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 Post subject: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 3:10 pm 
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Hi. I'm planning on studying abroad next spring, and am trying to decide where i want to go. I am learning French, so it would nice to go somewhere where i can practice and hopefully get better. I am thinking Belgium, France, or Switzerland. Does anyone have any first hand experience in these countries? How vegan-friendly are they? Are people generally nice?
I am also worried about getting stuck in a homestay and having trouble with food. It would be nice to stay with a family, but i'm going to feel super rude if they cook lots of meat and dairy heavy meals.
Thanks! Any words of advice are appreciated

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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 8:35 pm 
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I don't have experience in those countries as a vegan but when I went to Switzerland and was in a large city, there was quite a bit of ethnic food (falafels, thai, etc). Where I went though, English or German was primarily spoken. I know Switzerland is a multilingual country but unless you are able to pick a region/primary language then you could end up in a part where German or Italian is primarily spoken.

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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 8:22 am 
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Switzerland is expensive, and (imo) hard to get around in unless you have a car. There are health food shops but otherwise it's hard to find vegan food at restaurants. Belgium is super cute, less expensive and has a lot of wonderful vegan food, including a veg festival in Ghent which is an AWESOME vegan city. (You can also probably talk those of us in the Lowlands into visiting, if you want.) I haven't been to France in awhile, but Paris is becoming more vegan friendly and so are other cities. re: homestays. I think it'll be hard to find a veg family to stay with in any of those countries, but Mediteranean cuisine is more easily made veg than the others?

So I guess it depends on you? And where you want to live / the kinds of experiences you want to have?

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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 3:10 am 
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lutin wrote:
Belgium is super cute, less expensive and has a lot of wonderful vegan food, including a veg festival in Ghent which is an AWESOME vegan city. (You can also probably talk those of us in the Lowlands into visiting, if you want.)


Agreed that Ghent is an awesome vegan city (although in the Dutch language area rather than the French), but my experience in the rest of Belgium has been that it's less than vegan friendly. Brussels in particular surprised me for the lack of options, for such a large, cosmopolitan city. My only experience is in Flanders and Brussels, though. I don't know how it is in Wallonia (the French-speaking part where I assume you'd want to be) but if Brussels is anything to go by, meat reigns supreme. Even the friet (French fries) aren't a sure bet as they're traditionally fried in beef fat.

That said, Belgian supermarkets are well-stocked with enough options, including lots of Alpro stuff. And Brussels has some amazing Asian markets.

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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 4:04 pm 
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lepelaar wrote:

Agreed that Ghent is an awesome vegan city (although in the Dutch language area rather than the French)...


Oops, I wrote that in a hurry this morning and I totally made it sound like there's a Dutch language area and a French language area in Ghent. What I meant to say was that Ghent is in the Dutch-speaking half of the country rather than the French-speaking half. So if you're coming to Belgium to work on your French, it's not where you're likely to end up.

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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 9:00 pm 
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lepelaar wrote:
lutin wrote:
Belgium is super cute, less expensive and has a lot of wonderful vegan food, including a veg festival in Ghent which is an AWESOME vegan city. (You can also probably talk those of us in the Lowlands into visiting, if you want.)


Agreed that Ghent is an awesome vegan city (although in the Dutch language area rather than the French), but my experience in the rest of Belgium has been that it's less than vegan friendly. Brussels in particular surprised me for the lack of options, for such a large, cosmopolitan city. My only experience is in Flanders and Brussels, though. I don't know how it is in Wallonia (the French-speaking part where I assume you'd want to be) but if Brussels is anything to go by, meat reigns supreme. Even the friet (French fries) aren't a sure bet as they're traditionally fried in beef fat.

That said, Belgian supermarkets are well-stocked with enough options, including lots of Alpro stuff. And Brussels has some amazing Asian markets.


yeah, brussels is definitely VEGAN HOSTILE. Wallonia is... even worse.
but its more than ok for home made food, supermarkets offer indeed tons of seitan tempah etc.

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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 9:02 pm 
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but remember, all these typical belgian things are vegan:

speculoos lotus
orval
sirop de liege
endives
aspargus
fraise de wepion
dark chocolate

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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 2:59 pm 
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I'm French so maybe I can help you with some questions.
France is not vegan-friendly, it's already hard to be a vegetarian, so vegan... people don't understand. I often get comments from people I barely know saying it's stupid to be vegetarian/vegan. So yeah, a bit difficult.
It also can be difficult to eat out. Especially in French restaurants. French cuisine has meat, and the meatless meals have cheese or eggs in it. I think it's almost impossible to go in French restaurant and have a vegan meal...

I have spent a year abroad (in England), and the attitude/friendliness (is that even a word?) is quite different. French people can be reserved; it might be a bit harder to make friends. We tend to say what we think even if it's not very polite, but at least we're honest about it.
Avoid Paris. Paris is pretty on picture but I would not recommand it on a year abroad. "Province" cities are much friendlier.

It sounds a bit discouraging but France has also qualities ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:11 am 
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Shaunih wrote:
I'm French so maybe I can help you with some questions.
France is not vegan-friendly, it's already hard to be a vegetarian, so vegan... people don't understand. I often get comments from people I barely know saying it's stupid to be vegetarian/vegan. So yeah, a bit difficult.
It also can be difficult to eat out. Especially in French restaurants. French cuisine has meat, and the meatless meals have cheese or eggs in it. I think it's almost impossible to go in French restaurant and have a vegan meal...

I have spent a year abroad (in England), and the attitude/friendliness (is that even a word?) is quite different. French people can be reserved; it might be a bit harder to make friends. We tend to say what we think even if it's not very polite, but at least we're honest about it.
Avoid Paris. Paris is pretty on picture but I would not recommand it on a year abroad. "Province" cities are much friendlier.

It sounds a bit discouraging but France has also qualities ;)


I respectfully disagree with this. Paris is wonderful--truly stunning and marvelous. I studied abroad there while in university, and went back later and lived there for many years. I return now every year for 1-2 months. I think it's the best city on earth. It'd be a stellar place to study abroad.

I also resist the no-vegan-food-in-France thing. There are vegetarians and vegans in France. The culture has hugely changed over the past ten years. There's even a vegan shoe line now! Yes, mainstream French cafés and brasseries are not good places to get food, but the wealth of vegan options in Indian, African, Middle Eastern, and now even the many vegetarian and vegan places is enough for anyone. And the markets are stunning. For a study abroad situation, a family stay could be difficult, so you'd want to work that out ahead of time and make sure you can make your own food, or that the host family understands.

There's a whole thread about being vegan in France (both France and the provinces): viewtopic.php?f=59&t=498

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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:46 am 
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molasses jane wrote:

I respectfully disagree with this. Paris is wonderful--truly stunning and marvelous. I studied abroad there while in university, and went back later and lived there for many years. I return now every year for 1-2 months. I think it's the best city on earth. It'd be a stellar place to study abroad.

I also resist the no-vegan-food-in-France thing. There are vegetarians and vegans in France. The culture has hugely changed over the past ten years. There's even a vegan shoe line now! Yes, mainstream French cafés and brasseries are not good places to get food, but the wealth of vegan options in Indian, African, Middle Eastern, and now even the many vegetarian and vegan places is enough for anyone. And the markets are stunning. For a study abroad situation, a family stay could be difficult, so you'd want to work that out ahead of time and make sure you can make your own food, or that the host family understands.

There's a whole thread about being vegan in France (both France and the provinces): viewtopic.php?f=59&t=498



As I said, I'm French and have lived in France since I was born. So it's my perspective as a French person.
I'm not saying Paris is not good, I'm saying it's not the best place for a year abroad. The south is much more welcoming than Paris is, and a lot of foreign students I have met had problems leaving in Paris. There is much more about France than just Paris. They are lot of beautiful cities, much more relax and less busy cities than Paris, which, I think, are suited better for a year abroad. But for example, I choosed to spent my year abroad in Manchester instead of London, even if I love London.
But I'm not objective, people outside Paris don't like Paris and the Parisians :p

When you talked about places to eat-out, you're talking about Indian, African, Middle Eastern... foreign food, which I mentionned. But French food is not vegan. The traditionnal french dishes are rarely, very rarely vegan. So it is near than impossible to eat french vegan food when you eat out. But yeah, they are vegeterian and vegan restaurants in France (but the majority of them are in Paris). There is vegan food is France, there is not french-vegan food [or very little]
And the mentalities change, but much slower than in other countries. I did see the difference between the UK and France towards vegetarism, and it is quite huge. You never stop having questions here, about why, the health issue, how we, human, need to eat meat, etc. 90% of the time I say to someone I'm vegetarian, it turns into a debate, even if I never wants that, it does. In the UK, I had just one question: 'why', and when I briefly replied, it was over. I've never had that in France. And the comments I have are: "at least, you're not a vegan".
Compared to other european countries, France don't have as much vegetarians. Tofu, tempeh, seitan, this is weird stuff here. None of my friends have eaten that, and most of them don't have a clue of what seitan or tempeh is.

French don't treat vegetarian/vegan well, they might say nothing since you're a foreigner, but as a French, I do feel the pain, and all of my vegan/vegetarian acquaintances would agree with that.

That being said, I have a lot of friends from all over the world, who after a year in France, planned to come back to live here, so it is a nice country on other levels ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:52 am 
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The OP was asking about if France was a good place to study abroad. I'm sharing my opinion that I think it is, whether in Paris, or elsewhere. I've also lived in the south, and traveled all over the country for the past twenty years. I get very sad and frustrated with stereotypes of France--especially the "there's no vegan food" and "Paris isn't friendly" because those read as warnings not to spend time in what is such a wonderful, gorgeous place. I love French people. I make no differences between "French" and "non-French" food--all I'm saying is that whether in Paris (especially in Paris) or elsewhere, there is plenty of very good food to eat in France for vegans. Yes, it can take some navigating. Tofu and soy milk are for sale in Monoprix all over the country. It's not that bad. As for "friendliness", sure, there is a different kind of friendly in France than in the UK or US or elsewhere, but the French-people-are-aloof/mean/rude type that is propagated all over Anglophone countries is really offensive and limiting.

So, to the OP, is studying abroad in France a good idea? I say a hearty yes. My year in Paris in university changed my life, and led me back to living there for a very long time as a happy vegan with French friends.

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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:43 am 
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But why should it be stereotypes? I mean, I'm laughing a bit, cos it's the first time I hear having stereotypes on it's own country.
It's not sad to say French people are rude. I don't see it that way, and that's one of the thing I love about my country: we say what we think. For some, it's being rude, not for me. It's an awesome thing that all my Japanese friends loved about France. When I was in Japan and talked in French with my Japanese friends about something we really care, I would get passionnate about the conversation and would speak loudly. Everyone around us fought we were fighting because you don't raise the voice in Japan. No it's not a stereotype, it's a culture thing. In France, we talk about sensitive subjects such as religion and politics, we raise the voice, we fight, and we like that. A stereotype would be that we all wear beret and don't know the word 'thanks'.

I don't want to be out of the topic, but I don't understand why criticizing some of the aspects of France should be sad or frustrating. It's not stereotypes, I live there! I'm not talking about France as someone who never put on foot in this country, I'm talking as a French person, who have been in this country for more than twenty years, who has a French family, French friends, been to French University, etc. I'm talking about some aspects of living in France. And there are some negative aspects about being a vegan in France, which I wanted to underline. We can find good food in France, I'm eating three times a day and I also happen to go to the restaurants one in a while, but I don't see how France can be considered vegan-friendly. French culture/cuisine.. is not vegan-friendly. There is a difference between french-food and non french-food. You can be vegeterian or vegan everywhere. I've travelled in subsaharian Africa, and I didn't starve even if it was difficult at some time.
If someone is put off by that, too bad because they will miss the good aspects of France, whether it is music, art, the cities, the way of living, the growing of french series and films, the language, the wonderful bread and sweets...
If I gave the impression that French people are aloof/mean/rude, that wasn't my intention (I mean, common', I'm one of them...). You can meet plenty of awesome people in France. But as a general opinion of foreign students I have met in France, it is harder to approach French people. The student life is very different than in Anglophone countries and even French people have less occasion to meet new people. I've met Canadians, Americans, English, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese people and much more during my bachelor degree and they all say the same things about France, whether talking about the negative or positive aspects about leaving in France. So maybe I need to stress this more: They all loved their time here!
I think offensive to insinuate that what I say are purely stereotypes, and that's it "offensive and limiting". "Offensive" to whom, i'm French and I say it and I'm not offended to hear it. I'm glad to hear you had a wonderful time in France, but that doesn't mean we can't talk about the bad things.

In summary, as for my opinion:
Should you go in France? Yeah!
Is it easy to be a vegan? No, but you can do it


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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:59 pm 
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Shaunih wrote:
When you talked about places to eat-out, you're talking about Indian, African, Middle Eastern... foreign food, which I mentionned. But French food is not vegan. The traditionnal french dishes are rarely, very rarely vegan. So it is near than impossible to eat french vegan food when you eat out.


But who goes out and eats French food? I can say with certainty that not once in my life have I eaten a boeuf bourguignon or a blanquette de veau or cassoulet or any other traditional dish at a restaurant. For me, traditional foods have always been family dishes made at home - in part because you would need to put a non negligible amount of effort and money into finding a michelin-starred place that prepares those things as well as you could yourself. I don't know, I don't think preferring Italian or Indian or Middle Eastern restaurants when eating out is unusual at all for French people.


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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 2:38 am 
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I think it's natural to want to discover the cuisine of a foreign country. When I was in Japan, I wanted to eat Japanese food, when I was in Namibia, I wanted to discover the traditional dishes, when I was in England, same. Whether it is at home or in a restaurant, the "boeuf bourguignon, blanquette de veau or cassoulet" all have meat in it.

When I said "traditional french dishes are rarely vegan", I should have just said "french dishes are rarely vegan".
And in Lyon, where I live, we have what we call "bouchon", where we can eat traditional "lyon" meals. And it's a very popular place to eat out for French people, not unusual at all. Lyon was the gastronomical capital of France and the cuisine here is quite famous. In France, there is an increase of international restaurants, especially Japanese, but I can assure you that the majority is still French food. I think it's interesting to learn that it's weird in other countries to eat out food from your own country, because it's a very common thing in France and it is perceived at normal.
During all my childrenhood, my parents used to take me and my brother/sister to 'French' restaurants, I've never been to an 'international' restaurant before I was something like 16. But no need to find a michelin-starred restaurant to eat good food. Well, I've never.


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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:28 am 
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Shaunih wrote:
I think it's natural to want to discover the cuisine of a foreign country. When I was in Japan, I wanted to eat Japanese food, when I was in Namibia, I wanted to discover the traditional dishes, when I was in England, same. Whether it is at home or in a restaurant, the "boeuf bourguignon, blanquette de veau or cassoulet" all have meat in it.

When I said "traditional french dishes are rarely vegan", I should have just said "french dishes are rarely vegan".
And in Lyon, where I live, we have what we call "bouchon", where we can eat traditional "lyon" meals. And it's a very popular place to eat out for French people, not unusual at all. Lyon was the gastronomical capital of France and the cuisine here is quite famous. In France, there is an increase of international restaurants, especially Japanese, but I can assure you that the majority is still French food. I think it's interesting to learn that it's weird in other countries to eat out food from your own country, because it's a very common thing in France and it is perceived at normal.
During all my childrenhood, my parents used to take me and my brother/sister to 'French' restaurants, I've never been to an 'international' restaurant before I was something like 16. But no need to find a michelin-starred restaurant to eat good food. Well, I've never.


I totally know what you mean. I am Spanish, and when people in Spain go to restaurants, they go mostly to Spanish food restaurants, no matter your budget, especially in smaller cities. I used to go to restaurants with my parents and grandparents when I was a kid, but I was also 16 the first time I went to a Chinese restaurant (my first international experience, lol) That's difficult to understand for Northamericans, British and even Germans, because when they go to restaurantes they mostly go to "ethnic" places, especially if they are looking for something casual and cheap.

And of course you can find falafel everywhere these days if you live in a big city like Paris or Madrid, but that is not typical local food and doesn't make a city vegan friendly. I have been to Paris a couple of times in the last couple of years and it is not easy, even as a vegetarian to find something nice to eat in a restaurant where people I am with want to go too. (My husband is German and not vegetarian so if we are in Paris he is not willing to go to the same falafel/ noodle shop he can find at home)


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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:02 am 
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The question here is not "is French food vegan" or what is "French" food. The question from the OP is: is France a good place to study abroad, and is there vegan food to eat. As for "difficult to understand for Northamericans, British, and even Germans", Aelle is French, and I've lived there for a large part of my life, so fear not, we get it.

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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Fri Mar 22, 2013 4:04 am 
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molasses jane wrote:
The question here is not "is French food vegan" or what is "French" food. The question from the OP is: is France a good place to study abroad, and is there vegan food to eat. As for "difficult to understand for Northamericans, British, and even Germans", Aelle is French, and I've lived there for a large part of my life, so fear not, we get it.


Oh, sorry, I'm new to this forum, I didn't know it was so strict about off topics, I just wanted to agree with Shaunih, who, BTW, is also French.
If I have to stick to those two questions I would say 1) I haven't studied there, but I can imagine it is a good country to study because it is beautiful and rich in culture and full of wonderful cities and 2) yes, there is vegan food to eat, but mostly in supermarkets. I have been to France several times, Paris, Ile de Re, Cote d'Azur, Strasbourg, and I live 60km away from Metz. It is not vegan friendly, it is not even vegetarian friendly. (I know a couple of places where dishes with fish appear with a green V in the menu). Of course once you get to know the places you will fin something.

(But If you need twenty years to discover its vegan secrets, it is not that friendly)


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 Post subject: Re: Study Abroad in Belgium, France, Switzerland
PostPosted: Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:45 am 
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I've never lived in any of the three countries, but I have visited them several times for holidays (mostly when I was vegetarian, but sometimes travelling with a vegan) and although all three are nice enough, I just loved Switzerland. We were in Zurich and had amazing food in a vegetarian restaurant there! Every time I've been to any of Belgium, France or Switzerland it has always been possible to buy vegan food to cook even if it hasn't always been easy to eat out, especially in rural areas.

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