In the hot seat today is Franz from Austria – not Australia as he quickly points out. He’s 31 years old and is enjoying every second of his vegan life.
Tell us about vegan life in Austria. Is there plenty of choice?
In the cities it’s quite easy but a lot has changed during the last few years. You get plant-based alternatives in nearly every supermarket and there are restaurants with vegan options. Also there are some 100% plant-based restaurants near the cities.
Are some places better than others?
Vienna, the largest city in Austria, is THE place for vegans. There are so many restaurants and there is also a great community. But there are also great spots in Linz, Salzburg, Graz and every other city.
How long have you been vegan?
Nearly six years. Time flies!
What was your diet like before, and how long did you follow that lifestyle for?
I switched to a vegetarian diet when I was 18 years old. Before that I ate the classic Austrian diet which is meat, dairy and more meat!
What was the tipping point that made you go vegan?
A year before I changed to a vegetarian diet I saw a short video clip about slaughterhouses. I was shocked but it didn’t change anything. A year later I ate some Schnitzel with chips and someone asked me which meat I was eating. I answered “I have no idea and I don’t care. The main point is that it’s yummy”. It was just silly.
At home I thought about the fact that I had no idea what I was eating. In that moment I realised what happened. I was eating a dead animal, not Schnitzel. It was something from a living creature.
The next day I went vegetarian. Years later I saw a documentary about the dairy industry. I was shocked and wanted to changed my behaviours. It felt difficult and so I set a goal for myself – being vegan when I was 30 years old. At this moment I was 25 years old. I made the switch two weeks later.
Did you do much research beforehand? If so, can you remember where?
I did no research before. I made this step for ethical reasons. I just wanted to start as soon as possible. It’s the same as getting a new electronic device – I didn’t read the instructions. I just started playing with it.
It’s the same as getting a new electronic device – I didn’t read the instructions. I just started playing with it.
Did you have a supportive network of family and friends around you? Are any of them vegan?
Nope. No family member or friend was even vegetarian.
Months later I discovered the German book author Attila Hildmann. He was the only person I knew who promoted this kind of lifestyle in a mainstream way. It helped me a lot in my transition to know that there is another way of doing things. Since then I try to be positive and shine bright for other people. A year after my transition to a vegan diet my mum also went planted-based. I’m very proud of that.
A year after my transition my mum also went plant-based. I’m very proud of that.
What did you think you’d miss the most, if anything?
Cheese for sure. But I knew exactly why I was doing this. It wasn’t a hard rule for me to follow. When you read the hard facts about these products, it’s easy to not consume them –at least for me.
What was your go-to recipe or meal for the first month?
Pasta with vegetables and tomato sauce. I already ate this before I went vegan, so it was easy to just remove the parmesan at the end and add some fried tofu.
You described your first vegan month as ‘intense and interesting’ – can you explain what you mean and how it felt?
The first week was a big experiment for me. I wanted to know if I could eat this way for 7 days. After that I knew it was possible and haven’t stopped since then.
The social aspect was the only challenging part because at the beginning your self-confidence is very low. Every silly comment can hurt you. But trust me, you are getting stronger and stronger. If someone tries to make a bad joke about me now I have a strong answer for them. So the hard thing was not only eating this way but also living with all the consequences that come into your social life. It’s like working for a new company, you just need to find your way. It’s getting better for sure.
So the hard thing was not only eating this way but also living with all the consequences that come into your social life.
How did you find the first month? Did you notice any changes at all?
To be honest, no. I ate a lot of vegan junk food in the first months like soy pudding or vegan meat alternatives. It was not a healthy start but it was my proof of concept, proving that it is possible. I also lost a few pounds in the first weeks but I’ve gained weight ever since.
What were the vegan options like eating out then? Did you find it difficult? And how did you cope?
Six years ago it was a little bit harder than it is now. Like I said, my self confidence was very low and I had problems talking with the waiter about my plant-based wishes. It’s funny because now I LOVE this part of going out. All my friends start grinning when I begin with my order. I love to veganise a recipe on the menu. It’s important to be 100% okay with your decision and have no fear about other peoples’ opinions. Then you are free.
Was there anything that you learned was vegan that you didn’t think it would be?
In Austria there is some popular sweets called ‘Manner Schnitten’. I didn’t know it was vegan and I was very happy when I found out. Oreos is another example.
What did you wish you’d known then that you know now?
It’s just not important what colleagues say about your diet or even family members, or your girlfriend. You want to live healthier and align your values? Then just do it, because you only live once. Make it count.
What would be your advice to anyone thinking of going vegan or currently doing Veganuary?
Have fun and just chill. This world is complex, there is no right or wrong. The same with diets. Try a few recipes, have fun preparing and eating them, and share them with friends. The best way to adapt to a new lifestyle is to make it fun. If you are regulating everything and being hard on yourself, chances are high that you will stop after some time. This way of living is colourful and great. Start exploring and go YOUR way. It’s YOUR journey. Everything is okay.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
If you are still here, thanks for your time. If you are thinking about making the transition to a plant-based lifestyle then please contact me with all your questions. I mean it. Write an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – I want to help as many people as possible. I’ve tried hundreds of recipes and made every mistake twice. I’m sure I can help you with my experience. We are on this planet to share our journey. So don’t hesitate to get in contact. Let’s make some yummy dishes together!
You should follow Franz on Instagram.
And why not read the rest of our 31 Vegans’ First 31 Days features?