One of the few things that I’ve really held onto as an American living abroad is celebrating Thanksgiving abroad. I hope that this post inspires you a little in terms of celebrating Thanksgiving abroad, no matter whether you’re traveling or living abroad. These are my tips for enjoying your Thanksgiving abroad whether you are living abroad or traveling.
Growing up, we’d often go over to my aunt’s house for a delicious and diverse meal with a Tunisian influence (due to my aunt!). Although our Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t as traditional as others, my husband and I always make an effort to throw a Thanksgiving dinner party with friends or do something special.
Host your own potluck-style dinner with friends
One of my favorite ways to experience Thanksgiving abroad, especially as an American expat, is to throw your own Thanksgiving dinner. One pro-tip is to have it as a potluck-style dinner to make your life easier. You’ll be cooking all day and you probably won’t have the day off. As a result, I recommend inviting your friends over and establishing who will bring what. There’s nothing wrong with putting off your Thanksgiving dinner until Friday or Saturday, just because it’s easier for friends and others to attend.
Our first Thanksgiving potluck abroad was a blast although a bit harder. Since then, I have a definitive plan where certain people bring certain dishes. We usually make the turkey, the gravy, and one of the desserts. You can cut back accordingly, but the turkey is the one item that I almost always take for myself.
One year, we bought a turkey that was pre-cooked from a butcher popular with Americans living in the Netherlands, but it was pretty expensive. It’s far cheaper to order the turkey from our local butcher and best approximate a stuffed turkey using a simple stuffing recipe. Similarly, I’ve bought Dutch apple pies, but I made my own last year. It was pretty delicious! A pro tip: You can make something very close to a pumpkin pie without real pumpkin if you use certain kinds of squash.
Even if you have a small dinner party, the following foods are pretty easy to make as long as you can find the ingredients. I strongly recommend sending a recipe if your friends have no idea about a dish. We had some friends bring only alcohol, so we only had to worry about the food itself.
Dishes to consider assigning out
- Mashed Potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
- Casserole (of some sort)
- Spiced carrots
- Cranberry sauce
Seek out American-style dinners near you
American-style craft beer bars are becoming far more popular in Europe. I was able to find several Thanksgiving dinners in the Netherlands within Amsterdam as well as the Hague. Most American-style hotels have a Thanksgiving dinner available for home-sick Americans and their friends, but it typically costs at least 25 euros per person in my experience (within Europe). (You’ll need to reserve ahead.) I’ve heard that the Holiday Inn and Hilton was a great place for a Thanksgiving dinner abroad.
I recommend checking on Facebook for local American expat groups as many will post about Thanksgiving dinners near where you’re traveling. Similarly, you might find that a bar or cafe in major cities might hold something for the occasion.
If you know anyone who works at the American embassy in the country where you’re traveling, it might be worth asking whether you can attend a dinner with those working there. A friend of mine did this and really felt at home with people from the embassy!
Enjoy a grand meal out (no matter what it is!)
If you’re traveling outside of the US on Thanksgiving, you may not see so much going on. Whether you’re traveling solo, with a partner, or with family, I’d recommend looking up a nice local restaurant with generous portions. I find the fact that Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday to be great as you can visit many popular restaurants without the crowds.
Relax and travel
You don’t need to do anything for Thanksgiving and it’s a great time to travel outside the United States. Although flights can be pricier, you can save by flying on Thanksgiving itself. There’s nothing like enjoying a relaxing vacation outside of the US without the manic panic of Black Friday and quiet!
Have you celebrated Thanksgiving abroad?
You can click to read about the Pilgrims in the Netherlands here!