As the holiday time is upon us you might wonder, what are the holidays like in another country? Well, not yet having spent Christmas out of the country, I can’t yet speak to that (stay tuned). But as Thanksgiving has just passed, I can tell you how that might go for you, especially if you are looking at western Europe.
As my first Thanksgiving away from the U.S., I knew this would be something I needed to check out. Thanksgiving, for me, is quite a big deal. I believe that we should be thankful for all our blessings and this is the holiday I use to celebrate that idea. Being away from my children would be hard, so I needed to celebrate with others so I didn’t spend a lot of time moping around.
Looking around in the Algarve, I was having a hard time finding the foods I would usually prepare for Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pie, one of my specialties, or so my children believe, was going to be tough. Pumpkin isn’t in high demand here. Cranberries were proving to be another challenge. Nuts are very expensive, and the list went on and on. All these issues contributed to me deciding to look for a group celebration or restaurant meal I could book.
That, too, proved to be challenging. After searching the web for a few days, I finally found a Thanksgiving celebration for Americans, complete with catered dinner. Perfect! The only issue is the the dinner was in Cascais, and I am in the Algarve. But I was desperate, so I booked it anyway. I thought. Turns out, the response I clicked on wasn’t the way to reserve a spot so the next thing I know, the event is booked and I am out.
I talked to the person in charge, and she was very understanding but could only put me on the waiting list. I know lots of people cancel for events, but this isn’t just a local concert you change your mind about, this is your holiday plans for your family! I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about my chances. I still hadn’t heard back a couple of days in advance, but I needed to hurry and book both my transportation to the Lisbon area and a place to stay. I can’t rave enough about the sharing economy and how great it is to have affordable options at the last minute!
YES!! I got an email that an opening was available. But not reading it for several hours, I was on pins and needles waiting for my confirmation and if I had responded too late and someone else took my spot. Luckily, I got confirmation and, like a child at Christmas, I could barely contain my excitement.
The dinner and music and company were great! I got to meet lots of other Americans for the first time. That, in itself, was worth the price of admission. Yes, most people were in couples, but everyone was so warm and welcoming. Several already knew each other, as this group meets regularly in the area.
Another benefit…at the dinner I got to ask about shopping for a holiday meal. People were full of great information about which chain stores or even, specific stores, to shop when looking for expat-friendly foods.
And of course, we talked about everyone’s individual journey of how they came to be in Portugal. I heard lots of interesting stories and got plenty of encouragement about my own journey. People always seem to be amazed that I came to Europe without relatives here or knowing another language. I hear it so often, I just find it amusing now.
So I had a fun time, a nice holiday dinner and have met people in an area I was planning to visit on my quest to find my permanent living spot. Major score!! I am very thankful, indeed.
Your Takeaway – Holidays can be hard when you are still adapting to your new surroundings. I would definitely recommend you try to spend the day or part of it with other people. Don’t be afraid to reach out and see what your options might be. Do some research, ask around and you will surely find a way to celebrate away from home. And it doesn’t have to look like it would at home. I was prepared to have my celebration be an event at a Portuguese buffet the day before Thanksgiving until a spot opened up for me at a Thanksgiving dinner.
Remember, your holiday is in your heart. How you choose to manifest that externally is up to you. But it will be fine, or even great, if you take the positive attitude you brought with you abroad and use it to create your new celebration.