How To Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad

November 18, 2014 7:00 AM

There are many reasons for why you may not be home during the Thanksgiving holiday. You could be traveling abroad for work, volunteering in another country or attending school overseas. No matter the reason, it is still possible to have an authentic American Thanksgiving. Or, if you are going to be overseas for many Thanksgivings to come, you might be able to come up with your own traditions based on the country you are in.

Be Prepared

Celebrating Thanksgiving in a different country will have its challenges. The biggest one is that those in your area will not be celebrating the same holiday as you are (unless they too are from the United States). The stores will not carry holiday-themed decorations or the food needed to cook a traditional turkey dinner. For example, local grocers may not carry turkeys in stock. It may have to be a special ordered and that could take a lot of time to receive and be rather costly to order.

Another challenge is the size of overseas kitchens. Not all countries have apartments or homes filled with the kitchen luxuries we have here in the States. Smaller kitchens and a lack of necessary kitchen appliances could hinder the ability to cook a full turkey dinner.

Knowing both of these setbacks before Thanksgiving arrives will help you better prepare around these obstacles and avoid disappointment.

family thanksgiving dinner How To Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Find Others

Thanksgiving is not just about turkeys and pilgrim decorations. It is about spending time with others and being thankful for what you have. Make the most of what you have around you. Go out and find other travelers.

Go out to dinner and spend the holiday with others in the area. You may run into other Americans who are dining out for the holiday. But if you do not find others from back home, you will be out and about already so celebrate with the locals you meet. They may not celebrate Thanksgiving, but they will understand that you do and will help make the most out of your holiday away from home.

Related: How to Look Like a Local When Dining Abroad

Find Substitutions

You may not have a traditional turkey and all of the fixings available to you overseas, but that does not mean you cannot get together with local friends for a large meal that will leave you as stuffed as the turkeys back home. Plan a potluck and have every person bring their favorite holiday dish. Of course, their favorite dish may be from a different holiday, but it is a holiday dish and could become a new staple in your future Thanksgiving celebrations.

As mentioned earlier, turkey and other fixings may not be available in the country you are in, but there are many other foods available that could easily replace what is in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. For example, when in Europe you can replace traditional mashed potatoes with tabbouleh and use tea cookies in exchange for pumpkin pie. Or consider cooking a goose, duck or chicken instead of a turkey. Stop by your local grocer to see what options are available to you.

If you miss heading out for Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving, you can still go shopping the day after. A great substitution for Black Friday is visiting the different Christmas markets in Germany or finding a small market featuring local vendors.

thanksgiving decorations How To Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad

Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Sapp/USMC via Getty Images

Decorate

Just because the stores in a different country will not carry Thanksgiving decorations does not mean that you have to go without. Fill your room with the colors of fall, including leaves, turkeys and pilgrims. If planning a potluck dinner, make pilgrim and turkey hats for everyone to wear. If you have kids, gather fall-colored construction paper and crayons and plan an afternoon of coloring and creating your own decorations to hang up.

Share Traditions

Share your Thanksgiving tradition with others you meet in foreign countries. This will give you an opportunity to remember previous Thanksgivings and reflect on how thankful you truly are. As a courtesy, ask others you meet about their traditions. You may be surprised to learn that they have customs similar to our Thanksgiving holiday.

buzz light year How To Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad

Photo Credit: Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Watch the Parade

Get online to watch a Thanksgiving Day parade. Some satellite channels overseas may carry some of the bigger parades, such as the Macy’s Day Parade from New York. You might even get lucky enough to catch a football game via satellite.

Related: Balloons Fly for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Connect with Family

Technology has made it easier to stay in touch with friends and family when away. Take time to connect with your family, especially with those not lucky enough to be overseas with you during the holiday. Make a phone call or set up a webcam for a video call.

sight seeing How To Celebrate Thanksgiving Abroad

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Go Sightseeing

Take your mind off of being away from home over the Thanksgiving holiday. Go out and see the sights. Keeping your mind occupied with local landmarks, museums and other popular sights will take away the feeling like you are missing out on Thanksgiving. Since the country you are in does not celebrate Thanksgiving, finding something to do should be easy, since everything should be open.

Remember that Thanksgiving is not just about the food and being in America. There are plenty of ways to celebrate the holiday while abroad. Spend time with others, go sightseeing or sit back and watch a parade on the computer. No matter what you do, you will find a way to make it possible to celebrate Thanksgiving in a foreign country.

Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.

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