Is there anything more frustrating than travelling abroad and finding there is nothing available to eat?
Imagine then that your plan to travel involves a stay of months or even years, that throughout your study course you’ll have to constantly be wary of what you can and cannot eat. That would be a true disaster indeed.
In certain countries, the definition of a dietary restriction may differ or your general options for preparing food may be severely limited. Vegetarianism, for example, is a common dietary practice, typically made for health or ethical reasons. But also religious, environmental, cultural or political. All sorts of reasons really.
With so many reasons to practice a certain way of eating, there are consequently lots of people who are either ignorant or are actively against these practices.
In many countries, eating meat is part of the national identity. Australia, the USA, Argentina and Japan are all closely associated with beef, lamb, prawns and other meats.
Yet in each of these, there is to be found little havens of meatlessness. In America, Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Austin and New York are all home to multitudes of first-class vegetarian restaurants and supermarkets that support all kinds of food requirements.
Large cities generally are supportive of food choices and needs, but make sure you use the right phrasing for where you are and make it clear you cannot eat what you cannot eat. Barcelona, Berlin and Paris are all great for vegetarians, though it may get a little bit trickier in the broader countries of Spain, Germany and France.
Any diverse city, especially those with a university, can be trusted to have at least one or two places in which to find something, though perhaps it is also a good idea to bring something to get you through those first few days like some nutrition bars, until you find a good supportive restaurant or supermarket.
In terms of country, India, of course, is perhaps the single best place for vegetarians, due to the multitude of Hindus and Jains, while Taoists (mostly found in China) and Buddhists also frequently engage in vegetarian diets. In Israel, Kashrut laws require that meat and dairy are not served together while in some African countries, like Ethiopia, there are frequent fast days, in which only meat-free options are available.
Religion is often the reason for countries to have nationwide food options. Great Britain, similarly, is generally very accepting of vegetarians, in part due to religious beliefs that came to prominence during the 1800s.
If you’re not able to go to a country that will be so accommodating, the most important advice to remember is this: recognise differing definitions.
In terms of vegetarianism, there is frequent cultural disagreement as to what constitutes meat. Eggs and dairy, for example, are common dividing points. Others may define vegetarianism as being able to include fish. Some consider the diet to only refer to mammals and not lizards or birds.
It can sometimes be difficult to describe your needs without offending others. It’s a challenging line to walk but coming to understand others and finding ways to express yourself is one of the great barriers to overcome on your adventures. Keep a lookout, don’t be afraid and you’ll be on your way to both improving your understanding and staying healthy.