I went back home in April for the first time since I came to Sweden. A question that many friends asked me was how it was being vegetarian in Sweden. I was quite surprised that it was such a big concern for so many people. But then I did some research and found that Sweden is actually a good place to be as a vegetarian!
30%-40% of the population in India actually vegetarian, which is the highest in the world. Sweden is also very high on the list as well with a recent survey showing that 10% of the population being vegan or vegetarian. For a quick comparison vegetarians and vegans in Germany are 9%, Italy 10%, USA 3.2%, Denmark 1.5%, Norway 2%. So, to be honest, it wasn’t very difficult for me to find vegetarian food or “vegetariska mat”.
Swedes pay a lot of attention to environmental impacts and more and more Swedes are becoming vegans as they understand the influence of consuming animal products on nature. This means that it is common to find vegetarian versions of traditional Swedish food as well. One can find vegetarian meatballs (I don’t like all this but well…) and we had a large assortment of vegetarian food at the Julbord as well. Julbord, a traditional Christmas table, usually has a ton of meat!
Swedes also value personal freedom and choice. They respect it, which means that every ‘social’ event takes into account everyone’s preferences for food. My friends also make special efforts to ensure there is some vegetarian variant of their recipe when I am invited over for traditional cooking 🙂
Coming from India, I was used to finding labels like these on packed food to help me identify vegetarian food in grocery stores :
But here in Sweden identifying vegetarian food was a bit more tricky. The precooked frozen food didn’t have any labels. I struggled for the first week or so. Sometimes they have this thing that says “Suitable for vegetarians”, but now I know most of the Swedish names for ingredients and I ask the staff when I am doubtful. There has never been a dearth of options at grocery stores though.
So in conclusion, you’ll have a wide variety of vegetarian food to choose from, may meet interesting people with similar values at a vegetarian restaurant and people will generally value the fact that you abstain from eating meat.
In case you love eating meat though, head here to read Angelina’s tips about finding meat in Sweden!