I like adventure; I’m really super cool with it. And that’s why my husband and I decided to pick up our household and drag our little family to another continent. No, we didn’t speak the language. Yes, I was four months pregnant. And…I was a vegan.
A vegan!? No. Yes! indeed!
Guess where we relocated? Germany, the land full of sausages, veal and whatever pork product you can think of.
Navigating in a foreign country is difficult and you quickly assimilate yourself with words that help you with your journey. For me, it was vegetarier:“Ich bin Vegetarier.” (I am a vegetarian). I memorized that so well, it became the only thing I could say.
Being a vegan in a land like Germany was a novelty. While I think it is becoming more of a norm, most of my German friends thought I was crazy—a possible alien. They could understand being a vegetarian—this was more common—but how could I live without cheese and yogurt?
If you ever find yourself in my situation, or if you are traveling, here are a few tips to help:
1. Know how to read menus and to ask for an ingredient to be omitted.
This was key for me. Most of the time, my waitress would know a touch of English, but things get lost in translation. She might have thought that the dish was vegetarian, but somehow a piece of fish landed on my plate. Hey fish is vegan, right? Learn how to look for words that indicate meat, dairy and eggs. Learn how to ask to omit them. This will help in the many restaurants, breweries, and fests you navigate through.
2. Realize that people will think you are weird and maybe sickly.
“What, you don’t eat meat?” My doctor was confused when I showed up four months pregnant and told her I didn’t eat meat. “But, what do you eat?” she asked, completely flabbergasted. By the end of the pregnancy, she had a niece who had gone vegetarian and she came to me with a repertoire of recipes. “How do I make these vegetarian? “
3. Look for niche markets.
I started looking for farmers markets and bio (organic) stores. These markets have fresh produce and are local—you can even find nut milks and vegan friendly products at these bio stores.
4. Realize things are changing.
You can now find tofu at most stores. Some stores even have vegan bratwurst (gasp!)
5. Find a community.
Since I’m a yoga teacher, I’ve met a few vegetarians in my classes. They have helped me find good vegetarian restaurants and stores. I also joined a German vegetarian Facebook group. If anything, this group gave me inspiration to keep going in my vegetarian journey and to not feel alone.
Moving to another country is very isolating. You don’t have many friends or family, and maybe you can’t speak the language. You need to gather friends or create groups where you feel supported in your journey.
6. Learn to speak the language. Enough said.
7. And finally, realize you might make a few mistakes in your journey, and that’s okay.
You are doing the best you can in a new country with a new language; live in self-compassion and realize mistakes are part of the journey.
Liv McRein is an outlaw loving yogi who lives in germany. She loves teaching, dancing, hula hoops, swirling, baby toes, sweat, tears, the smell of books and really good french wine. You can find her at www.somayogalife.com, www.theearthfoodexperiment.wordpress.com and www.chandranicole.com.
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