No I Still Don’t Like Fish or Seafood – What I Wish People Understood

As a frequent traveler, one of the biggest issues I deal with is what I eat. I am a very picky eater; a confirmed carnivore my love of vegetables is weak at best and most notably, I don’t eat any fish or seafood. My fellow Americans may wonder why I phrase it that way, but I’ll get to that in a second. The point of this post is that even after years of writing about this issue I’m still faced with certain difficulties when I travel, and since I’ve heard from many people around the world who are just like me, I thought I’d write yet another post, this one a little more direct, in order to make my life and those like me a little bit easier when we travel the world.

Yes there are people who don’t like fish or seafood

As I have discovered, many people are shocked to the point that their mouth is literally agape when I tell them that I don’t like fish or seafood. I was just on a food tour and when a fellow participant heard me utter those words, her look made me feel like Quasimodo’s little brother. But we are here, we exist and as many emails from readers have shown me, there are a lot of us. The problem is that we are made to feel so bad about ourselves, that few of us come out as anti-pescatarians until we have to. Even then it’s said with an apology and a downward glance. But if I do anything in my life, I hope it’s to make others like me more accepted by the general fish-loving public.

Fish Taiwan

What we mean when we say we don’t like fish or seafood

It means we don’t like it, and this is where I get to that very specific phrasing “fish or seafood.” I was on a trip once and I had sent along my dietary requirement of No Seafood. Now, to an American that usually includes anything that was ever in the water, ever. Possible exceptions would include ducks or if a cow fell into a lake or something. But when translated, seafood in most other languages means fruits de mer, or delicacies like oysters, clams and so on. Fish is actually an entirely different category for them. I discovered this fun fact while on that aforementioned trip when my host proudly came out and said “So I heard you don’t like seafood – that’s fine!” (My heart jumps for joy) “Instead I have a beautiful whitefish for you!” (Heart sinks and I begin Googling the closest McDonald’s.) I learned a lot from that experience, including the importance of very specific language when speaking to people from other cultures but also to always use the phrasing “fish or seafood” when describing my hatred of all things watery.

Fish and Chips London UK

Yes I’ve tried that one dish you love more than life itself

The next part of the conversation that always happens after I first tell them I hate fish or seafood is, “But have you tried [insert amazing food you love here]? It’s important to say that my dislike of seafood isn’t out of disdain for you or a way to be a contrarian. I’m not trying to be a jerk; I just don’t like fish or seafood. Believe me, I want to. I see how you normal people all look when you bite into a lobster with clarified butter or a massive platter of fish and chips. I want to be like you, I want to enjoy shrimp, Mahi Mahi, oysters, all of it. I want to be there, believe me life would be far simpler. And indeed I have tried both fish and seafood in nearly every form, just in case there’s one form that it turns out I do like. But there isn’t and I don’t. Our tastes and likes in regards to food are largely dictated by genetics, not always by upbringing or cultural norms. I come from proud Mainer stock, people who love lobster more than there own children – and this is actually true. I was brought up around seafood lovers and yet here I am, hating fish and seafood as much as I do licorice or artichokes.

It’s ok that we exist

All of you fish and chip eating, shrimp buffet loving people need to give those of us who hate all of that a break. It is a constant struggle when I travel dealing with my fish issues. It’s not necessarily the hassle involved with finding something I can actually consume, I’ve been able to eat everywhere from remote towns in Taiwan to fishing villages along the coasts of Scandinavia. No, it’s not my ability to find something for dinner that bothers me, it’s the incessant nagging by other, seemingly well-intentioned, people who all but strap me down and force a Filet-O-Fish sandwich down my throat. We all have our little quirks, our idiosyncrasies in life so when you encounter someone who, like me, counts among them a fierce dislike of both fish and seafood do me a favor. Don’t say anything. And pass the Carpaccio.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

84 Responses

  1. Jack

    I understand you don’t like seafood, but that doesn’t make you any less wrong.

    Reply
  2. Jim

    My aversion to seafood is congenital. My mother said I spurned anything from the sea from when I was in a high chair onwards. My family were seafood lovers. Crab, squid, lobster, haddock, clams, you name it. Whether at home or in a restaurant, I, alone, had grilled cheese, spaghetti, a burger, corn flakes – anything but fish. I also find people being aghast when I tell them I don’t like seafood. They practically become apoplectic when I spurn lobster (I absolutely loathe the critters). I’ve been invited to crab dinners and ate only bread. I’m the rare person who visits Maine without coming close to anything containing lobster meat. So, as with others, I’ll often decline seafood protesting an “allergy.” I do regret this aversion as I recognize the health benefits of seafood. Pass the fish oil supplements, please.

    Reply
  3. XenaBard

    I am in complete agreement. I have never been able to eat fish – or eggs for that matter. My mother tried to feed them to me as a toddler and I would spit them out. I am 60 years old now, so I don’t think that’s going to change.

    I am not really a picky eater… I do like most vegetables. I only use meat bc I can’t afford to live healthily as a vegetarian ( which would be for humanitarian reasons.)

    The most current research suggests taste is a combination of genetics & environment. I suspect that’s accurate. While lots of kids go through a stage when they won’t eat things that appeal to adults, lifelong aversions seem to be inborn. My family loves eggs! And shellfish was a big deal – a special treat. To me it was gagworthy! While other ki

    Reply
  4. John

    I agree, I hate all seafood – and fish. This is the second time I read this article over the years. Occasionally I wonder why anyone likes seafood. It’s disgusting to me. Smells bad, tastes bad. All of it. Growing up I just said I was allergic, saved me a lot of hassle.

    Give me some beef, chicken, dairy, some form of healthy carbs, and maybe some broccoli and cheese and I’m happy. With seasonings of course 🙂

    Reply
  5. Dave

    I am so repulsed by seafood that I almost gagged – more than once – while reading this thoughtful piece. Like the writer, my relationship with vegetables is weak as well.
    I wonder if there is a connection … beyond the predictable disdain my eating habits elicit from others: “You don’t eat fish? You don’t eat vegetables either? What do you eat?”
    Apparently a lot. As our other options are fairly endless, when you think about it.
    So often my inquisitors are the same folks, who earlier in the conversation might have asked:
    “Have you lost weight?”
    Or mentioned: “You sure look young for your age.” (I am 67).
    “Well, for one thing,” I tell them, “I don’t eat fish, seafood or many vegetables.”
    And, “Yes,” I do believe there is a connection.”

    Reply

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