vegetariano / vegano” (I’m vegetarian / vegan for male speakers). Proud vegetarians and vegans shout it to the rooftops!
Local vegetarian dish recommendation: tortilla de patata con pimientos de padrón.
If you go to any Mediterranean country, the most common veggie option will be pasta. So you’re in luck, in Italy a world of deliciousness opens before you. There are so many varieties of pasta to make your taste buds shout “è buonissimo!” (it’s delicious!).
Here’s how to say I’m vegetarian / vegan in Italian:
- “Sono vegetariano/ vegano” (I’m vegetarian / vegan for male speakers) “Sono vegetariana/ vegana” (I’m vegetarian / vegan for female speakers)
- Wondering if there are any vegetarian or vegan options on offer? Ask your waiter or waitress: “Avete piatti vegetariani nel menù?” (Do you have any vegetarian dishes on the menu?)
Local vegetarian dish recommendation: panzanella, bruschetta…there are so many!
If you’re ever travelling through Brazil, try “pão de queijo” for breakfast and add all the fresh fruit you can imagine alongside it. Or, if you happen to go to any of the typical “por kilo” restaurants (where food is weighed before you pay), learn how to check their vegetarian and vegan options by asking:
- “Você tem alguma opção vegetariana no cardápio?” (Do you have any vegetarian options on the menu?)
- To say I’m vegetarian / vegan you can use: “Eu sou vegetariano/ vegano.” (for male speakers) or “Eu sou vegetariana/ vegana.” (for female speakers).
Local vegetarian dish recommendation: pão de queijo, açai bowls…
France may be the heaven of cheese and butter, but “mes amis végétaliens” (my vegan friends), I’ve got your back:
- “Je suis végétalienne.” (I’m vegan for female speakers) and“Je suis végétalien.” (I’m vegan for male speakers).
- Although it looks similar, don’t mix it up with “Je suis végétarienne.” (I’m vegetarian for female speakers) or “Je suis végétarien.” (I’m vegetarian for male speakers).
Local vegan dish recommendation: ratatouille
Now that you know how to ask for vegetarian and vegan dishes in four different languages, I invite you to travel, explore and enjoy local vegetarian and vegan food. There are so many delicious options on offer!