It’s always weird spending a Thanksgiving away from home. The tradition of spending those few days with family while you stuff your face with turkey is a solidified routine for most Americans, so I really had no idea what to expect spending my first Thanksgiving in another country.
Because Thanksgiving doesn’t exist in the U.K., Christmas celebrations start extremely early. The minute it hits November 1, the streets are lit with twinkly lights, Michael Buble’s Christmas album plays on repeat and stores are filled to the brim with decorations. It was rather interesting trying to find a way to celebrate our favorite holiday in a place that had absolutely no care in the world that it was Thanksgiving.
Despite the challenges, my roommates and I did our best to live out the full Turkey Day experience. Unfortunately the day began to a rather gruesome start when we found a dead mouse in one of the mousetraps in our apartment (full disclosure to any students thinking to study abroad in London, this will most definitely happen to you at some point). After my roommate took one for the team and disposed of it, we began the day’s festivities.
After some research we decided to have our meal at a restaurant called Big Easy, which had a full Thanksgiving menu online, promising to serve all the American classics. Upon arriving at our destination, we found that we had booked our meal at a barbeque and lobster shack. Within minutes of sitting down our waiter handed us plastic lobster bibs, which I humorously and most willingly put on.
It certainly wasn’t Mom’s cooking, but the meal was actually pretty good considering it was a British interpretation on an American holiday. The turkey came with delicious cranberry sauce, sweet potato mash and a green bean casserole. The only time it was quite apparent that Brits don’t know a proper Thanksgiving meal was when our stuffing hadn’t come to the table and after asking the waiter he pointed to the sweet potato mash and said “But isn’t that the stuffing right there?”
You have to give the Brits credit for the attempt, even if they don’t fully understand the holiday. It was perhaps the most American evening we’ve had in London, complete with pumpkin pie, country music and a paper turkey that we named Mr. Bingley and decided to take home with us. Walking home proudly with the turkey in arm, our obvious American demeanor prompted us to be stopped by an American woman who wanted to know how our first London Thanksgiving was. She told us that she’s lived in London for 13 years, but celebrating has never been as fun as celebrating in the States. Funny how a holiday can connect people no matter where you are in the world.
We ended the evening by hitting up our favorite local pub, which as a New Orleans themed bar, was also celebrating Thanksgiving. Their version of a Thanksgiving celebrating was selling five-Pound Wild Turkey bourbon cocktails (which we did end up trying and I can say with no remorse was absolutely disgusting). We ended up staying there till around 6 a.m. dancing and talking with owners and bartenders who work there.
Though it wasn’t the most “traditional” Thanksgiving, I still loved the whole day. It was one of the first times I really felt like an adult, being away from home and getting to celebrate the holiday with this newfound community I’ve made here in London. I Skyped into my mom’s 25-person dinner that night, and while it did make me miss my family, there was no part of me that really longed to be home. I was actually quite content being here in U.K., where I was able to celebrate the day in my own way.