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Author Topic: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help  (Read 7398 times)

Offline w4z

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Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« on: December 02, 2010, 01:34:31 PM »
My wife and I are both vegetarians.  We will hopefully be moving to Korea in March which is very exciting for us.  Being n00bz, I was curious if anyone had any advice for us?  Maybe some phrases to use.  I'm confident that we can adapt, but I'd really like to learn some phrases or common terms in regards to vegetarianism.  I know it's not widely practiced in Korea, but anything that can help.

Thanks!
w4z

Offline jehall

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2010, 01:39:15 PM »
굴기 너치마세요. (not sure about this spelling)
(Gul-gi  no-chi-ma-se-yo)
No meat please. Gulgi = meat  nochimaseyo = without

굴기 안먹어요.
(gulgi an-meo-geo-yo)
I don't eat meat.

My gf is a vegetarian and it's a bit of a struggle. Everything has meat pretty much. And if it doesn't it was cooked in meat broth. You can find stuff but it's just not that common to be a vegetarian. You might be grocery shopping a lot, which isn't the best because vegetables are so expensive.

Offline jehall

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2010, 01:43:38 PM »
oops 고기 (go-gi) not 굴기 (gul-gi)

Offline asabranca

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2010, 01:47:39 PM »
I was a vegetarian up until I moved to Korea this August.  I personally found it too difficult to be a vegetarian here but I have a friend who is an EPIK teacher in my town.  She has managed to live here as a vegetarian for almost a year -- albeit not without a few exceptions and some flexibility here and there.

One of the only truly vegetarian dishes that is ubiquitous in restaurants around the country is called "bebimbap."  Even if you ask for a dish without meat (gogi), there is a high likelihood that the dish contains at least traces of meat -- minced up and mixed in, cooked in a meat broth, etc.  Sometimes, even when you ask for no meat, they will throw a bit in anyway for good measure.

One thing to note:  most Koreans do not consider fish or seafood to be non-vegetarian.  Also, some do not consider chicken (tak) to be "gogi."  Just some things to keep in mind...

Good luck on staying away from meat!  If you're ever in southwestern Gangwon province, let me know and we can enjoy a homemade vegetarian dish together!  :-)

Offline jille86

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2010, 02:01:27 PM »
I've been here for the past 16 months and am a vegetarian (do eat seafood tho). It's pretty hard to be vegan here (although I had a friend who was), but if you eat fish/eggs/dairy it's not so bad. I think my vegan friend ended up spending a bit more money shopping at the foreign food stores/costco to accomodate her needs.

To warn you, people who can speak English (co-workers, friends) will ALWAYS ask why, so just be prepared for that. Even when you say why, they may not quite understand your reasoning if it's anything other than religion.

If you're living in Seoul (or probably Busan/Daegu/Daejeon), you'll have a much less difficult time eating veg as it's a big city with plenty of options and different types of cuisine. If you're living in a small town, it will be more difficult.

That being said, I'm sure I've unknowingly eaten meat once or twice in my stay here. As far as foods that are edible for us veggies, Korean temple type foods are an excellent choice since they're all vegetarian. 국수, 돌솥비빔밥,수제비,순두부찌개 are usually vegetarian, BUT the one thing I can never be certain of is the broth they're cooked in.... :( OH and there's this restaurant called "Loving Hut" which is a chain of vegan restaurants that's in most of the major cities in Korea. They also sell some veggies stuff so you could cook at home.
Good luck!

Offline JDK

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2010, 02:23:21 PM »
I've been living in Seoul for the last few months and am vegan. Not super easy, but not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. The above mentioned "Loving Huts" and foreign food shops help. Also, I eat a lot of bibimbap, deokboki, tofu soup, deokgochi, kimbap etc. temple areas often have veggie restaurants. there are some great buffets for 10-15000. I am primarily speaking of Seoul, though. My diet is the main reason I'm here instead of elsewhere in Korea.

Offline katrine

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2010, 02:56:26 PM »
I'm down in Gwangju, and while the first three months were REALLY hard to be vegetarian, I've worked out a system for me and have adjusted just fine. I bring my lunch to school, and eat with all the other co-teachers, or sometimes I'll bring veggies and seaweed, and do makeshift kimbab (rolled sushi) in the cafeteria. The teachers at my school were really curious, but they've gotten used to it. I explained to them why I don't eat meat, and after they asked enough questions to really understand it, they could respect it.

Outside of school I don't eat a lot of Korean food. Like others have said, it's filled with hidden meat. If you're interested in Korean food, it's quite easy to a lot of vegetarian versions of the dishes at home--I LOVE making mushroom tofu soup. I've found that if you're willing to explore, you'll find some little western restaurant that either has vegetarian dishes on the menu, or they'll be willing to make it vegetarian for you. A sandwich shop near my school has a potato, veggie and bacon sandwich, but they know when I come in, to take out the bacon for me.

All in all, it requires a lot of patience. Understand that they're going to be nosy and curious, and that they might mess up your order sometimes, but they're never malicious. If you explain why you can't eat it, it'll be fine.

Another helpful phrase: 고기 빼고 주세요 (please remove the meat)

Offline KiwiInKorea

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2010, 03:05:43 PM »
고기 안먹어요 said with a goofy apologetic smile usually works for me  :)
Cooking at home is simple, there are heaps of vegies and other ingredients to work with. However, if you're eating out it is quite tricky to avoid dishes which are completely non-vegetarian due to beef stock/fish sauce etc.

Definitely bibimbap, rice cake, kimbap (ask for no meat otherwise it'll come with glorious spam) and tofu based soups are good for starters and once you build a rapport with the local restaurant cooks, they remember that you're the weird foreigner who always asks for no meat/fish  ;D

One question though, do you know where you'll be based? I'm in a rural town which has made it a lot harder for choices when going to restaurants. Not to mention, a lot of my co-teachers don't understand the concept of why I would want to be vegetarian so my eating habits are quite amusing to them. I would recommend living in a big city. Once you do find out where you will be, check out if they have a list of vegie restaurants. I know there's a vegetarian facebook page for Jeonju which shows the location of different places that you can buy fresh food.

Lastly, when you arrive you will probably be invited to a multitude of welcome dinners which are awesome for meeting new colleagues! :) Because meals are communal here, it does mean though that if the dish they've ordered for has meat (and it will most likely be sangyupsal), that you'll be sticking mainly to the side dishes (of which there are plently). You might want to start thinking of ways that you and your wife can politely explain your eating habits without coming off as offensive or fussy.

Offline mr sam teacher

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2010, 03:59:37 PM »
 :) My wife was a vegetarian in the states for several years before we came back here. She gave up eventually. Every time we'd eat with the family, her mother would give her meat. My wife would say, "No Oma, I don't eat meat." And Oma would say, "I know, but just eat a little bit. Just take a bite." It's almost impossible to explain what vegetarianism is all about. But as a foreigner, I'm sure you can get away with it if you try to explain it. I like Katrine's idea of bringing your own lunch and eating with the coteachers. Eating together is so huge here, so if you're not careful you may come across as being "too good for the cafeteria," which of course is not at all what you're trying to say. If you bring your lunch, try to bring some homemade vegetarian Korean dishes, your coteachers will really be happy that you are eating Korean food (bring some to share, too!). My wife has tons of recipes, but they're all in Korean. I'll see if she can put some together in English...
Good luck! I'm sure that if you bring the right attitude you'll do fine!

Offline mr sam teacher

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2010, 05:46:04 PM »
My wife just gave me this blog by a vegan in Seoul: http://www.aliensdayout.com/


Offline w4z

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2010, 07:49:36 PM »
Wow! :o  So many great suggestions!  Thank you guys.

Offline Paul

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2010, 08:56:46 AM »
As you are arriving in March, I'm going to go assume you'll be in the public sector. As such, at work during lunch:

1) Tell the dietician (she's the one serving food in a lab coat as opposed to workclothes)고기 안먹어요 (gogi anmogoyo: MEAT! I don't eat that stuff.) and look sad and see what you get. Personally, I get rice with 3 little packs of green tea flavoured seaweed if the meal is meat heavy as an apology. Joy.

2) Don't expect this information to become common knowledge amongst the lunchladies, so ask each in turn about what they're serving with 고기 있어요? (gogi issoyo?: MEAT! Got any in it?, note that questions have rising intonation like English). 아냐요 (aniyo) is no. That catch-all word gogi may not apply to seafood however, but it does cover fish.

3) Kimchi (sans that from the Loving Hut) and most other things here do contain trace amounts of seafood broth. This is rather unavoidable.

3) Sometimes you'll get surprise ham. Surprise! :D
In East Asia, ham is often deemed a condiment. 햄 있어요? (haem issoyo?: Ham! Got any in it?, note ham is pronounced in a strong US accent) is a handy phrase.
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Offline ladystokes

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2010, 09:35:29 AM »
I'm also vegan.  But please BEWARE, 99% of the soups have meat broth in them... and also Vegemil, the lone brand soy milk in most stores, isn't even vegetarian, let alone vegan.  Vegemil has vitamin D3 in its ingredients.... derived from lanolin (sheep) or fish.  Talk about a shock when I discovered this.  So now I have to bring some containers from Loving Hut (a few of them sell vegan soy milk in small containers...usually they're so sweet though) out to the countryside where I teach as I don't live in a big city and quite far from Seoul.  I also mail order loaves of different kinds of bread from Veggie Holic...(veg friendly bakery/coffee place; 90% of their stuff is vegan...) They sell pretty good kinds and they're bigger and less expensive than those from Sticky Fingers (vegan chain bakery store originally from Washington DC and you can find these places dotted around Seoul mostly in department stores...) 

Veggie Holic is located in Hongkik... www.veggieholic.kr.co

There's also a vegan-friendly cafe in Hyewha... Cafe Mano.  Check that out too. 

There are numerous Loving Huts in Korea now.... 6-7 of them in the Seoul area including Itaewon.  The hot drinks there are tasty!  I especially like the hot choc. in the Itaewon restaurant compared to the ones in Veggie Holic or the Sinchon Loving Hut restaurant. 

Most of the breads are not vegan either so you'd have to get them from veg cafes... Paris Baguette does not sell vegan loaves of bread.

Offline ladystokes

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Offline mdeek

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2010, 10:05:41 AM »
Don't let the nay-sayers get you down about eating vegetarian in Korea. Yes it is true about the broths when eating out. But let's be honest, it's not soup broths that are the driving force behind factory farming and overconsumption of meat products. However, if you are adamant then it will just be more cooking and less spending!

I have found the outdoor markets 시장 'Shi Jang' to be incredible here. Vegetables are not that expensive (contrary to jehall's advice ^), and certainly no more than what you would pay at home for most things. This is of course when you buy things IN season.. but that's common sense. I was never a huge tofu fan but the fresh stuff is so delicious here (a large block for 1,500won). You can find all kinds of beans and grains in these market places as well.

I think you'll do well here and there is plenty of room for growth and learning with cooking! Enjoy and keep on keepin' on ;)

Offline kaymac

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2010, 10:16:13 AM »
I live in a small city four hours from seoul and there are vegetarian buffet restaurants scattered around. One way I've heard of foreigners getting around the vegetarian disbelief with co-teachers was to say "meat allergy". I guess again it all comes down to how strict a vegetarian you are. A number of teachers at my school don't really eat pork, there are always other options it seems. If you are pescetarian (i don't know how to spell that) you should be ok. A ton of soups in Korea use anchovy broth as a base. Definitely try to eat with your other teachers when you can, odds are you can find a veggie restaurant too so a good idea would be to take your co-teacher out to a restaurant like that. I'm not a vegetarian anymore though I was when I was younger, my teachers know though that I LOVE veggies so they've made it a point to take me out to veggie restaurants. They do baked tofu awesome here too, I should add. Often they do an egg-dipped sauteed tofu that I pretty much had to learn how to make, so delicious. Good luck with your move. If you are interested in learning how to cook Korean dishes, you will easily be able to mod them to be being vegan. A suggestion I have for you is to bring ingredients that are hard to come by here, or exorbitantly expensive. One way to find out those is to go on some of the foreign food websites here and look what's for sale. Good luck!

Offline OThePestO

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2010, 10:47:02 AM »
Look for Indian restaurants/shops or get an Indian cookbook, lots of Indian foods are veggie/vegan.

Offline tomcarr

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #18 on: May 03, 2012, 08:03:41 AM »
Like some have pointed out, it really isn't a big deal being vegetarian in Korea (well, Seoul at least). In Seoul there are many veg/vegan restaurants and if you have to eat out with some non-veg locals, you can always ask to take the meat out. I've done this a few times so far and have had no bad experiences. Bibimbap is awesome, and there are these Korean porridge restaurants around that have a lot of vege options. Plus if you count all the foreign restaurants such as Italian, Indian, Mexican or whatever, there are loads of options.

And about Koreans attitude towards being vegetarian, sure they are curious, but I find their reaction to be favourable to the reactions I got at home in Australia.

Offline chasmmi

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Re: Vegetarianism + Language barrier help
« Reply #19 on: May 03, 2012, 01:01:16 PM »
Being vegetarian in KOrea is not too hard no, but being vegetarian and going out with friends is difficult.

If there are 12 of you and 11 want samgyeopsal, are you really going to force them all to come along to the restaurant that sells nothing but tofu and vegetables (nomatter how good it may be).

And if the answer to the above is yes, you expect the above to happen every time you go out with them? Or even 10% of the time or more?


You may do well to learn a few phrases to work around the meat restaurants menus?