In the past, it was way harder to be vegan outside of a major metropolitan area, for a few reasons:
There were few other vegans around, for inspiration or tips
There was nowhere to buy vegan staples, like plant-based milk
It was hard to find vegan recipes
It was hard to find information, not only about how, but also about why, to be vegan
Few products or restaurants catered to vegans
Thank you, internet!
For most of these problems, the internet helped a lot.
Vegan-friendly items that previously were only stocked in big cities are now accessible across the country. But even for people who aren’t fans of ordering things online, the newfound access to fellow vegans and accrued knowledge alone was a game-changer.
But yeah, there can be problems.
There are some real, legitimate problems that vegans face outside big metro areas. Luckily things are getting better, but these concerns can still be an issue.
Big cities have better vegan food (but your town might surprise you!)
Big cities have more, better vegan restaurants. They’re also more likely to have restaurants from various diverse culinary traditions that are already vegan-friendly (like Ethiopian or Burmese). I’ve found that LA and San Francisco, in particular, have an absurd array of great vegan restaurants. But even big cities you wouldn’t expect, like Nashville or Atlanta, are havens for vegans.
This isn’t to say that you can’t find great vegan food in smaller cities or rural areas. For instance, the Chattanooga, Tennessee area is surprisingly saturated with top-notch vegan food, partly because the city attracts a veg-inclined mix of triathletes, outdoorspeople, and Seventh-Day Adventists. It just might be a little trickier, depending on where you are, to find a wide array of options.
People in big cities are more used to vegans (or just don’t care)
In smaller towns, the odds are usually against vegans — if there are fewer people, there are fewer vegans. And if someone isn’t used to encountering vegans, they’re more likely to be unsure about how to react to them. When people encounter something that seems strange and foreign to them, they might react poorly. It’s just one of those things.
On the flip side, the tendency for smaller communities to be more close-knit and care more about their neighbors can also work in vegans’ favor, by providing vegans with a chance to talk to their neighbors and dispel some of the mystery and confusion around veganism.
So while it might be a little tougher for people who don’t live in a major city to switch to veganism, it’s by no means impossible. It could take a little extra gumption, but it’s much easier than it used to be! I’m always super impressed when I meet folks who have been vegan for 30+ years, and lived through the days of powdered soy milk. Compared to the situation decades ago, being vegan nowadays is a piece of (delicious vegan) cake.