Five tips for an expat Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I know some of you are reading this far from the USA, so I thought I’d let you know how I used to make expat Thanksgiving work. I went to college in England, which means that for three years, I had Thanksgiving as an expatriate. To this day, some of those memories remain among my favorites of any Thanksgiving spent anywhere, from realizing students from other programs were Americans and making new friends to my teacher setting the turkey on fire. Here’s how we made expat Thanksgiving work.

1. Invite lots of people.

Yeah, you can get together with that expat couple you know and have an intimate dinner with a turkey theme, but you could do that any night of the year, really. Thanksgiving is about getting together with a whole bunch of people, many of whom you don’t normally dine with. Go big or go home. Find out which of your friends has the biggest place and demand to colonize it in the name of Barack Obama for the day.

2. Let everyone cook.

Cooking is something everyone associates with Thanksgiving, so make your expat Thanksgiving a potluck. Be sure and assign dishes, or let people volunteer and keep a list, so that you don’t end up with all cranberry sauce. Everyone will arrive with something delicious in hand and in the right mood for the festivities.3. Invite some non-Americans (but not too many).

When I was in college, this was an accident every year, as my teacher would try kindly to invite American students who weren’t in his class. Due to this last-minute “I think she’s American” rush, we’d always end up with someone Welsh or Norwegian. It actually made the day more fun, as the Americans would all explain (and fight over) the meaning of the Thanksgiving tradition. Plus, outnumbering a foreigner for once felt fantastic — so don’t invite too many.

4. Have some non-traditional dishes.

Don’t limit yourselves to Thanksgiving foods; cover the basics of course, but invite guests to bring any favorite American food. Why not? It’s time to liberate that last, clung-to box of Kraft Mac & Cheese and share it with your broheim.

5. Don’t forget the entertainment.

If you can catch football via satellite, great, but keep in mind this doesn’t serve everyone. Be sure to have a selection of American movies on hand. For our parties, we watched tape after tape of The Daily Show, dying with laughter over the long-missed American humor and talking with each other, other Americans, about the issues back home. It was wonderful.

[Photo by ilovebutter via Flickr.]