Vegan Vs Travel

A BLOG FOR TRAVELLING VEGANS

EUROPE OR THE USA: WHICH IS BETTER FOR VEGANS?

vegan in the eu

One of my favourite things about switching to veganism (along with a reduced risk of heart disease and colon cancer) is the amount of questions I get asked (along with the ones I ask myself) - from whether vegans eat bread or not to whether you can be a vegan without being condescending, the questions are abundant. Today's question is as so: which is the better place for vegans, Europe or the USA? Or, to keep in with this blog's name sake: Europe Vs USA, which is best for vegans?


Vegan In Europe Vs Vegan In the USA

And, imo, it's a fair question. They are similar in size (10.53 million km^2 and 9.834 km^2 respectively) albeit not so similar in population size (Europe has more than double the people that the USA does). They are both, arguably, the centres of the Global North (sorry Canada and Australia). There are many people that would only feel safe in one of these (though that, imo, is a mistake - anywhere can be safe, and anywhere can be unsafe, depending on who you are). Whether you're from outside of both places and deciding which to holiday or study in, or whether you are simply considering moving from the USA to Europe and thinking about all the important things from international moving companies to Europe to vegan options, this blog post will, hopefully, give you some more food for thought (pun so intended). So let's get started!

What Are We Taking Into Account?

I've written about the worst and best countries for vegans before so I know that there are many specific things to consider when battling the USA and Europe for the crown of 'better for vegans'. In this post I will be focusing on:

  1. ease of communication (aka how easy is it to communicate your dietary needs and further choices related to veganism);
  2. the number of vegans in Europe and the USA;
  3. the best and worst countries/states for veganism (top tip: 'follow the fruit', aka 'the more south you go, the better the produce is');
  4. vegan restaurants (I'm saving this for last, seeing as not everyone can afford to eat out at any restaurant, vegan or not).

#1. Ease of Communication

I'm going to go all out and assume that if you're reading this, you can read English, and in true British style I'm going to assume if you can read English then 'ease of communication' will mean, to you, whether or not you can be understood in English or not. So ostensibly it would seem that the USA is going to win this round (where the most commonly used language is American English). Those that know English will have no trouble in supermarkets reading the labels, they'll have no problem in restaurants adapting the menu to their needs if necessary.

However, I will say this for Europe: whilst it's true that English is definitely not as widespread in Europe, this can sometimes be a good thing! For example, in the USA (and within Europe the UK, Ireland & probably Denmark and Sweden too) you will be perfectly understood, but that doesn't mean you will be accepted - in fact, sometimes you will be outright mocked for being vegan. As opposed to some places in Europe, where English isn't really spoken and veganism is still under-(or un)heard of, they might think you a little strange for refusing meat and cheese, for sure, but they're probably not going to be horrible about it. Top example: in Serbia and Montenegro, many people thought we were devout orthodox Christians doing an all-year-round Lent diet (called 'posno') and truly respected our food choices, as opposed to in Hungary where they said that 'pizza without cheese or meat doesn't count as real pizza'... okay, these are both European examples (lol) but still, sometimes the fewer people understand you the nicer they are :D

Additionally, in Europe, although many, or even most, food labels won't be in English (outside of the UK and Ireland), all of the allergens (like egg and dairy) will be in bold, so it's less a case of learning a completely new language but rather learning a handful of no-no words. Failing that, you can always stick to a mostly whole-food plant-based diet which excludes heavily processed foods and hence has the added bonus of being healthier anyway.

#2. Number of vegans in Europe and the USA

One of my dreams is to live in a commune, or even a country, where the humans are 100% vegan. Failing that, I'd opt for a place that has more vegans, because more vegans means more people that understand me when it comes to animal/human equality. So which place has more vegans - the USA or Europe? According to GreenQueen.com there is an estimated 2.6 million vegans in Europe. As there are approximately 746.4 million people in Europe that means that 2.6 / 746.4 = 0.00348 = 0.348% of Europeans are vegans. According to VeganBits.com there is an estimated 1.6 million vegans in the USA. As there are approximately 329.5 million people in the USA that means that 1.6 / 329.5 = 0.00486 = 0.486% of USamericans are vegans. So whilst there seems to be a million more vegans in Europe, percentage wise there are more vegans in the USA.

#3. Best and worst European countries and US States for vegans

I have written quite a few posts now on best US States for vegans it'll probably come as no surprise to anyone that Oregon, California and New York are consistently voted as the best states for vegans. When it comes to the worst, a combination of states where it's harder to find fresh fruit and veg (like the Dakotas) and traditionally tradition states (like the 'Bible Belt') crop up over and over again.

When it comes to best places in Europe for vegans, I can personally vouch for BudapestNovi Sad, Athens, Madrid, Rome, London, Berlin, Warsaw, Sarajevo, Vienna and Podgorica. These are all cities though which brings me to my point about Europe: the cities, and in particular the capitals are more 'woke' when it comes to veganism. When it comes to living outside the cities, your best bet is to 'follow the fruit': go to southern Europe where the fruit and veg is local, abundant and easily available (and relatively cheap!) at farmers' markets. For this reason alone, I personally vote Ireland and Iceland as some of the worst places in Europe for vegans... it's hard to grow good fruit and veg there and their cuisine reflects that.

Special mention to Hungary for being surprisingly vegan friendly even outside of Budapest. Here is a whole list of traditional Hungarian foods that are accidentally vegan. In conclusion, both the US and Europe has excellent and awful places for vegans - almost always directly related to a combination of 'wokeness', sun exposure around the year and the levels or rainfall.

#4. Vegan Restaurants in the USA and Europe

According to HappyCow there are 2120 vegan restaurants in the USA and 3473 vegan restaurants in Europe. This might not be 100% accurate: there might well be more vegan restaurants that aren't yet on HappyCow, but equally so some of these vegan restaurants might be closed (although HappyCow is actually quite good on keeping on top of that). So it's a good estimate imo.

Although there are (approximately) more than a 1000 more vegan restaurants in Europe that doesn't necessarily mean that Europe wins this round. If for some crazy reason (vegan apocalypse?) every single person had to be in a vegan restaurant there would be 214,915 people per vegan restaurant in Europe and 155,425 people per vegan restaurant in the USA... neither is feasible tbf but the USA would win.

If you look at just the vegans running to the restaurants though, because the USA has more vegans as a percentage, there would be 764 vegans per restaurant but in Europe there would be slightly fewer: 749 vegans per restaurant. These numbers are still all ridiculous, but it serves to show that when it comes to supply (vegan restaurants) and demand (vegans) the numbers are similar in the USA and Europe.

Not everyone can afford to go to any kind of restaurant though, and when it comes to restaurant prices Europe is arguably way more varied than the USA, with restaurants in Scandinavia, on the whole, being pricier than USAmerican restaurants, and with restaurants in the Balkans, on the whole, being a lot cheaper than USAmerican restaurants (Numbeo is great for checking such things in advance). I guess my point is that if you can (which will depend on so many factors, which you know yours better than I do), and if eating at vegan restaurants is very important to you, perhaps opt for Balkans countries in Europe. (That's what I did lol.) One thing you will notice almost immediately in restaurants though is Europe is not the USA, there are many cultural and historical differences that some USamericans can struggle with and thus I recommend taking a trip to Europe before taking the complete plunge and moving there. 

Wrap Up: Europe or the USA, Which Is Better For Vegans?

So there you have it, a quick comparison! I guess it all boils down to: which part of Europe or the USA are you in? Can you afford restaurants or buying fresh produce? Are you in a food desert or not? And so on.


What about you, have you lived in both the USA and Europe as a vegan? Which one was better for you? Feel free to share your experiences below!

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