Thus far, being a vegetarian in a foreign country has been tedious (I have to answer quite a few questions!) but quite easy. Here are a few tricks I have picked up in my last two weeks!
1. Embrace Merienda
Merienda is awesome. In fact, it is so great that there is literally a verb meaning “to snack”(merenadar)! In my house, merienda is normally around 6 or 7, but in some places it can happen as early as 4 or as late as 8:30. Merienda is typically vegetarian, so it is a nice time to fill up on some quality vegetarian sandwiches and cereal. My favorite food to take for merienda is this amazing chocolate filled biscuit cereal thing, called Chocoflakes. Natalia, my host sister, likes them with milk, but I love eating them like cookies.
2. When vegetarian tapas are available, take them!
Even if you are not hungry. People normally go out for tapas at the beginning of the night, leaving hours of dancing and activity ahead. Normally, a light hor d'oeuvres will be served later, but in my experience it has often been ham. Therefore, it is best to take advantage of the food at the tapas bar before continuing your night, as there may not be another source of food until breakfast the next morning.
3. Understand that some foods may have different tastes here in Spain
Due to different preparations, some food abroad may taste different than in your home city/state/country. For example, I have disliked every preparation of eggs I have had in America (quiche, frittata, scrambled, poached). But here, Tortilla Espanola, a dish made from eggs, lightly fried potatoes, and onions is my favorite!! For example, here is yesterdays lunch: tortilla, bread, and fresh bread. Yum!
5. Accept that most people will not understand your vegetarianism, but most are just curious
In most of Europe, vegetarians are far and few between. In my experience, people are mostly ok with the concept of not eating meat--they are just really confused by it. One girl gave me a little lecture about how by not eating ham, I was disrespecting all life had to offer. I kind of stood there awkwardly not knowing how to defend myself in Spanish. When I got home, I researched some words pertaining vegetarianism. Other than that, people have been really sweet about it. I went to a birthday party this Saturday and the mom prepared a tortilla just for me. I loved it!! Also, my host family has been amazing and super accommodating about it.
6. Remember that people here want you to enjoy Spanish food!
People here want you to learn about the culture and feel satisfied! They want you to eat food that you enjoy. Therefore, if you say you like something, you are going to be eating quite a lot of it. For example, I am not a big fan of peppers. They are just a little to strong for me, but unfortunately, due to a translation error, I accidentally told my host dad I liked peppers. Therefore, I started getting them for lunch almost every other day. Luckily, pimientos de padron are an acquired taste and I love them now.