We spent Thanksgiving with about 40 American expats who are living in East Sussex, only one of them I had actually met before. I was near to tears at how welcoming and friendly they all were. People were saying similar things about their experience living in England and suddenly I felt like all my fears and confusion over the past 15 years were not so silly or unimportant as I sometimes thought they were. I wasn’t alone. And nor were they. Although I’d never even met our hosts before, they welcomed me and my family of five into their warm home filled with festive people – couples and families along with all the turkey and other traditional Thanksgiving food they had prepared and people had brought. It truly was an experience we had never had before in England and one that my children had definitely never experienced outside of America. My husband and I had an amazing time and chatted, smiled and laughed so much our faces hurt. During the evening I noticed my children were shy but extremely engaged. The look on their faces was a mixture between amusement and awe. I asked my two older children to write something about what they thought about their first ‘real’ American Thanksgiving in an all-American home. Even though their passports say they are American, it’s not often they get to experience that side of their cross-cultural heritage.
I had not celebrated Thanksgiving properly before, nor remembered much of the American culture I had experienced 4 years ago on our Holiday to Florida so I didn’t exactly know what to expect. As soon as we walked through the door we were greeted warmly by people we didn’t even know yet they still managed to keep conversations amongst themselves whilst saying hello to us. It was very crowded (for me) but nobody seemed to care or notice. It then occurred to me that British and American cultures were so vastly different that it seemed almost futile to attempt to compare them or say that one made more sense than the other. It wasn’t just the loud stereotype that defined the Americans I met however I did feel like the British stereotype of being anti-social and being reserved was precisely how I was acting- or trying not to act like. I find it strange how the day before I felt like I was just me but when being one of the very few people in that house who was born and considered themselves British, I felt like nothing more than a stereotypical English girl. Not that that’s a bad thing, it just was strange how this experience changed my view of myself entirely. The counter tops were lined with dishes of thanksgiving food that we ate. This included: Chocolate pie, macaroni and cheese, bean bakes, casseroles, pumpkin, turkey, ect. For the most part during the evening we talked and ate food. – Anna Grace, age 12
It was like I was in America as everyone was so different to how British people are, for example the woman who was hosting the thanksgiving party didn’t even notice as we walked straight into the house until she recognised my mum. We then just helped ourselves to plates of food and socialised with the people there. They were all very welcoming and nice and seemed very happy to talk with us about this and that, this gave the whole event a very social and fun atmosphere. – Sam, age 14
We are so thankful for this experience, a little bit of American culture weaved into our British lives.
Meghan Peterson Fenn is the author of Bringing Up Brits, co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs, co-founder and Director of Design and Web at Shake It Up Creative. And, she is an award winning expat blogger.