Living Abroad,  Thriving

Being Thankful: Celebrating Thanksgiving in Spain

Dear Toni,

Since moving abroad I have discovered that Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday—for me it is an excuse to get a bunch of people together, eat good food, and just appreciate how amazing life can be in general. In Granada, my family and I have created an unusual but amazing relationship with a local bar that allows us to have a pot luck in their back room as long as we buy drinks at the bar. It is not a traditional lunch, but a random dinner with people from all different areas of our daily life joining the fun together. We have been celebrating Thanksgiving like this for four years now and it has become somewhat of a classic with our friends (there are usually upwards of 50 people, young and old, hanging out all evening).

At the same time, I can understand that while living abroad it might get hard around the holiday season because you don’t have your family to celebrate with. If you’re starting to feel blue about being far from home at this holiday, take comfort in knowing that it’s normal. In fact, it is right around Thanksgiving that most study abroad students are finding themselves around three months into their stay, meaning that what I call the three month feeling is going strong. However, there is no reason to get down this time of year and I find there are two main ways that you can still enjoy the season, even when you are far away from home.


What our 'traditional' Thanksgiving now looks like.Look for a way to connect with people back home:

My first tip would be to look for ways to connect with your friends and family back home. Even if you are not going to be with them physically, consider sending postcards or organizing a Skype call to catch up (read more about our tips for staying in touch here). Reaching out to your family back home is a good way for you to tell them that you are thinking about them and it might help you get through the moments where you are feeling a little bit blue (read this post for tips when you are feeling down).

In addition, ask people you care about if they can share their recipes so that you can make them while abroad. By asking how dishes are made, doing the shopping and cooking, and enjoying the food you make, you will feel connected with your loved ones even while you are far away. Again, this has two good points. Firstly, you will let your friends and family know you are thinking about them while you are making ways to stay in touch at a distance and you are able to incorporate things that you love about home in your life abroad.


Look for a way to connect with people here:

At the same time, I would highly recommend looking for ways to connect with people wherever you may be. While sharing your traditions might feel strange and people might not get it at first, I find that people often love to share the holidays you are passionate about—and if it is a holiday that has a good reason to have delicious food and great friends get together, everyone will want to join in. Consider hosting a potluck dinner (you don’t have to go crazy like we do, even with a few close friends you can enjoy a Friendsgiving) to connect with people who are in your abroad life.

While it most definitely won’t be the same experience you are used to back home, don’t think that this means that you won’t have fun. Be open to the idea that by sharing your holidays with friends abroad, you are creating new value and meaning for these special days. Just try and enjoy the time you have! You will, for sure, be changing how your friends see you and your daily habits. And, who knows, maybe you will even end up making new traditions that you never expected!

Case-in-point: the thanksgiving tradition is still going strong in Granada and part of the group will continue to celebrate this year, despite the fact that Claudia is living in Finland, the bar has since closed, and most people in the group are not even Americans! It’s the perfect example of how incorporating others into your culture’s Holidays can have lasting effects and enjoyment for all.


PinterestTake time to reflect

At the same time that it’s normal to miss your family back and home and crave the comfort foods, smells, and sounds of this holiday that you likely won’t be able to fully recreate in Spain, we’d encourage you to not focus on these negatives and instead turn your perspective around. Focus on the reasons why you’re thankful for your time abroad, rather than the reasons you wish you were home on this particular day. Chances are, if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture you’ll realize you have so much more to be grateful for than you realize and that your time abroad is affording you amazing new opportunities and growth. Not sure where to get started with this reflection? Check out Dani’s list of reasons she’s thankful for her abroad experience for inspiration.I’m sure you’ll find something you can relate to there!

From all of us at Sincerely, Spain—Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are!


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