Celebrating Thanksgiving abroad is an altogether different prospect, without the wider cultural participation, and potentially being unable to get hold of many of the most important Thanksgiving ingredients. Most Americans living abroad soldier on though, so to help all those resolute souls out there, here are our top 5 tips for American expats celebrating Thanksgiving abroad.
1 – Plan in advance
2 – Lower your (and your family’s or guests’) expectations
Even if you do start accumulating everything you need months in advance, some things will never be the same as back home. Accept this early on, and encourage your family or guests to accept it too, and things will run much more smoothly on the day.
“Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is no small task; cross the Atlantic, and the difficulty increases exponentially.” – wsj.com
Many Americans comment on how small European ovens and fridges are, so even if you can find a good, big turkey, you may not be able to store it or cook it. Furthermore, Thanksgiving won’t be a national holiday, so plan to celebrate on the nearest weekend. Failing to adapt to your circumstances could severely dent your holiday happiness! If you can’t get a turkey, go with chicken, pork, or beef. If you can’t find pumpkins, try a local squash perhaps. Remember, turkeys, corn, and pumpkins are only traditional Thanksgiving foods because they were the only foods available to early settlers in America, who couldn’t source the foods they were used to in Europe. Embrace the spirit of the early settlers and use what’s locally available.
4 – Remember, it’s the thought that counts
If you’re inviting non-Americans, don’t expect them to have any idea what’s going on. Brush up on your history so you don’t seem like a nitwit when they start asking the inevitable Thanksgiving origins questions, and don’t expect them to bring American foods. It may also be wise to let them know in advance that they’ll be expected to say what they’re thankful for, as otherwise they might never forgive you for putting them on the spot without warning. The most important thing though is to remember to be thankful for the friends you’ve made during your adventure abroad, however clueless they are about our American ways.
5 – Be thankful!
Living abroad can be hard, especially on traditional holidays when we inevitably think about our families and friends back home, but the most important thing about Thanksgiving of course is to focus on what we have, not what we don’t have. Be thankful for the people we are with, and the foods we have, not those things we don’t.