What France thinks of vegetarians

A French advertisement starring a family of French vegetariansAhh, look at this rustic hippy scene from the seventies. Hang on, that’s an image from a brand new advertisement on French TV.

The ad represents vegetarians as hippies living in houses with home-made decorations like shells on strings. Add some cotton shirts, bouffant hair and beaded jewelry and we’ve got the perfect hippy family.

Cured meat makers, Aoste, are responsible for the ad, in full, below (with a shortened translation under it).

Dad: “But how come you don’t want to be a vegetarian anymore?”
Son: “I’m sick of always eating the same things — green salad, celery, celery, green salad.”
Dad: “There’s tofu steak.”
Mum: “Sliced soy fillet.”
Son: “Also, nobody ever asked if I wanted to be vegetarian. C’mon, one time.”
Dad: “One single time.”
(Holding hands at the supermarket.)
Mum: “If you really want to do it, do it properly.”
Voiceover: “Aoste, simply irresistible.”

Did you see the son’s teardrop as he’s downing that delicious meat?

I’m a vegetarian, and the first time I saw this I laughed. Aoste must have produced this with their tongues firmly in their cheeks, going for every stereotype apart from deadlocks (I’m guilty of once being that stereotype, so I can only laugh!).

As much as the ad amuses me, it’s a reminder of just how cringeworthy some places in France are for vegetarians. The mountains is one of them. Here are a few moments I’ve experienced, all spoken in French at the time:

1. The snack bar

Me: “I’m looking for a sandwich without meat.”
Server: “Sorry, we don’t have any cheese sandwiches.”
Because we all know that that lettuce, tomato, cucumber, roasted vegetables and boiled eggs are made of meat. Really, France, is it that hard to just leave the meat out of a few sandwiches?

2. The posh Italian restaurant

My friend: “She’s a vegetarian.”
Waiter: “We have this salmon dish…”
Me (wishing my friend hadn’t said anything – it’s easier that way) : “I don’t eat fish, but I’ve found…”
Waiter: “There’s a chicken dish here.” (pointing to menu)
Me: “Chicken is meat.”
Waiter: “No, it’s not.”
Me: “Yes, it is.”
(Repeat last two lines about three times)

3. The New Year’s Eve celebrations – set menu

Two vegetarians on big table of friends were given one massive salad each, served as a main, between the entrees and mains offered to the meat eaters (so we had to watch, hungry, while the others ate their entrees, then be watched as we scoffed a lot of lettuce). A salad. Really? Happy bloody New Year.

However, the acceptance of vegetarianism in France is slowly getting better, with more options on the market every year. Traditional places like La Clusaz are always going to take a bit longer to catch on, and while the Parisians are probably howling with laughter at the Aosta commercial, the locals here are probably shaking their heads about hippy vegetarian types and saying “Ah, les cons” (“Ah, the idiots”).

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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One comment on “What France thinks of vegetarians
  1. I love this advert! It’s utterly brilliant. And your anecdotes remind me of a meal in a restaurant in Strasbourg, where the only vegetarian dish seemed to be a cheese salad. Expecting lettuce, tomatoes and a bit of cheese, my friend was very surprised to receive an entire plate of grated cheese, with a token lettuce leaf and… wait for it… some lardons on the top.

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by wendyhollands.com, my other site.

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