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Food 101

How to Say “Vegetarian” in 10 Asian Languages

You may have no problem ordering your favorite entrée sans meat in America, but step outside the USA and it could be challenging to maintain a vegetarian diet while working or traveling overseas—especially in Asia, where dozens of languages are spoken. Since being vegetarian is pretty popular at home and abroad, we asked native speakers how to tell a restaurant server that you don’t eat meat.

1.    Cantonese
Where you’ll hear it: Cantonese is the official language of Hong Kong and Macau. It’s also spoken throughout China. The largest numbers of Cantonese speakers outside of Asia are located in the United States and Canada.
How to say that you’re a vegetarian in Cantonese: 我食齋 (ngóh sihk jāai)

2.    Mandarin
Where you’ll hear it: Spoken throughout most of northern and southwestern China, Mandarin, or Standard Chinese, is the official langue in China, Taiwan, and Singapore.
How to say that you’re a vegetarian in Mandarin: 我吃素 (wo chi su)

3.    Japanese
Where you’ll hear it: Japan’s official language is also recognized as an official language in Palau.
How to say that you’re a vegetarian in Japanese: ベジタリアンです(Bejitarian desu)

4.    Hindi
Where you’ll hear it: Hindi is the official language of India and spoken throughout the country. You’ll also hear it in communities within South Africa, the United States, Canada, and Nepal.
How to say that you’re a vegetarian in Hindi: main śākāhārī

5.    Vietnamese
Where you’ll hear it: Not surprisingly, Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam and spoken throughout the northern and southern parts of the country.
How to say that you’re a vegetarian in Vietnamese: toi an chay (toy ahn jay)

6.    Thai
Where you’ll hear it: The official language of Thailand is also spoken in northern Malaysia, Cambodia, southern Burma, and Laos.
How to say that you’re a vegetarian in Thai: ฉันมังสวิรัติ (chun mang-sa-wirat)  

7.     Korean
Where you’ll hear it: Korean is an official language in North Korea, South Korea, and China and spoken throughout these countries.
How to say that you’re a vegetarian in Korean: 저 는 채 식 가 입 니다 (vjuh-nun jaeshikgaimnida)

8.    Malay
Where you’ll hear it: Recognized as an official language in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Singapore, Malay is also spoken in East Timor and on Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.
How to say that you’re a vegetarian in Malay: Saya seorang vegetarian

9.    Tagalog
Where you’ll hear it: One of two official languages in the Philippines (the other is English), Tagalog (or Filipino), is the first language of one-third of the population in the Philippines and a second language to nearly everyone else.
How to say that you’re a vegetarian in Tagalog:
"Hindi ako kumakain ng karne o ano pa mang pagkain na may karne.” translates to “I do not eat any meat or any other food with meat in it.'
"Puro gulay o frutas lang ang kinakain ko." translates to “I only eat vegetables and fruit.”
"Walang karne sa dieta ko.” translates to “There's no meat in my diet.”

10.    Indonesian
Where you’ll hear it: The official language of Indonesia is also spoken in East Timor.
How to say that you’re a vegetarian in Indonesian: Saya tidak makan daging

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