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Jessica Osborne, in green sweater, celebrates Thanksgiving with friends in Seoul. (Haley Wan)

Project Xpat: A Seoul Food Holiday

Nov 27, 2013

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Expat MJ Yoon

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For many Americans, Thanksgiving is more about people than pumpkin pie.

And for many Americans observing the special day in other countries — since pumpkin pie can be hard to come by — the people around them play a more prominent role.

In South Korea, Jessica Osborne plans to spend her second Thanksgiving abroad surrounded by friends. "Thanksgiving in Seoul is definitely a unique experience," she says, "especially if you aren't in the military. ... You're kind of left to your own abilities in a country that doesn't serve mash potatoes at KFC, doesn't sell a full turkey at the grocery store, and cranberry jelly — where am I supposed to find that?"

Somehow, says Jessica, an elementary school teacher from Texas, many expats in Seoul "find themselves gathering together and inviting Korean friends to a Thanksgiving dinner made of fried rice, kimchi, homemade mashed potatoes, hot dogs, turkey — if someone has a Costco membership — and if there happens to be, by the grace of God, pumpkin pie you can be sure there will be a celebration."

But, she says, the true meaning of Thanksgiving overseas is something else. "It's the moment you are sitting on the floor in a crowded, one-bedroom apartment that it hits you: It doesn't matter if there is cranberry, turkey or pie. Because sitting on that floor laughing together is what makes the holiday perfect — being with those you are thankful for "

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We hope American expatriates will share photos of Thanksgiving celebrations and tables and gatherings from around the world. Please send them to us on Thanksgiving Day — and over the long holiday weekend — at protojournalist@npr.org or post them using the hashtag #nprexpat. We will display as many as we can.

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The Protojournalist: Experimental storytelling for the LURVers - Listeners, Users, Readers, Viewers - of NPR. @NPRtpj


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