Life would be so much easier if everyone liked to eat everything or could eat everything. I know my life would, but, like many people, there are some things that I don’t like and others I can’t eat because I am allergic. There are so many dietary requirements in one’s life that you have to be careful, especially when you are not cooking yourself. When you go to a restaurant and order something, it is hard to know what ingredients they use exactly.
It is ok! You don’t really have to eat EVERYTHING there is. There are several reasons why someone doesn’t eat a specific type of food. It could be allergic reactions, religious reasons or simply because you don’t like it.
I hate it when I start eating something and all of the sudden my entire body starts itching because of something I ate (a lot of times I don’t even know what exactly). Others react very differently from me. Sometimes you could have a serious reaction to it, so you have to be careful.
Vegetarian / Vegan
Many of us have chosen to live a certain lifestyle and we all have to respect it. Vegetarian restaurants are really common in Vietnam, as there is a large Buddhist population. It means that being a vegetarian is not a big deal!
It is important to know the Vietnamese word for vegetarian (chay) and that would get you through. You can make any Vietnamese dish into a vegetarian dish like phở chay, bánh xèo chay, hủ tiếu chay, cà ri chay, and so on. Or say “Tôi ăn chay”, which means “I’m vegetarian” or, if you are a vegan, “Tôi là người ăn chay trường”.
In some religions, certain animals are sacred like the cow in Hinduism. In other cases, for example in Islam is forbidden to eat pork.
But also in Judaism you can find dietary restrictions. Jews are only allowed to eat Kosher.
Or if you simply don’t like a certain time of food you just simply say “I don’t eat (type of food)” in Vietnamese “Tôi không (…)”. For example,
There are many other dietary requirements and restrictions. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You never know if you like something if you haven’t tried it!
…and in your host family
Being vegetarian in China is not that easy sometimes, especially if you don’t speak Chinese. As I already wrote in an earlier blog, you always have the possibility to go to a vegetarian restaurant, like Crystal Lotus in Qingdao.
While students, who are living in apartments can cook for themselves and normally don’t have too much explaining to do for their roommates (being a veggie in western countries is not that exciting and unusual anymore I hope), students who are living in a host family might encounter some problems. Not eating meat AND seafood/fish is not common in China. Families with a Buddhist background might understand you better, but they are comparably scarce. But still, there is no need to be afraid if you bring a little patience and stick to some advice I am about to give. 😉 So here it is, a mini-guideline about things you should pay a little attention to when you come to China and want people to accept you (r vegetariarism):
1) Don’t expect your family to understand about animal rights or anything like that. It is a concept which is more or less not existent in China and Chinese will have their difficulties to understand you. Easiest way might be to say that you just like animals very much and that’s why you don’t want to eat them.
2) Also don’t try to explain your views with harsh comparisons. It might be ok in Europe if you asked a hard-core omni if he would want to eat his own dog, but you won’t be making friends with your host family with comparisons like this. It only gives people the feeling to be ‘bad’/have lower morals than you and you wouldn’t want that.
3) Many host families know that there are vegetarians in western countries. And your host family will know from your homestay application form. They will try to understand and even cook special meals for you. Just don’t be disappointed if there is at least the same amount of meat dished as there are veggies on the table. They might want to offer you meat dishes now and then. Again, don’t be disappointed they just mean well and are worried about your nutrition. 😉
4) Your host family might be afraid to not know what to cook for you. While breakfast it normally not really a problem, dinner might be. Assure them that you eat eggs (if you do) and are fine with carbohydrates (meaning rice and noodles) and vegetables. Tell them what vegetables you like (e.g. broccoli, mushrooms or aubergine…) and demonstrate how full you are after dinner (rub your belly ;-)). They will be happy that you are happy and also will be a little closer to understand that not eating meat doesn’t mean to go hungry all the time.
5) You might be asked quite often what you actually eat at home, so best have a few examples ready of what you normally cook or even show them pictures. (Hello intercultural exchange: Yes, we do really eat that…no, it really tastes great ;-))
6) It will help a lot if you can lower your principles a little and eat dishes where meat and vegetables are mixed. You can pick the meat out and just eat the green stuff. It will in general make your life a lot easier.
7) Tofu!!! It’s like one of the best inventions ever – and it’s Chinese. Some people might have forgotten, but Chinese cuisine can offer the biggest variety of vegetarian dishes in the world!
Long distance flights are an annoying thing, especially if you can image so many other things you could do while sitting 10 unknown hours on an airplane, not knowing what to do. Many friends of mine were never on a flight longer than 3 hours. While staying in Europe, you can get to most destinations without having to spend a lot of time, even to countries like Tunisia you only need three hours.
So for those of you, who have never been on a long distance flight and for those, who dread them everytime they come up somewhere in the near future, our whole Intern China Team sat together and thought of their best tips for long flights. We hope you enjoy reading and have a relaxed flight to China! So…
…what do the interns say?
Dani Fernandez (Zhuhai):
1) Her first and most important tip is to not get a lot (or best any) sleep the night before your flight. You will be so tired during the flight, that you’ll just fall asleep, even though the seat might be uncomfortable.
2) Take your favorite entertainment options with you, and best more than one (e.g. books, music, games).
3) Choose an aisle seat, so you can stretch your legs a little more (and it’s a lot easier to get up in the night to walk around a little or go to the toilet).
4) Take a scarf, hoodie or jumper on board with you, in case the airline doesn’t give you a blanket and you don’t want to wear an uncomfortable jacket/coat for the whole flight.
Hanna Sand (Qingdao):
1) Most important thing for me is to have a good and fully charged battery for my netbook (tablet or laptop will do as well I guess ;)) and a hard-drive fully loaded with TV shows and films. The thing is, after finding my seat on an airplane, the first thing I do is check out the on-board TV. It’s a serious process because I start making a ‘schedule’ for the whole 12 hours (or however long I will be on the airplane). Sometimes I work out a really good programme and then I just fall asleep, which is the best thing that can happen really. But normaly it isn’t that easy, so I have my TV programme. After being happy with my plan for the next 12 hours, being able to watch all the movies I didn’t have time to see in cinema, the person in front of me starts moving their seat to the back which makes watching movies uncomfortable or I realize that the screen’s quality is actually not best or well, I never end up watching on board TV because something always happens…and that’s when I remember that I took my netbook, its 9.5h battery and a bunch of TV shows and films with me…Have a good flight! 😉
1.1) In addition to my tip above, don’t take sad movies with you, if you cry easily. Your stewardess and your neighbour in the seat next to you will be slightly confused if you look at them with red, teary eyes.
2) Choose your own seat! It’s possible with most airlines to log in online up to 36hours before departure and choose your own seat. Like Dani, I would choose an aisle seat since it’s easier to stretch legs, move around and go to the toilet.
3) Wear comfortable clothes! Nothing is worse than short skirts and tight pants on an airplane.
4) Order a special meal before your flight, if you need one (e.g. Vegetarian, Halal, Low carb, Vegan). Just getting a piece of bread in 12hours, while everyone else is eating is not sooo funny. (Therefore, Veggies, don’t fly with Aeroflot, they don’t like Vegetarians and ordering a special meal doesn’t help…).
Lisa Samani (Qingdao):
1) Our fashionista-intern Lisa’s most important tip is to not wear high heels on the airplane or any uncomfortable clothes at all, since you want shoes and clothes you can pull and carry your luggage with. You should also not wear any make up. It’s bad for your skin and the on board air is very very dry. So best just take some lotion with you that keeps your skin moist.
2) Bring your own food! Airplane food is not always good, and if you’re a vegetarian for example and forgot to order a special meal, you won’t be able to eat much.
3) Sleep on the airplane, but not before your flight! And remember to take a tooth brush with you, nothing is more disgusting than waking up in the morning and not being able to brush your teeth. 😉
4) Change your seat. You can always change your seat when all passengers are on board and if you see a free row at the back: Go for it!
Jonathan Libis (Qingdao):
1) Jonathan is not really concerned about long distance flights, since he can sleep almost everywhere. He only advises you to bring your MP3-Player and something easy to read. Just try to sleep and wear comfortable clothes.
And today’s special guest…
Frank Lenhardt (Co-Founder of InternChina):
1) The first and most important thing for Frank is to book and choose your seat in advance, so you don’t have to sit somewhere in the middle. Even AirChina allows you to do so, so don’t waste your chance to get a good seat!
2) Here is Frank’s ultimate luggage trick: If you have too much luggage, let your parents or friends wait with your actual carry-on baggage. Then go to check-in and ask them if you could – because it’s sooooo much more convenient – also drop of your hand luggage. They won’t know that it’s actually your parents having your hand luggage and you got a few more free kilos!
Being a Vegetarian in China can sometimes be a daunting “task”. You’re living in a country where there is meat in almost every dish and people are normally not too understanding about not eating meat. But you are also in the country that invented tofu, the country that has fresh vegetables in most dishes AND a variety of dishes which seems to be incomparable to what we have in Europe!
I have been a vegetarian for more than 13 years now, including not eating any seafood, fish and hardly any eggs, and I have travelled to China quite often as well. If you don’t speak any Chinese, it might be difficult for you to make yourself understood about your wishes. So in the following weeks, I want to share some of my tips and tricks on how to get around as a vegetarian without having to abandon too many of your principles and still being able to go out with your internship company colleagues, with us for our weekly Intern China dinners, with friends and of course with your host family. 🙂
Today I want to introduce the easiest way for having a really nice dinner in Qingdao: We have a Vegetarian restaurant called “Crystal Lotus Vegetarian Diet & Tea House, 清水连素膳茗坊” (No. 6 Yan’erdaolu, 燕尔岛路6号 ).
“Crystal Lotus” is definitely not one of the cheapest restaurants, I have to admit. But it’s located in central Qingdao, easy to find, really good looking cosy furniture and an amazing service. The first time I went there, I waited outside for a friend and they asked me to come inside, have some tea and warm up. They are really nice and welcoming; as soon as my friend came they brought us to a free table. The menu is great, a lot of pictures (if you can’t read any Chinese), you get everything from starters over mock-meat Beijing duck to soup and “dessert”. The waitress was very kind and attentive, and also asked if we can eat onions, garlic, coriander and ginger.
If you are still new to Qingdao, this should be one of the first places to go, since you won’t have any unpleasant surprises here!