Thanksgiving in England: How to not to die of homesickness

Posted on November 22, 2012 by yankeebean

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  This time of year, we always get a LOT of emails from fellow expats that are trying to distract themselves from HHH (Heinous Holiday Homesickness).  I hold my arms open wide and give you all big, non-creepy hugs…

Because so many of your are hurtin’, I thought I’d write down my personal and extra-special check-list that I’ve developed to to kick HHH’s arse.

1 – PARTY!

We’re American and we are used to celebrating this day – don’t stop now just because of the tiny, insignificant fact that you don’t ACTUALLY LIVE THERE ANY MORE   Invite people over – heck, invite PERSON over and channel your inner pilgrim.  Drink ’til you’re merry then eat ’til you’re comatose.

Don’t worry about everyone being American, Brits go MENTAL of Thanksgiving.  There have been years that friends that live on the other side of the UK call me up 6 MONTHS IN ADVANCE to ‘reserve’ their seats at Thanksgiving.  Once a friend even flew over from Spain just to be part of our Thanks-mania.

2 – Take the day off

It took me two years to realise that the single thing that pissed me off the most about missing American Thanksgiving was not getting any time off.  From the minute my alarm clock would go off on Thanksgiving morning, I felt like I wanted to throw things and burst into tears.

But the third year in, I took Thanksgiving day off from work and spent the whole day prepping for party-central and watching the original Miracle on 34th Street on constant loop.  BLOODY HELL, it made me feel SOOOOO much better.

Can’t recommend it highly enough.

3 – Do something REALLY American

I’ll give you three guesses about what I do on Thanksgiving Day every year (and have done since my first expat Thanksgiving all the way back in 2005).

Give up?


I swear I’m not paid to constantly talk about Starbucks – I don’t even go there all that often.  I just write about it on here a lot because it’s my go-to-screw-you-HHH solution.

Anyway – this is pretty much the first thing I do every Thanksgiving.  I take myself out for a giant eggnog latte and an enormous pastry.  I bring a book and I just sit, read, and soak in all that glorious caffeine and sugar.  I soak it up and I wear it like a sweater / armour all day long. HHH can’t touch me when I’ve got my American buzz on.

4 – Don’t try to EXACTLY duplicate your childhood Thanksgiving

This is another thing I tried to do for the first two years and I can hold my head up high and tell you that it TANKED.  BIG TIME.

Duplicating my American Thanksgiving caused all KINDS of trouble.  For example:

  • Trying to find certain ingredients was a nightmare (Canned pumpkin, fried onions, the right kind of stuffing mix)
  • Asking everyone around the table to say one thing they’re thankful for went down  like a lead balloon.  On the whole, everyone was TOTALLY embarrassed about it.  We didn’t even get all the way around the table.  The Brits staged a kind of silent revolt and gave up half-way through.  For an English twist, why not ask everyone to make a comment about the weather instead?  (Kidding kidding… that was kinda mean, sorry. Clearly I’m still bitter.)
  • Some of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes gave my English guest the heebies.  They’re weren’t a big fan of green bean casserole.  They were sceptical about candied yams and they were surprised (although not horrified) about the stuffing because it was so different to what they’re used to.
  • It’s worth noting that I’m a vegetarian and we also had quorn roast instead of turkey.  You’ll be SHOCKED to know that it didn’t go down that well. :)

5 – Talk to your family

This is both the absolute best and the super-most-difficult part every year – but it’s an absolute essential.  I always want to have a little tear-session after I talk to my fam, but I also know that I’d feel like a big ol’ pile of shite if I didn’t catch up with them.


And that’s it!  I do these 5 things every year and really REALLY helps.

Does anyone have any tips or traditions that you’ve started since you’ve been an expat?  There’s freakin’ LOADS of room on my list for more traditions, so bring it on.

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  1. Pingback: Homesick? | Jacob King

  2. Malka December 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    This was my first Thanksgiving in the UK, and I moped about work for the first part of the day until I went out for lunch, bought a tub of ice cream, and announced to my coworkers that we were having a Thanksgiving ice cream party! They were all completely nonplused at the Thanksgiving part but hey, free ice cream – and I felt loads better =)

    There are actually a few pubs in London that have Thanksgiving feasts, but they sell out early.

    • yankeebean December 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      I think it would freak me out to go the pub on Thanksgiving. The LAST thing I want is to spend my home-sick day in the MOST ENGLISH of all institutions :D

  3. Taylor November 22, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I made pumpkin pie this year!! And I had everyone here try it (although I had to explain that it was a “pudding”, it wasn’t a savory pie. I will never get used to savory pies!!!) Next year I think I’ll try to plan a feast when I’m not busy with wedding preps and such, but these are all great ideas! I may treat myself to starbucks now :)
    Although I’m going to miss the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!!!!
    Happy Thanksgiving!!

    • yankeebean November 23, 2012 at 11:35 pm

      Every year I try and stalk the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. I can’t believe it’s not possible to stream it on the internet. I’m outraged every year it continues to not work.

      Happy Thanksgiving! :)

  4. Jocelyn Nelson November 22, 2012 at 9:23 am

    I always make a pumpkin pie. This is the first year though that I have made it with canned pumpkin as opposed to fresh (thank you Waitrose!). I usually cook turkey etc too, although it is difficult when everyone goes to work/ school. Last year I went in to my son’s reception class to tell them about Thanksgiving and brought pumpkin cookies which went down well. The worst experience was one year when I was just married I made a pumpkin pie to take to my sister in law’s house for Christmas ( I thought they might really like it for some reason). No one touched it. Not one bite. Not even a little taste! I brought the entire pie back home. This was also the first time in my life I had made a pumpkin pie from scratch (ie real pumpkin, own pastry). It was so sad.

    • yankeebean November 23, 2012 at 11:34 pm

      Canned pumpkin at Waitrose?? This is seriously good news!

      I CANNOT BELIEVE not one person would try your pie. What a bunch of knumpties! I would’ve been seriously pissed off…

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