Friday, 25 November 2011

Thanksgiving Abroad

Yesterday was my fifth Thanksgiving in England. Each year, I've celebrated it differently, so I'm not sure what this says about my culture mediation efforts...

2007--Went to London for the day, did some sightseeing (first trip to the British Museum) and some Christmas shopping. When I got back to Bath, I went to an American friend's house in the evening and had pumpkin pie and Carlsberg with a mixed international group (mostly Germany and Wales).

2008--First Thanksgiving in Leeds. After lecture, my classmates and I went to the Library pub as usual, then my Venezuelan friend and I went out for pizza at La Besi next door.

2009--Went to an American friend's place for dinner. I brought my mom's cornbread stuffing, a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie. Her French housemate loved the pecan pie and he even asked me for the recipe.

2010--Hosted my first Thanksgiving for a mixed international group of friends. I stuck to traditional American dishes (including two Paula Deen recipes-- Ol No. 7 yams and green bean casserole), although we did serve my favourite real ale (Brains). They loved it--one of my English friends asked a lot of questions about the history of Thanksgiving and what we traditionally do.

2011--Quiet dinner at home for just the two of us, although I did make a spare pecan pie and bring it into the office.

One of the questions I ask the Fulbright students is how the chose to celebrate (or not celebrate) Thanksgiving. It seems pretty innocuous, but their answers really do reveal a great deal about culture learning & mediation. Both Thanksgiving and Bonfire Night come relatively soon after the American students have arrived in the UK, so they present two early opportunities to engage in cultural mediation. If they go to a bonfire or fireworks display, do they go with host nationals or other internationals? If they have a Thanksgiving dinner, do they invite other Americans or a mixed international group? Do they make an effort to teach others about Thanksgiving, and to learn about Guy Fawkes Day? The way they choose to celebrate these holidays can tell us quite a bit about their overall attitudes towards culture learning.

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