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Far From Home? 7 Tips for Celebrating Thanksgiving Abroad

Written by Going Places

This blog post was updated on November 9, 2022.


Traveling during the holidays can be the perfect recipe for all sorts of complications—cranky relatives, cranberry sauce that just won’t gel, or not enough room on the couch to nap are just a few examples. When you’re traveling abroad during the Thanksgiving holiday, however, you’re likely to face a different set of issues. Honoring such an important holiday in a foreign country can be disorienting.

That’s why we want to help you with these seven tips to make you excel at celebrating Thanksgiving abroad!

Check Dining Options Ahead of Time

Since it’s just a regular Thursday for the rest of the world, you shouldn’t expect special menus in restaurants. Hotels catering to Americans, however, may have turkey on the menu for the day! Call ahead and ask. They might even help you find a place that is helping out expats with some genuine Thanksgiving fare. If you’re staying in an apartment or villa — which is more economical if your family is big — then cooking your own dinner may be the next best thing when it comes to getting homey results!

Go Local

While we all miss the flavors of home, remember that you’ll be back home for Christmas dinner soon enough. You might decide to take a chance an embrace the local cuisine. That may mean incorporating local elements into your meal—have raclettes instead of mashed potatoes if you’re skiing in Switzerland, or couscous instead of stuffing if you’re sunning in Morocco. Who knows, you may find a new favorite tradition to bring home with you for next year!

Join a Dinner With Other Expats

Thanks to social media, it’s easy to find fellow American ex-pats in your new home. You can probably find a Facebook group or local associations specifically for Americans. When you find yourself craving a Thanksgiving celebration, your expat friends are the perfect resource. One of them might be throwing a Thanksgiving celebration and invite you to join. If that happens, make sure to offer to bring something to share. Or, if no one else is organizing anything, offer to hold a potluck. It’s a great way to connect for the holiday!

Attend a Local Cultural Event

Part of the joy of living abroad is to learn about different customs and traditions. This can include harvest festivals, which are common in many parts of the world from Germany to the Philippines. While the tenor of the celebration may be different than what you are used to, chances are that you could have a great time if you leave behind your expectations and go with an open mind. You might also consider concerts, sporting events, or local holiday celebrations and incorporate these into your new international Thanksgiving tradition.

Invite New Local Friends for Dinner

Chances are you’ve made some friends in your new home. Why not share your traditions with them? Many will probably be curious to learn about an American holiday. You can prepare a couple of the dishes you grew up with while encouraging them to bring whatever they’d like to share. The important thing is not the menu, but the sense of community and the laughter.

You may also like: Thanksgiving Travel Tips to Make Your Holiday Stress-Free

Order Ingredients Ahead of Time

If you know you’ll be craving traditional Thanksgiving foods such as cranberry sauce, be aware that these may be hard to find locally. Not every country has turkeys, for example. These birds are native to the Americas, after all. Even if you can find them, they might be smaller than you’re used to. Other foods, such as potatoes or green beans, will be easier to find. By planning your menu in advance and ordering ingredients early where possible, you’ll maximize the chances of having a feast you’ll enjoy.

Attend Your Family’s Thanksgiving Virtually

Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to celebrate with your family even if you are thousands of miles away. Simply set up a Zoom or Skype session. Eat your own meal while they eat theirs. Due to the time difference, you might be having eggs while your family has dinner. However, the main thing is that you are enjoying the company of those you love. That’s what really matters.

Have you ever celebrated Thanksgiving abroad? Got any other tips? Let us know in the comments!  

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Going Places

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