Thanksgiving is a new and exciting holiday for us South Africans. Over the past four years that I have taught in Korea the more I get involved in different cultural events the more I have come to adopt festivities that are not my own. I really look forward to American Thanksgiving, Canada Day, Chuseok, Chinese New Year and Halloween. This is the great thing about traveling, the longer that you live abroad the more diversified and global you become.
A lot of foreigners are terrified to be alone during their first holidays that they are abroad. This is certainly not the case in Korea. There are so many expats from all over the world currently residing in cities like Seoul and Busan that it is nearly impossible to miss out on holiday festivities. Plenty of restaurants and bars alike will hold events on worldwide holidays, and ordering big Thanksgiving meals has never been easier with the current services that are offered in Korea. And if you are isolated in a small town, it is easy to hop on any form of transport and head to a big city where you will for sure be able to find an event revolving around your favorite festivity.
Thanksgiving this year in Korea was a treat. On Thanksgiving day we had a potluck event at our branch in Jamsil. Every foreign teacher and Korean staff alike, prepared various dishes and food. There was an array of food from all over the world including turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. It was an interesting twist to have Korean dishes like tabokki, kimchi and a Chinese sweet and sour pork included. The great thing about living in Korea is the different mix of expats you meet here. On holidays like American Thanksgiving, you get to share your culture with other people and at our branch we enjoyed a meal together with South Africans, Canadians, Americans and Koreans.
Thanksgiving festivities were extended to the weekend where a group of friends from all over the world got together and prepared a Thanksgiving meal at a friend’s apartment in Yongsan, Seoul. Generally we set up a Facebook group and organize events this way. The group ventures from all over Korea to meet up to share a good time together, creating friendship bonds that only Korea understands. We ordered a Thanksgiving meal from a popular website in Korea and got them to deliver the food to the apartment. It was a pretty good deal, for $30.00 each we enjoyed a delicious meal that included turkey, mashed potatoes, quiche, pumpkin pie, wine, rum, salads and mac-cheese. Everybody got dressed up for the event and during the turkey cutting we said our thanks and cheers to good times living abroad.
Another Thanksgiving weekend event that was an option was joining a group of foreigners and Koreans in the Sincheon Meet-up group. There is a website called Meet-up that has various meet-up events on it. It is a great way to make new friends living abroad and share cultural experiences with Koreans. The group met up on Saturday night at Big Bites, a Mexican restaurant, for a night out and a different type of cultural Thanksgiving celebration. The group currently includes Americans, Koreans, Korean-Americans, South Africans and a Brit.
Previous years for Thanksgiving celebrations in Korea have included venturing to different parts of the country. One year we celebrated in the small town called Buyeo in Chuncheongnam-do province and another year we celebrated at the UNESCO Peace Village in Icheon, Gyeonggi-do province. Every year has been different with a great variety of people from all over the world and each experience has been unique and special in every possible way.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!