Hey guys! So, I've been vegetarian for about two years now, and vegan for a year and some-odd months. I'm planning on studying abroad [college] next spring (long ways away, but I have to apply for the program soon so I began seriously thinking about this stuff). I want to go to France--I am a French major and speak the language fluently. I visited once before, when I was still an omnivore, and enjoyed it a lot. However, since I'm now a pretty strict vegan, I'm not sure how accommodating I'm going to find it.
My school offers two programs: Paris and Nantes. I'm planning on applying to the Paris program, in part because one of the living options there is a single apartment where you prepare all your own meals (the other option, the only option for the Nantes program, is a homestay with several meals per week with the host family). Does anyone have any tips or suggestions for living and eating abroad while on a vegan diet? I'm hoping if I am preparing my own meals and have access to grocery stores/fresh markets I'll be able to eat pretty well, but what about while traveling other places in Europe?
Paris is pretty cosmopolitan, so you could probably get by easier than out in the provinces. Eating in restaurants is still going to be a challenge. I don't know Nantes in particular, but I definitely would not expect the Loire Valley region to be particularly vegan friendly. They will have fresh markets, but it's hard to get past the cultural emphasis on dairy and meats in french cuisine.
Plus, the french are awfully (and let's face it, rightfully) proud of their food. I wouldn't put yourself in a position where you're having to turn a lot of it down ... it's just too insulting to your host.
My vote would be Paris. You can always take the train out to the Loire Valley if you don't want to miss it!
I lived in France for 6 months as a vegan, and I lived there before for 9 months as an omnivore. I lived in the Southwest in a moderately sized city. For eating out options, you will have a garden salad. If you go for fast food, the kabob place might have falafel, but its certified veganness will be questionable.
In the supermarket, go to the Biologique aisel. There will be a lot more vegan choices. I would shop in the biggest supermarket like Auchan because you will be able to balance price with variety. There will be smaller organic shops that will have your specialty vegan items, but they are really really expensive. The best place to get tofu is at the Asian market. I would buy produce from the farmer's market. Its way cheaper and yummier.
If you eat at a local french person's house, they might have something without meat in it, like a side dish, but you will probably be stuck with a garden salad and bread.
If you want a more international feel with more English speakers, go to Paris. If you want to get to know the real France, go to Nantes. It will be harder in Nantes, but carrying snacks around with you all the time might be worth the authentic experience.
As I said before, I lived as vegan there, and I survived. You just have to take it as it comes, be prepared, and not be picky.
Hi there. I agree with zeuscannon's assertion that the "bio" aisle of the supermarket is a great place to source vegan comestibles. My local Carrefour market (I live in Paris) offers tofu, vegan pate, a few different vegan cookies, and lots of savory treats in this section that are free of animal ingredients. In the regular aisles, I can find quinoa, rice/soy/almond milk, soy yogurts and puddings, and plenty of other vegan foods. You definitely won't starve as a vegan, either in Nantes or Paris. In every city of any size, there are natural food stores (chains like Naturalia, Bio-Coop, and Bio Generation, as well as indie stores) where you can find things like soy yogurt, fake meats, organic produce, bulk items (grains and other things), and even faux fromages, if you're into that sort of thing. Nearly every town/city has a weekly or even daily outdoor market where you can find all your fresh produce, usually very inexpensively. Boulangeries offer several different varieties of fresh-baked bread, and you can find things like hummus and other spreads in middle eastern/north african markets that are ubiquitous here.
As for eating out, you'll always be able to find something at Asian "traiteurs" (little Chinese/thai eateries), Indian and Italian restaurants (hurray for cheeseless pizza!), North African eateries, and those kebab places. The only place it's mildly challenging is at traditional brasseries, where you might have to rely on frites and a salad (ask for vinaigrette, because they generally squeeze some creamy sort of dressing on that probably isn't vegan).
FYI, I'm the author of the just-released Moon Living Abroad in France guide and forthcoming Vegan France guide [LINK REMOVED]. I hope these resources will help you as you settle here!
Bon courage and have fun!
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