3 Ways to Spend Thanksgiving When You're Abroad
And how to start new traditions.
It's not easy to be away from home on Thanksgiving, and if you're feeling homesick, it can be even harder to spend the U.S. holiday in a foreign country. While your friends and family are eating pumpkin pie and watching (American) football, the fourth Thursday of the month is just another day everywhere else in the world.
Whether you're working a full-time job in China, studying abroad in Argentina, or spending your days off in London instead of with family, you don't have to entirely forego tradition. There are still ways to rejoice in good food and all the things you're thankful for, even if you have to postpone your celebration to the weekend.
Below are tips to making the most out of Thanksgiving in a foreign country, and to starting new traditions of your own.
Find an expats' Thanksgiving dinner
In big, international cities, you’ll find restaurants and hotels welcoming American expats, study abroad students, tourists, and culture curious locals alike with Thanksgiving feasts of their own. From London and Paris to Beijing and Sydney, restaurants are quick to offer up Thanksgiving favorites like pumpkin pie and roast turkey, in addition to a whole gamut of American classics like mac ‘n’ cheese, gumbo, and clam chowder.
The side dishes might not live up to your cousin's or grandma’s oh-so-tasty sweet potato casserole, but the nostalgic taste of America can help alleviate any feelings of homesickness. Reserve your table early so you don’t miss out on this decadent remedy to homesickness and nostalgia.
Improvise your own Thanksgiving feast
If you have access to a kitchen, brush up on your American history and invite all your international friends to partake in America’s favorite meal. Thanksgiving ingredients like pumpkins and turkey can be hard to come by, so plan well in advance. Scout the international aisle in your local grocery store or see if you can track down a specialty U.S. food store for ingredients. You might even be able to order your must-have items online.
Be open to making substitutions. If you still can’t find a turkey, Be My Travel Muse suggests using meat that’s “reserved for special occasions” in the country you’re visiting. Try slow-cooked pig in Bali or whole steamed fish in Vietnam. Or substitute turkey for another roasted poultry, like chicken, duck, or Cornish hen. As for mashed and sweet potatoes, consider using another starchy root vegetable as an alternative, such as taro or yucca root. You can also substitute pumpkin for another local squash if your search for pumpkin or pumpkin puree comes up empty.
As a last resort, consider starting a new Thanksgiving tradition. Ask each of your guests to bring a traditional main course, side dish, or dessert from their home country. Your friends will get to share—and you’ll get to indulge in—their favorite comfort foods, and in the true spirit of Thanksgiving, you’ll feel grateful for the camaraderie and togetherness.
Skype your family and friends back home
To mitigate the pains of homesickness, plan a Skype session with your family and friends back home. Factor in the time difference and talk to them when they're watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, or have them set up a place for you at the dinner table. What better time to talk to everyone all at once?