A How-to Guide for Handling Tricky Social Situations as a Vegan

6 Feb 2020

@abillion profile image

Picture this: Your friend just invited you to celebrate a work promotion. He mentions he has invited everyone. You're excited to hear from him and look forward to meeting all those friends you've not had a chance to meet recently. Just then, you happen to glance at the venue. Uh-oh. It's a steakhouse with nothing vegan on the menu. What do you do?

Here are some tips on how you can handle such situations.

Sharing meals

     sharing meals

Eating out with friends

Vegans: Prepare ahead and figure out what options you have. You could suggest eateries that offer vegan options or call the restaurant that everyone is planning to visit to see if they would be willing to change their existing dishes to a veganized one. Most restaurants would be willing to accommodate your request and may even suggest which of their dishes would work best with the vegan diet.

Non-vegans: If you know someone who's vegan, check if they'd be able to have a meal at the place you plan to visit. You don't have to restrict yourself as most places (whether they realize it or not) are bound to have dishes that are vegan or can be veganized: Yes, even steakhouses and your favorite pizza place.

Throwing a dinner party

Vegans visiting non-vegans: Call ahead to say, “Hey! Thank you so much for your invite. I'd love to catch up with you! I should mention that I'm a vegan, but don't worry on my account. I'll bring along some vegan food. I hope that's ok!”.

Vegans visiting family who isn't accepting of their food choices: Try engaging your family in constructive dialogue or a healthy debate. Non-supportive families can be hard to deal with, but remember, their resistance probably stems from their concern for you or a lack of understanding of the plant-based diet. Here's a tip - check out Earthling Ed's free e-book that'll equip you with the knowledge and answers to the most common arguments against veganism.

If you're inviting a vegan: While planning the menu, be sure to include some vegan dishes; your guests will appreciate the thoughtful gesture. If you think about it, most foods are vegan by default, and you'll probably find a vegan substitute for any classic non-vegan dish online. Check out this article for inspiration.


     women hugging each other

Gifting a vegan: The keyword is research - everyone loves thoughtful gifts! abillion has a large catalog of vegan and environmentally-friendly products that you can browse for ideas. You can also purchase your gift from retailers that offer vegan products. If all else fails, simply ask your friend what they'd like!

Receiving non-vegan gifts: As a vegan, receiving a non-vegan gift can be awkward. If you know the individual personally and you're on good terms with them, thank them before explaining that while you may not be able to use the gift due to your personal beliefs, you appreciate the effort. However, if you feel like there's a possibility of offending the gift giver or if the circumstances are such where refusing is not an option, you can accept the gift and simply donate or pass it on to someone who may use it.

Conversations on diets

     two women talking

For vegans: Conversations centered around diet are bound to happen and saying that you're vegan isn't as easy as saying, “I have allergies”. If such conversations do come up, explain your reasons for choosing this lifestyle without attacking or being condescending to others. If you're feeling uncomfortable, crack a joke! Nothing diffuses a heated confrontation better than humor. If you feel like one of you is becoming aggressive or defensive, and that the conversation is going nowhere, politely excuse yourself from the conversation or make an effort to change the topic.

For non-vegans: Understand that people make decisions based on their values. Ask questions and engage with your vegan friend - they'd be more than happy to share more about their lifestyle with you!


     planning travel

As a vegan: Look for vegan-friendly restaurants on abillion and select places where you would be able to find food easily to make your stay more convenient. Alternatively, choose homestays with people who would be happy to provide vegan meals. If that's not possible, opt for a place that comes with a working kitchen. Once there, visit the local market, pick up essentials and cook your own meals! Look for activities such as walking food tours. If you're planning to visit a place that's a bit more remote and you're not sure if there will be vegan food available, be sure to pack some fruits, bread, cereal bars, and vegan spreads.

With a vegan: This is a chance to be more adventurous with your own food choices! Help your friend look for food they can eat and plan a visit to a grocery store in each city you visit. While your friend looks for vegan food, spend some time exploring the aisles of products and you may find some interesting products. While planning your itinerary, try to make sure places with vegan food options are accessible relative to the attractions you're planning to visit.

As long as we're able to have thoughtful discussions and plan our days a little in advance, social experiences between vegans and non-vegans can be interesting and insightful. Irrespective of your place in the vegan-omnivore spectrum, it's important to respect everyone's choices. Coming from a place of respect and acceptance will prevent people from having their guards up and reacting defensively. Food habits don't define a person and realize that gentle nudges go further than all-out confrontation. Dealing with these situations can be difficult at first, but don't worry as it'll get easier with time!

Share your experiences in the comments if you've dealt with any of these (or more) social situations. We'd love to hear your tips!

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@vikas profile image
vikas2 YEARS AGO
Whenever I’m in an awkward situation it’s a great opportunity to share my story and why I’m vegan!
@dyljohbar profile image
dyljohbar2 YEARS AGO
Some useful tips, but this piece makes veganism sound like a diet choice instead of a whole way of life based on an ethical stance against speciesism and violence. Some of these tips don't really work when viewed from that perspective.
@dorian_hyde profile image
dorian_hyde2 YEARS AGO
@dyljohbar I think it is because most of these situations pop out around dinner tables or other social meetings where food is involved, so that kind of awkward questions would be likely to appear. But check out the receiving gifts point—it's another situation in which we the vegans have to face them, and has nothing to do with food (and sometimes they're even harder to manage because people tend to think, as you say, that veganism is nothing else than a diet).
@bigfatnyancat profile image
bigfatnyancat2 YEARS AGO
Great tips!
@elixy90 profile image
elixy902 YEARS AGO
Super helpful!
@charlastinson profile image
charlastinson2 YEARS AGO
Never feel like you have to“ crack a joke”; their lack of knowledge regarding veganism/speciesism is not your problem. Continue to educate your true passion