Once you decide to live vegan you’ll find new favorite foods. You’ll find out what you like and don’t like to eat. You’ll find great new food options on menus and in your grocery store. The food part gets easier and easier. And you’ll find that navigating health concerns wasn’t such a big deal after all. That’s easy too.
But then there may be the sideways glances, rolling eyes, and the questions-questions-questions asked by family, friends, and coworkers. Some people ask with excitement, wonder, or genuine concern. Others ask to challenge your commitment to compassion and justice. It’s not always easy.
Let’s make it easier. Social Settings offers some interesting insights we’ve discovered along the way, a few easy tips for your social tool belt, and a helpful reminder to stay true to yourself and kind to others.
If you’re the only one in your family or group of friends who is vegan, you may feel social pressures to conform (see Social Pressures).
These pressures are especially strong in small groups like family and friends where the group, consciously or unconsciously, attempts to protect the intimate social fabric of the group. New ideas and new behaviors can feel threatening to a small group because there is a fear that the group will dismantle. The unspoken fear is that the culture of the group will change or end, traditions may change or end, belief systems will be challenged, and even social structures might change. None of these things need interrupt happy families or end friendships.
If you’re out on the town discovering vegan food on your own or with your vegan friends, there’s no need to over-prepare. But if you’re going out with friends or family who are not vegan or you’re having a planned business lunch, it makes sense to explore your vegan options before you go out to eat. There are several websites offering reviews of thousands of restaurants — even fast-food chains. Explore Helpful Resources for more links or get started at HappyCow.net and National Chain Vegan Guide.
Here are some tips to make dining out enjoyable for everyone involved:
Talk about pressure to conform! School can be one long social challenge. From kindergarten to graduate studies, school is fraught with demands to perform in certain ways at certain times with certain people. As much as school is a place for learning, it’s also a place for socialization – that is, school plays a large role in teaching us how to be part of society.
Living vegan is not (yet) the norm. It is counter-culture. That is, it runs counter to current agreed-upon norms of society — specifically that using and eating animals and animal products is socially acceptable. Going against current norms can be seen as a rebellious act. And rebellion is frowned upon in most schools where conformity is not only easier, it is taught.
It’s interesting that some people see living vegan as a rebellious act — as if being vegan is against society. The truth is that living vegan goes against convention, but it serves to better our world community. It works FOR society, not against it. Vegan living invites society to explore a more just, compassionate, and sustainable way of being. It creates a world where everyone cares about animals, about other people, and about the planet we all share.
Staying emotionally strong in school can sometimes take courage and dedication to one’s principles. Read more in this section for insights into social pressures, transforming anger, and more.
If you’re vegan, you know how tempting it can be to fill people in on the joys of living vegan whenever you get the chance. Having your little brother refuse to talk to you for a month because you told him what actually goes into a hotdog is painful, but he’ll get over it. Having the same discomfort at work, in close-quartered cubicles can make work start to feel even more long and oppressive than it already is.
So what’s a consistent and dedicated vegan to do? We highly suggest living by example. If someone asks you a question, by all means share your answer. But when in doubt, offer up vegan cupcakes instead of opinions. Coworkers might get annoyed being offered the latest graphic YouTube video documenting the truth about animal agribusiness — but nobody gets perturbed by being offered a yummy vegan treat.
If somebody is stinking up the joint warming up a fish fillet in the microwave, you could have a word, but chances are you’ll get further by warming up your delicious lunch, fanning it down the hallways, and waiting for the inquiries. For many of your coworkers, your vegan food might be their only regular exposure to the vegan message. Overcoming the question “what do vegans eat?” is a major success. If a picture is worth a thousand words, great vegan food is worth ten thousand.
Of course, this is a kind of “outreach” and you’ll have to be comfortable sharing recipes or answering questions like “where’d you get that?” and, “can I read the ingredients label?” If you get stuck on bigger questions, send them on over to LiveVegan.org and we’d be happy to take it from there!
If you’re looking to just keep your head down and survive work, remember to pack a great lunch and some tasty vegan snacks. For those expected and unexpected work lunches or after work parties, check out Dining Out for specific ideas.
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