How popular vegetarianism is in your country?
Here in Japan, people know the word "vegetarian" but don't know what it exactly means.
So many foreign vegetarian tourists face difficulties in finding foods.
Good to know.
Well, in Germany, we think that it's to be expected. Every cantina has a corner where only vegetarion food is sold, and every restaurant has a part on their menu that is labelled "vegetarian". If you send out wedding invitations with reply cards, you include a field where people can state whether they bring vegetarians with them (for the ease of planning the menus). Normal supermarkets also sell magazines for vegans. Also, companies proudly write it on their products if they're vegetarian or vegan.
Vegans have a worse stand than vegetarians, in my perception. They tend to be less accepted by society.
I learned that the word "vegetarian" is used in a bit different sense in some countries, so let me define it here once more.
A vegetarian in our sense of the word does not eat anything that comes from the dead body of an animal. No meat, no blood, and that inlcudes chicken, fish, so-called "sea fruit" and even insects.
A vegan does not eat anything that was produced by the "use" of animals. The most important difference therefore is: They don't drink milk, don't eat cheese/cream, and they don't eat eggs. Also honey, although I really do not understand that part. (Bees would be extinct in Europe if humans didn't keep them for honey. An illness kills them all.)
Thank you all for your contributions :)
Fenfen, that is sad :( Yes, eating in a purely vegan way can become unhealthy. There's a vitamin that we must eat (vitamin B12?) that only comes from animals if you don't make it in laboratories. If we lack it, we grow ill :( Vegans here eat it as a medicine of sorts. Iron would be a problem, too. (German law even forbids to raise a child with vegan food, it's too dangerous...)
I'm actually vegetarian, and it's a serious problem for me when I think about travelling. I knew it was an issue for Korea, but I hadn't heard much about Japan.
I would really love to go to Japan and Korea one day. For a couple of weeks each. It would be so great, so great!
Many people connect travelling with food. Getting a taste of the lives of the others by trying what they eat. And just letting the host country surprise you when they bring you food.
It's sad that I cannot do this. I can never close my eyes and jump into a bowl. But that is one thing... worse is...
If I was to go, I don't know how I should live there. I'm really a little scared. I know so little of their food, and so I cannot look at it and just guess if it's okay for me or not. And in case of doubt, I can't eat it. :( I get ideas of me all alone in a big city with restaurants and booths all around me and I cry and starve.
(Actually that's a situation that I've been in more than once, that's why. But I could always drive home at the end of the day. If I travel far, I can't.)
So I fear that before I go, I have to learn years worth of kitchen vocabulary and cooking habits. If I don't know what the words for ingredients mean, I can't even ask what something is made of.
This has been bothering me for so long... Well, maybe I just learn the names of three or four side-dishes that I can eat by heart and then I malnourish myself for a couple of weeks :D
I don't feel like I have a lot to contribute here, as everything Akera said about Germany applies to the U.S.A. as well. If you come to the U.S. expecting what he wrote about Germany, then you'll be good to go. The only difference is that certain vegetarians are okay with eating fish here too. Not all of them, it varies from person to person, but most vegetarian menus in restaurants don't include fish.
A popular alternative is Tofu, to which is sometimes added meat flavors. Again, some vegetarians are ok with this meat substitute, and some prefer to have tofu without the flavor. It feels like the vegetarians who don't mind fish or meat flavored tofu are not 'real' vegetarians, but that's a debate for another day, and I'm not qualified to judge.
I would also comment that in my experience, it feels like vegans are more common now than vegetarians, but they still have that negative connotation to them. But I don't live in the city, I'm many miles away from the nearest major city, so take my experience with a grain of salt.