With Thanksgiving in just a few days, and no plans to celebrate, I realized that I have spent more Thanksgiving holidays away from the U.S. than actually being there engorge in delicious Thanksgiving meal and then past out in front of TV watching marathons of the latest popular series (I don’t care for football – the American kind).
I think I am actually reaching the point where I am not too affected by missing holidays. I think this is the way it needs to be as someone who move all over the world.
There are two options in dealing with holidays of multiple cultures. One, the way my family and American governments all over the world – you celebrate your home holidays and also the holidays of the local culture. In the case of my family, we celebrate all Chinese and American holidays, leaving us with a reason to have a big meal and hangout at least once a month. In the case of American governments, I have personally experienced the Embassy in London and now the Peace Corps/US Embassy in Cameroon – they have days off on both American public holidays and official UK/Cameroon holidays. Leaving them barely at work. Now you see why people are rushing to join the Foreign Service.
The other option, which is the only I have to adopt here in Cameroon – forget your home holidays even exist. Completely melt into your local culture. In Chinese, we call this 入境隨俗, which literally means: once you cross the border, you follow the local customs. (See? I do love the terse nature of the Chinese language. 4 characters said so much.)
There have been so many occasions over this past year when I simply had forgotten American holidays; ironically, I celebrate more Chinese holidays here because my “adopted Chinese family” always call me up to go have a meal for whatever occasion it may be.
So, my fellow globetrotters, how do you incorporate the holidays of your heritage and the holidays of your local place of residence?
3 thoughts on “Holidays Abroad”
Where in Cameroon are you located? I'm a Fulbright grantee teaching at the University of Maroua, and am actually planning to spend Thanksgiving with the PC volunteers up here in the Extreme North.
I think spending holidays abroad ranges from inconsequential (to the point of showing up at the Embassy forgetting that they're closed) to difficult when the holiday has serious meaning for you and your family. I agree with you that it's important to do as the Romans do when in Rome, but I've also learned over the course of traveling through half a dozen countries that even when adopting and appreciating local customs, it's still important to remember your own. The best thing to do is to find a way to celebrate holidays that are important to you in a manner that blends your customs with local life.
For example, when I was in France we had a comical Thanksgiving dinner where we named our chicken "Turkey" so that we could have "Turkey" for dinner. This was accompanied with a squash pie that was close to but not quite pumpkin pie. It helped me feel less far from my family (Thanksgiving is probably the most important holiday for us for a variety of reasons and thus the hardest for me personally to miss) and my French family loved getting a little taste of something American.
In any event, I'm glad to find another Cameroonian blogger. I'll pass your blog on to the Chinese teachers from the Confucius Institute who are teaching at Maroua’s ENS also.
I'm located in Batié, West Cameroon just outside of Bafoussam. And as it turns out I will be spending Turkey Day with other PCVs in the Northwest.
I agree with you that it's important to continue celebrating your heritage. It's just for me it gets to be a lot of holidays between the American and Chinese! Also I think often it depends on the circumstances, where you are, who you are with, etc.
Enjoy the rest of your time in Maroua! It's a great city! The North is so different from the South. And wow. I am impressed that there is a Confucius Institute there!
Well, the Institute is in the process of being built. So it technically doesn't have a physical existence yet. There are three Chinese language teachers and one professor who are teaching the Chinese major students at the ENS. The ENS is also brand new – this is their first full school year. So basically everything is still getting off the ground, but what they have accomplished in such a short time is really amazing.
I'm jealous of the pineapples in your region… why can't the North have the best pineapples I've ever eaten?! We went to Belo for a weekend at one point and got some pineapples on the way. Oh man. That is paradise in a piece of fruit. Ha ha.