My First Thanksgiving Abroad

 Norway, I love you

Even after all of these years, a large portion of my heart is in Norway. When I was sixteen, I was lucky enough to be accepted into Rotary International’s Youth Exchange Program. While my eyes were set on South America, after extensive int

erviews, Norway was deemed to be my new home for a year.

Shortly after arriving I made a friend, Anne. She’s from Colorado, and is one of the best people I’ve ever been around in my life. She is kind, hilarious and truly a good person. We jammed and became great friends, quickly. A few months after our arrival, Thanksgiving was coming up. It was our first holiday away from home that year, and we both were homesick and craving the carbs that make up the main event.

The First Thanksgiving

On the actual Thanksgiving day, we had school- as everyone across Europe did. My second host family was away that evening at work and we decided to cook a small dinner just to say we did. That night we found out that mashed potatoes sh

ouldn’t be attempted to be made in the blender, and that stuffing needs more seasoning than we thought. But it was fun, we shared it with a mutual friend of ours, and had a blast cooking and sneaking wine.

Part Two

I can’t remember how this came to be, but somehow it came to be that Anne & I would cook Thanksgiving for

about thirty people. This included host families and Rotary Members. Anne’s host family was nice enough to let us take over their kitchen for a couple of days while we baked, prepared, and acted a fool. Neither

of us had ever cooked to this magnitude and we actually had no clue what we were doing. We had multiple birds, probably ten pounds of stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls, gravy, and pies.

It was great, it was a bonding experience for everyone involved and we were looking forward to sharing it with everyone and we convinced ourselves they would love it just as much as we did. Once we were finished cooking, we all but dropped dead.

Show Time

One by one, the invited began storming the house. They were “hungry” and ready to try what these two teenage girls prepared. Yet, in true Norwegian fashion- most of them probably had a snack before eating as to not come off as greedy, and so they ate meagre amounts of food. They were polite, commented on how “strange but… good” some of the things were, and tried to enjoy themselves.

Naturally, we were heartbroken. We were expecting them to pig out, to love our food, to be crazy loud and just like Americans. But that’s the thing, we weren’t in America, and these weren’t Americans. In the moment I felt upset that we had let them all down, not understanding. Now- looking back and having re-attempted Thanksgiving for other Europeans, I get it. I do.

Here’s The Thing

This is our holiday, Americans & Canadians. This is the day that we spend the entire year looking forward to, and planning. It’s how Europeans see Christmas. While all of the people I’ve ever had over for Thanksgiving, with the exception of one person, have been wildly excited to “see what a real Thanksgiving looks like,” no one has ever appreciated it like I want them to. And they never will. It’s just not something they get. And that is so, so, so, okay. Because now I know, and now I can re-adjust

my thinking and planning.


Looking back on that first Thanksgiving abroad makes me smile, it makes me laugh thinking of how ridiculous we were and how far I have come in regards to expectations and cooking skills. I will forever cherish my time in Norway, and I will always love the memories that were made there.

How amazingly awful is this throwback picture? #embarassing



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