Thanksgiving

Food, friends, family, football. Thanksgiving is a time for coming together, pigging out and being thankful for life and love.

Growing up in England, we did not celebrate Thanksgiving. But now that I live in California I have had a small taste of the holiday. I am totally into being thankful for what we have. I look around at the selfishness of humabity sometimes and just wish that there was more gratefulness in everyday life. More grace. More care. More love.

For me, Thanksgiving feels almost like a pre-Christmas. A celebration with a huge meal. And the lack of gift-giving and focus on being thankful allows for a little less focus on the material and more on love (and food).

For some it’s all about the football. My husband is a big Dallas Cowboys fan, and apparently they play every Thanksgiving. The most valuable player in that game wins a giant turkey!

Some traditional Thanksgiving foods include sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. Brussel sprouts seem to be popular also. And pumpkin pie! I tried making a green bean casserole last year, but I’m not really sure what it is supposed to taste like. I didn’t think mine tasted so great! But it was edible. This year I am keeping it simple. Turkey, mashed potatoes, veggies and gravy. Apple pie and ice cream for dessert. There will only be two of us so no need for a huge feast. Though one day it would be nice to experience that full family feast Thanksgiving.

What do you like best about Thanksgiving? What is your favourite food? Do you have any traditions that you uphold on this holiday? Do you have Friendsgiving instead?

Pies

When I think of pie, hearty, meaty savory pies tend to come to my mind. My favourite kind of pie is chicken pie. And after that beef mince pie. My Dad loves pork pie. And pasties are a whole other category of pie that make my mouth water. The pasty does not really exist in America. Sure, they do have savory pies, such as the chicken pot pie, but they lack the distinct flavouring that British pies have.

Fall is here and it is almost Thanksgiving. The kind of pies that most commonly come to my mind here around this time of year are sweet potato pies, cherry pies and apple pies. There are so many kinds of dessert pies here. Boston cream pie sounds particularly delicious to me…. or chocolate cream pie… or banana cream pie… basically any kind of pie with cream. Yum! Of course, Britain has dessert pies too – my nana makes a mean apple pie. Then there is the mince (fruit) pie that melts in your mouth like a Christmas explosion around Christmas time.

There is something so comforting about a pie. Don’t you think? I certainly miss British pies. But it is nice to be able to try different things. Maybe I will even try making a pie this year for Thanksgiving. Wish me luck!

What’s your favourite kind of pie?

Culture Shock

When I moved to the USA from the UK, I received training at an au pair school. One of the things they tried to prepare us for was culture shock. Culture Shock is “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes” (Oxford Languages). Yet, despite learning about culture shock, I still wasn’t prepared to experience it.

Culture shock can manifest in different ways for different people. I couldn’t imagine experiencing culture shock in a country that I thought I knew so well. After all, I was an English speaker and I watched plenty of American movies to know what living here was like, right? Wrong. And to top it off, I was living with a family of Russians, so the main language I was hearing (and unable to understand) was not my own. I found myself becoming homesick. There many things to adjust to… from the food, to the way people behaved.

If you experience culture shock, don’t be surprised if you start to feel irritable. Perhaps there are systems that are frustrating (I felt like there were always long wait times or lines, stating at the airport when you arrive in the USA and have to go through customs). Perhaps you are tired of not being able to understand the language or are having a hard time keeping up with cultural references in conversation. Sometimes you may also begin to feel lonely. For me, these things meant that I began staying in my room more and really missing my family.

Some tips on how to handle this are:

1. Keep an open mind. Things are bound to be different than you are used to. Accept this and try to embrace it. Focus on the positive differences and find things that you enjoy to do. Practice the language. Maybe watch a few movies from that country or read some books. Don’t criticize or judge… instead find things that you DO like about where you are. Differences are what makes travelling interesting.

2. Accept that you will be homesick. Ask your family to send you some treats from home. Set up a time to call with them each week. You could even plan a trip to visit home, if you are living in a new country or are struggling to adjust. But also, try to make friends where you are. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings – find places you enjoy going to. Go exploring. Take language classes and practice speaking the language that you are immersed in. See this as an opportunity to improve yourself and to make new friends. Soon, the new will become the familiar.

3. Time. It may take a while to get used to a new place. Try new things. Familiarize yourself with what is local. Before you know it, you will get used to where you are.

Don’t worry. You will start to adapt to the new culture you have entered. Sometimes it takes a few hours, and sometimes it takes a few weeks. After hiding in my room for a while, I began embracing my new home. I took Russian lessons and practiced with the family that I lived with, asking them to help me. I went for walks and mini-adventures, discovering what this new place had to offer. I made friends with other au pairs, who were going through the same thing (I was lucky to be part of a group that were all going though the adjustment – it was easy to meet people since we had au pair meetings every month). And soon, this became my home too.

However, it is possible that you will also feel strange when you go back home. Your experience away may have changed you. You may have to get used things again if you have been away for a long time. For me, it is always nice to be back home. I live in the USA still, but I visit my family in England as often as I can. I love the familiarity of home. It is like a warm embrace. But what makes me feel weird, is when some things are different than they were when I lived there – when the familiar is no longer familiar. For instance, they changed the money in the UK so that now it looks different from when I lived there.

Culture shock can be a little jarring. But when you travel or live in a new place… you may discover things that are wonderful. Perhaps you will find a new hobby or a new favourite food. You may meet amazing people or do things out of your comfort zone. You could end up with crazy adventure stories that make you more interesting. Or you may experience something life-changing. Remember, if you find yourself struggling to adjust, it will get easier with time.

Have you experienced culture shock? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

Halloween

I dressed as a witch for Halloween 2020

Halloween is a big deal in USA. Or it is for many people, at least. From decorations, to parties, to trick-or-treating – they just do it right here. Growing up in the UK, my family never celebrated Halloween. I remember carving a pumpkin once, and dressing up for school parties once in a while, but Halloween was never something that we looked forward to with huge excitement. That’s not to say that England doesn’t have trick-or-treating or fun Halloween events and parties, it’s just something we didn’t celebrate. And of course, every year we would wait to see if anyone would egg our house.

When I moved to California, I lived in a neighbourhood in Menlo Park. It is a nice, quiet community. At Halloween, the people really come together to make it a special time for kids and adults alike. Many people decorate, some quite extravagantly. It was so fun for me to walk around the neighbourhood and just enjoy the decorations for the whole month of October.

On Halloween, that neighbourhood is the place to be for trick-or-treating. People even come from other neighbourhoods because they know that it is a fun place to be. Streets are blocked off and families can enjoy the festivities. Some houses have outdoor movies with popcorn; others have hotdog stands; some have parties for adults; and the treats are not just candy – all kinds of prizes are given out to the kids. I love that the community is able to come together and have some fun at least once a year.

What is Halloween like for you? Do you enjoy dressing up? I for one, LOVE dressing up. Leave a comment…