Thanksgiving—that special time of the year when family gathers from around the country to eat turkey, watch the Macy Day Parade, and then fall into a content, comatose-state sleep. While Shanghai may not be broadcasting America’s favorite parade, there is still ample opportunity to celebrate. For me, in fact, this year’s Thanksgiving is one for the record books.

Hosting Thanksgiving in Shanghai in the TEAN apartments.
Hosting Thanksgiving in Shanghai in the TEAN apartments.

The Friday after Thanksgiving, a group of TEAN students plus international friends pulled off Thanksgiving a la Shanghai. Even with three different apartment kitchens used for cooking, it took almost 24 hours for us to prepare everything. To describe Thanksgiving in China concisely, it was different in the best way possible.

Table prep

Pass the KimBap, Please

My normal Thanksgiving is comprised of a mixture of American staples (the turkey) and southwestern specialties (read: everything has gravy). This Thanksgiving, between twenty college students, we had a table filled with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean, Moroccan, Mexican, and American food. You think your mom cooks well? You never tasted a Korean’s interpretation of Thanksgiving.

One cool aspect of the affair was how healthy all the food turned out to be. Our friends from overseas have never suffered from the stigma that good Thanksgiving food must stretch your waistline. Everything had strong regional tastes, but a lot of it was made from scratch with good ingredients. Say goodbye trans-fat, hello fresh vegetables.

Dinner table

A second interesting part was that, for many non-American students, this was their first Thanksgiving. Yes, for those of you who are surprised, it’s true—the rest of the world does not celebrate our pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock and dining with Native Americans. For us, Thanksgiving is a fixed part of our year; three days off from school, Thanksgiving, and then three weeks until Christmas Break; to Americans, it is just part of the seasonal routine.

But for our international friends, this holiday is a completely novel concept to them. Imagine if, after growing up, someone tried to explain to you a holiday that is primarily celebrated by the overindulgence of food. It’s a laughable concept. That being said, they had fun partaking in a small slice of “American culture.”

All in all, it was a great way to celebrate my last weekend before group projects and finals begin to heat up. The blend of the familiar (Thanksgiving) and new (Singaporean Rice) was a good representation of what this semester has been for me—a lot of blending with new things.

And if the new things are always as good as the Korean Kimbap tastes, then keep the culture shocks coming until I’m old and gray.

For more, take a look at TEAN students preparing for Thanksgiving and what a few had to say about Shanghai when put on the spot.

Nathan Robertson is a student from University of Oklahoma and a TEAN Featured Blogger. He is is currently studying abroad at Fudan University with TEAN in Shanghai, China.