When I first went to Europe at age 17, just after my high school graduation, I brought along a print out list of words in several different languages regarding the food I did and didn’t eat. Being that I had studied French for three years, and that I was on the trip with my French teacher, I wasn’t worried about describing my dietary needs while I was in France (every other country was a different story, especially Italy). That handy list has been lost to time, but for those of you who are worried about traveling and eating in France, I’ve put together a short list of phrases that might be helpful when dining out. Please let me know if any of you have any specific phrases you would like to know, and for those of you who are native French speakers, feel free to correct any grammar mistakes I may have missed.
A note on pronunciation: I tried my best to represent the phonetics of this in a way that’s accessible to everyone. If anyone would prefer me to add IPA, I will be more than happy to do so (because IPA is the best). Don’t worry too much about having perfect pronunciation, most people you encounter will appreciate your making an effort. Most importantly, enjoy your journeys!
Essential French for the Traveling Vegan
lait du soja- soy milk
Je suis végétalien/ne*
Juh soo-ee vegetal-ee-ãh**/ehn
“I am vegan”
Je ne mange rien…( du lait, des oeufs, de viand, de poulet, de poisson, du fromage, de miël)
Juh nuh mahnj ree-ãh (doo ley, deyz euh, duh vee-ahnd, duh poo-ley, duh pwah-sãw, doo fro-mahj, duh mee-ehl)
“I do not eat any…(milk, eggs, meat, chicken, fish, cheese, honey)”
Avez-vous quelque chose végétal?
Ah-vey voo kel-kuh shoz veh-jeh-tal?
“Do you have anything plant-based”
Je voudrais un café avec lait du soja
juh voo-drey uh kafey ah-vek ley du soja
“I would like coffee with soy milk”
Pouvez-vous faire mon répas sans beurre?
Poo-vey voo fair mohn rey-pah sahn beuhr
“Can you please make my meal without butter”
*The second option (with the “ne”) is the feminine ending
**That’s a nasalized vowel, there are a few of them in here, but my keyboard wouldn’t allow me to put a tilda (~) over all of them. Don’t worry too much about it, English speakers are not very good at nasalized vowels in isolation–meaning there is no nasal consonant ( “m” “n” or “ng”, that’s “ŋ” for the other linguists out there) overtly pronounced.
My last note on my experience with vegan food in France: I was generally on my own, so I steered clear of restaurants that didn’t specifically serve vegan or vegetarian food, and I can’t speak to the willingness of chefs to accommodate special dietary needs. I did, however, discover (at least in Paris) that most regular cafes do not carry soy milk, you’d have to go to a speciality cafe or Starbucks. That being said, wherever your travels within France (or the world in general) take you, happycow.net is a great resource for vegan and vegetarian restaurants that can be searched by location. Even though it might seem like France is the land of butter and foie gras, there are plenty of great veg places out there, and I definitely didn’t go hungry.