8 Tips for a Vegan’s Social Awkwardness

8 Tips for a Vegan’s Social Awkwardness

You are having lunch with a group of friends and someone is offering you cake, you say “no, thanks, I am vegan” and from that point onwards a whole discussion starts. You are flooded with questions around why you are a vegan, where you get your proteins from and – if some of them are fanatic meat eaters – you even get some weird reactions of people getting super hot on the subject and verbally attacking you.

I’m sure every vegan has been through this situation too many times. Probably some of us have also realized by now that some approaches in these discussions can leave a bitter taste. Unless you are a huge activist or you feel like your purpose is to convince everyone to change – good luck with that! – I wanted to give my own tips to dealing with these situations.

First of all, why do you get these reactions?

Have you noticed that when anyone says they are not having a specific ingredient because they are allergic or intolerant, most people don’t go “have a little bit, you’ll be fine”? Maybe they get some sympathy, but they don’t need to go into a lot of details as to how they became intolerant, what their symptoms are, how they “live their lives like this” and where they get different nutrients.

The deal with us is that we choose to be different. Society has long taught us to respect rules and formalities. It is to the good of a community to have everyone drive on the same side of the road, to patiently wait in line for your turn and to swipe your oyster card when you enter/leave a tube station. The problem starts when we extend this mentality to other things like how people should dress, how they choose to decorate their skin (ie tattoos, piercings), how they choose to color their hair, what sexual orientation they should have and eventually how they choose to eat – and with diet everyone seems to think they are a nutritionist. These are all things that don’t affect the community, but still, we feel like everyone needs to conform.

Having said that…

Tip #1. Prepare before you go out

Some of us already do that because we are never sure if there is an option when we eat out. However, being prepared with your order before you get there also avoids the awkward discussion with your waiter, while everyone else is witnessing. Believe me, if you thought the discussion is over once your waiter leaves, it’s only the beginning for the people at the table :D.

Tip #2. Don’t be too difficult with offered food

Be flexible with your options. If you are in a restaurant or a guest and you are offered food, just pick or combine – creativity helps here – from what you can get. Don’t be like “Oh maaan! Seriously?! How come you guys didn’t think about vegans?! What am I supposed to eat here?” Eventually, don’t forget this is your choice and you are still a minority. Also, you don’t want to invite any further, already defensive, discussions.

Top #3. Don’t offer unelicited explanations

Whenever you are offered non-vegan food, just politely say “no, thank you!” just like any regular person refuses something they don’t want or need. If this is a host offering you their cooked meal or you get surprised eyes – because the food is so delicious in their opinion and they can’t understand how someone could refuse it 😀 – then you can also say a simple “no, thank you, I eat a plant based diet”. Note that using the word “vegan” sometimes invites for discussion because some people don’t know what that entails. I prefer to avoid it or if I use it, then I immediately explain what that means in very short terms: no animal products.

Tip #4. Don’t start the discussion on your own

Unless you are a hearty vegan activist setting up an intervention to all of your friends (and their friends) on a nice dinner out, don’t go out of the blue “Oh by the way, I am a vegan and you should be too!” 😀 . Even when offered non-vegan food, try to refuse nicely without jumping into details about your veganism, especially if no one is asking. I know it’s hard to imagine, but some people really don’t care to hear more.

Tip #5. Avoid discussions in groups

If you are having lunch with a group of people and you revealed you are a vegan, 90% of the cases someone will start a conversation around it asking you one of the questions:

  • “Soooo where do you get your proteins?”
  • “Why did you go vegan? How did that help you”
  • “How can you live without cheese?! Really?!”
  • “What would you do if you were stranded on an island and had only fish to eat?” (yep, got different variations of that question)

I recommend humorously answering the question and proposing that you discuss in private “because probably not everyone is interested in talking about my diet”. I also sometimes say “Well, let’s discuss in more detail some other time if you are interested in a vegan diet. I have lots of experience to share so far.”

Tip #6. Arm yourself with some basic facts

Nothing helps more if you end up discussing your diet, than verifiable facts. I have used some I read or heard about through media. A few examples are:

  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is one of the largest organization of nutrition professionals states in one of their releases that  “a vegan diet is nutritionally adequate”.
  • The Adventist population studies using thousands of subjects found that vegans had 15% fewer mortality rates than omnivores.
  • The only male lifter to make it to the last Olympics to Team USA was vegan and he broke a weightlifting record (Kendrick Farris)

So this should at least ensure everyone that you are not a hippie going off charts, dying or dissolving into thin air (contrary to some beliefs) haha

Tip #7. Be careful with your tone of voice

An approach like “Eeeek! How can you that, dude?!” or “Don’t you f**in’ tell me that eating meat is ok! You are a killer of animals!” never proved to yield the best results. I think there’s no need for further explanations here.

Tip #8. Humor helps

The discussions around this subject that go really bad usually are a result of people taking the matter too seriously. On either side. So joking while answering questions always helps.

Ultimately, I think it’s important that you don’t let dietary or ethical choices affect your social interactions and your friendships. Life has to be enjoyable for everyone and embracing differences is just one crucial step to getting there. Peace! 😀

 

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You can get away without paying..

You can get away without paying..

Continuing the series of my lessons in my adventure to design my life.

This last week and a bit has been quite interesting. I feel like a lot of things have moved different ways. So here it goes, my few lessons.

Lesson 1. Creativity

Creativity comes at its strongest when you are restricted in some way, when you need to find options and/or when you give yourself the mindspace (no pun intended 🙂 ) to think. It also comes when least expected and rarely works if summoned. It cannot be forced. Actually, the least is actively engaged, the more powerful it is. At least for me.

Lesson 2. Leave yourself idle time daily

Goes hand in hand with lesson 1. I should leave myself at least 10 mins every day of not doing anything. Not even checking my phone. Because that is powerful. That is when my brain sifts through everything and nothing. That is when I come up with the craziest ideas. This is for anyone who was wondering where I get some stupid ideas from.

Lesson 3. Be careful with networking

Networking is great, going to different meetups is interesting, meeting people to tell them what you think can always be surprising. But. There is such thing as too much networking! Especially when you also need to get some things done. So, sometimes it can a be trap. Even one that you deliberately leave yourself to fall into just to avoid to do the “real” hands-on work. Plus, there are lots of time-wasters.

Lesson 4. There is no such thing as office work

When you work on your own project which involves a lot of validation, you won’t spend that much time in a chair. Actually, if you do, then you might be doing something wrong. Still learning.

Lesson 5. Don’t work in isolation

Set up a list of people willing to help with anything and who believe in your project. Consult them as much as possible, even with the risk of becoming annoying.

Lesson 6. Want something, just ask

It’s amazing what we put up with or live without sometimes just because we assume we can’t have. Asking sometimes will give you the most surprising results, like actually receiving 😀 . I asked for some documents in a restaurant and I received their recipes…

Lesson 7. You can get away without paying

This is more of a confession. I stole a bruschetta dish from Vapiano hahaha. I’m probably on their “most wanted” list now. I forgot to pay because I got distracted on my way out talking to the cashier about their allergy matrix. Funny thing is there was only one way out, through their gates and she forgot to ask me to pay, too. Might be something to explore for the future 😀 .

Lesson 8. Be careful with the privacy toggle when registering domains

You enable sharing your contact details when you register a domain, you get cold-called by companies every 5 mins. Big mistake!

Lesson 9. Listen to my own advice 🙂

I am good at writing all of the above, very inconsistent at following them

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Weekly Life Lessons

Weekly Life Lessons

I think I will start posting little tips and tricks I learn every week along the way, either in my ventures or just simple day-to-day things.

I shouldn’t be shy to talk to people you don’t know. Put on a friendly face, be bold and say “hi”. You never know what they can teach you or how much their experience will make a difference to you and whatever you are doing. In the last week, I received advice of all sorts coming from people I’ve met 5 minutes before.

People who believe in me will follow me. Anyone who identifies with my cause, passion, hobbies, etc seem to be the most supportive and helpful.

Having people do stuff for you for free is hard. No one wants to really help if they don’t get something in return for their time or effort. Also, the minute you start even hinting towards the fact that you are selling them something, they close down.

Public advertising has killed our sense to hear anything/anyone out. We are so fed up with sales talk that we shut everything out, even to the expense of what might matter (see charity, ethical causes, people in need, etc)

Kicking scooters are such a find. They are the middle ground in between a bike and walking. I can use the sidewalk and move faster to my destination. Thinking of getting one haha

Do whatever you wish, even though it seems like it will rain. This is a deep one, but even though the sky is grey and it seems like the announced storms will come, don’t sit at home and waste your weekend. If you want to see a sandy beach, see one! Now, going a step further and becoming philosophical, don’t wait for the perfect outside conditions to get yourself going. By the way, the sun did come out mid-day and we had a nice, clear-sky day at the beach.

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Can you do this by the end of the day, please?

Can you do this by the end of the day, please?

One thing I’m struggling with now is doing things myself 😀 . It’s funny now that I say it, but one thing the corporate environment teaches a manager is to delegate. But how does that really work when you start your own business?

Delegation is such a big subject and there are so many views on how it should be done and what you should delegate.

When any of us started out in our first jobs, we usually were “executors”. We had one (or a few) valuable skills and we are hired to just “do” the job. We are very good at working on our own, applying our skills and executing whatever deliverable.

Then we learn to work as part of a team. We learn to communicate when we do something, we learn to ask questions early on, we learn to share our knowledge. If there is anything I ever taught my teams, it was to communicate and help each other. No one person was “done-done” with anything until the last person in the team was “done-done”. Or in other words, a team is as fast as its slowest member. I’m a real team-player as you can see. As a side note, I think I learned this when I was playing voleyball. Team sports are an amazing environment to learn the value of community and the concept of “if we are all happy, then you are happy”.

Gradually, each of us starts emerging from the team through special skills. Every person can stand out through something. And that is when we start leading (by example) with something. Now, when you lead, in order to scale your skills, you need to coach others to get at your level. And that is where delegation comes into play. I won’t go into how some managers are promoted and why some managers are not necessarily good leaders. My point is that, whatever the means got you to a leader’s position, you start learning how to delegate (hopefully). You don’t delegate, you don’t scale. Simple.

As a manager, I learned how to delegate. I also learned how to always oversee the big picture and make sure all the wheels are in place and moving in the right direction so that the car moves towards its destination. Basically, I learned how to coordinate, be proactive and think ahead, so as to avoid accidents. I went even further and I learned how to know my people, what they like, what they don’t enjoy doing, who works better with whom, what problems they have at home and how happy they are with their jobs, etc. I learned everything around the actual execution. Except for executing :D. Well, I do have a technical background and I know a thing or two ( 😛 ), but I also hired smarter people, who execute better. That has been my job for years: building great teams to deliver great products. That is what I do best.

So now, I am starting fresh. Now, I am the executor of my own ideas. Sometimes, I am like “oh, we need to do this and then we will need to do that.. Age, do you think we can document this? Hardeep, do you think you can finish this?” (sorry, guys, for referencing you here 😀 ). Then I look around and I’m like “oh! there’s no one around.. I need to do this!”. Gosh, I miss my Gumtree team hahaha!

Anyway, I guess the point of this post was just to reflect on how being a manager can affect your mindset when it comes down to doing things yourself. And sometimes you only realize it when … well, you have to do things by yourself. And that might include even skills you’ve never used, like UX design or SEO or .. sales. So, do keep that in mind before you decide to quit your job and start something!

 

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How’s life after … employment?

I keep on being asked this question over and over again. It’s like I crossed on the other side and people want to know if the grass is as green as they are imagining it. 🙂

To give a bit of context, I have been working in the software development industry for almost 11 years. I’ve had a job with a startup (I co-founded, actually), then jumped into the corporate environment. Initially, I worked in an outsourcing/offshoring environment (“on the shore” side, so to speak 😀 ), in Romania. Still, working for big companies. Then I moved to London and worked for Gumtree, which is an eBay subsidiary. But no point in boring anyone with an experience they can read about. The bottom line is, I have been working continuously in medium-big companies for the last 9 years or so. 2 weeks in a row had been the longest vacation I had ever taken. Once. 😀

Then I quit my job to follow my passions and dreams.

So, to come back to your question…

Well, first of all, in theory, I’ve only had a couple of weeks of real, stay-at-home unemployment. Another couple of weeks I was away in Peru. Those don’t count because I was enjoying a vacation, instead of contemplating upon my situation :).

But if you want a “status update” (as the corporate environment puts it) …

I’m struggling in between two answers 😀 : one that will make you jealous as hell or the other that will get you thinking. Maybe I will give you both..

Make-you-jealous answer

Life after employment is a bliss.

  • I get to chill a lot
  • I get to wake up at any time I want and obviously go to bed at any time I want (especially after you are jet lagged from a vacation in Peru).
  • I get to see the sun during the day! Now I sound like a jailbreaker, but it’s true. Being in concrete offices all day is like being a groundhog.
  • I get to choose what I want to do whenever I want to do it.

It’s complete freedom!

Or maybe not..

Make-you-think answer

The first thing I realized is that initially (but while I was still part-timing), I wanted to chill, waste time, do nothing, watch movies, do nothing. Honeymoon period. That was definitely a rebellion against all the stress from before. I  got bored and over that phase in about 2-3 days.

Then after a few days of over-sleeping and late-sleeping, and especially with the jet leg, I started getting annoyed with my chaotic schedule. I am a person who is all about efficiency. Always highly organized, very active, I very quickly became annoyed with my tiredness during the day. So some structure needed to be put back in place. So now I am back to waking up early, going to bed (reasonably) late, eating at the right times, etc.

I started to think it’s too good to be true or that it won’t last for long. Because it won’t! (haha). For example, I know I have limited resources to live off of. Money starts becoming more and more relevant. With a reasonable consistent salary, I didn’t use to worry that much. And even though I did my maths before making this step, I did start being more calculated in my costs. Not to mention, the first few days (after the honeymoon 😛 ) I canceled all kinds of known and unknown subscriptions I had. Bye, bye Spotify Premium! I started calculating every purchase in “days of extra contribution” to my unemployment.

I started thinking about extra income on minimum effort or existing activities. And this is where creativity comes into play. For the right amount of pocket money (wink wink), I will share with you all the ideas that crossed my mind 😀 .

I have a few projects going on. One of which is a nutritional recommendation engine that you can read about here. Needless to say, I need to get those going asap. So, big to-do lists, meetings and a lot of work ahead. Yep, there you have it, another job!

So this ends my rant. What do you think?

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