Celebrating Thanksgiving as an American Expat in Austria
Celebrating Thanksgiving in a foreign country has its challenges – missing ingredients, missing the time off work, and missing family and friends. Today, Iam celebrating my second Thanksgiving in Austria as an American expat away from home. After our first round of Thanksgiving in Austria last year, I feel better prepared to celebrate the holiday in Austrian style.
Since Austria does not celebrate Thanksgiving, it helps to plan for the celebration ahead of time. Here are some tips and tricks –
SEARCH FOR INGREDIENTS IN ADVANCE
With some planning, you should be able to find most of the ingredients you need for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. However, it is important to note that it is difficult to find American processed ingredients. Canned pumpkin? Nope. Stovetop Stuffing? Nah. Plan to do it your self this year, your Thanksgiving feast shall be from scratch!
Ingredients that are hard to find in Austria:
- Pumpkin Puree: during October, it is possible to find pumpkins in major grocery chains (Merkur and Billa had them this year). Some grocery stores may have other hearty squashes for sale during November, but they may be difficult to find. I have used Butternut Squash, Hokkaido, and other “Kürbis” as alternatives in the past. Just roast the squash yourself and puree for your baking needs.
- Whole Turkey: you won’t find a whole roasting turkey in the grocery store, so you will have to order in advance. I used a local butcher this year for my “Truthahn.” However, it is common to find turkey breasts for sale at the grocery store if you don’t need a full bird to roast.
- Cranberries: I lucked out last year and found fresh cranberries at Interspar. However, you may not be so lucky. A great alternative is the Red Current or “Ribisel” in German. During the holidays, Ribisel Sauce is a popular condiment and can be found pre-made in most grocery stores.
- Collard Greens: it is hard to express how much I miss dark, leafy greens. Unfortunately, I have not found a viable alternative in Austria for the deliciousness of collard greens, mustard greens, or kale. It’s a shame! The only thing similar would be good old spinach, sorry dudes.
- Cheddar for Macaroni and cheese: the sweet heaven of cheese and noodles – not so difficult to obtain in Austria. You can easily find elbow macaroni at most grocery stores and plenty of good cheese. Unfortunately, cheddar is not a typical cheese in Austria and can be difficult to find and expensive. Since mac and cheese calls for a lot of cheese, I haven’t splurged on cheddar. I use shredded edamer like you would in Austrian Käsespätzle, it isn’t orange, but it works.
SHARE YOUR CULTURE
Last year, I was getting a serious case of the holiday blues seeing pictures of my friends and family celebrating Thanksgiving on social media. Instead of making myself miserable, I invited friends over for a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. Sharing your culture is a great way to reflect on the holiday instead of focusing on everything you are missing out on. Explain how Thanksgiving is celebrated in schools. Talk about the Thanksgiving story and the truths and untruths of it. Share your family traditions and if you can, have pictures ready to show off Thanksgiving in the USA. Your guests will certainly thank you for the delicious meal and the opportunity to learn more about your culture.
Regardless of your beliefs regarding the Thanksgiving holiday, I think it is important to use the day to express gratitude. Give thanks for all that is good in your life. Reflect on the road that brought you to Austria. Say thank you to all of the fantastic people who have helped you along the way. And most importantly, embody that gratitude beyond Thanksgiving through the end of the year. Even in the darkest of times, there is still so much good in the world.
Thanks for reading friends! Wishing you all a lovely holiday full of warmth and cheer!