Yesterday, right on schedule, my local expat Facebook group became very focused on one thing: Where to buy last-minute critical ingredients for Thanksgiving.

Turkeys, canned pumpkin, and cranberries were a hot topic of discussion, since the Swiss don't generally roast turkeys, use canned pumpkin, or have much use for cranberries. Switzerland's has approximately 2 million foreigners living in her borders--approximately 25 percent of the population. My region is higher because of the pharmaceutical industry which is headquartered in Basel. I have no idea how many of those are Americans, but it seemed like every American was searching for canned pumpkin yesterday.

I, on the other hand, have done this for many years, so I ordered my canned pumpkin in October, and I don't care for cranberry sauce. My turkey is being delivered today--also ordered in advance rather than risking the stores not having enough. Swiss ovens are small and one year I cooked a 20-pound turkey and it was within a centimeter of the top and sides of my oven. This year, I got a 10 pounder.

Thanksgiving is simply a normal Thursday outside of the United States, although inexplicably they have Black Friday Sales all over Europe and possibly all over the world. But a normal Thursday means the kids have school and I am working. Most of my clients are American so in years past I took the day off for cooking, but I have a local client that wants to meet today, so I'm working.

The one advantage of this being a normal day is that I can run to the grocery store without feeling guilty that someone has to work on the holiday and there are no crowds. It makes it easy when I have forgotten enough eggs for pecan pie.

For most expats, being away from family on this holiday is the toughest part. It can be sad seeing pictures of your siblings and cousins gathered together, but many of us celebrate with friends. In years past, I've coordinated a big dinner with up to 65 people at my church, but this year we're going for a toned down dinner. 

Of course, being far away from home and family can be an advantage for some expat families. You don't have to deal with the mother-in-law that hyper-focuses on your weight or the aunt that wants to know if you're ever going to settle down and buy a house in Iowa like the rest of the family did. You can be blissfully alone.

But, you can also be miserably alone. For many expats, it's a very difficult time of year. Because you have to work and the kids have school, unless your expat assignment is in Mexico or Canada, it's just too far to get home for Thanksgiving. Many more go home for Christmas, which comes with longer breaks. 

While it's pretty easy, with advanced planning, to get everything you need for your Thanksgiving dinner in Switzerland, that's not true in all of the world. But, regardless of where you are, and regardless of whether you're having a traditional turkey dinner or ordering takeout, I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.

Published on: Nov 22, 2018