Holiday Cheer

Any holiday away from home is naturally difficult but I think Thanksgiving was specifically engineered to make things harder for exchange students. At orientation we talked a lot about the initial “honeymoon phase” where everything is new and exciting and then what happens after that phase wears off – culture shock. Culture shock can have a number of symptoms, including irritability, anti-social behavior, fatigue and an unrelenting craving for Chipotle and it tends to set in once the excitement has died down and you’re left wondering how you ended up in this completely foreign environment. It varies by person but culture shock most commonly hits right around the two-month mark, also known as November, also known as Thanksgiving.  Add on to that the fact that all of your college friends will be at home having fun without you  (missing out on the fun is any teenagers absolute worst nightmare) and the thought of homemade stuffing and you have a perfect recipe for exchange student depression.

Its ironic though because Thanksgiving is also the one set time in the year that we make a special effort to recognize all the goods things present in our lives and to give thanks for those things that we don’t always acknowledge.  So as a culture shock afflicted teenager living in a faraway place it was a timely reminder of all I have both here and in the states to be thankful for. I live with an amazingly welcoming family, I’ve made life-long friends and I am experiencing an incredible culture in a way that few foreigners ever get to. I have also gained a new appreciation for air conditioning, become skilled at eating rice with my hands and learned insults in two new languages. Being forced to recognize all the positives is an extremely useful and productive exercise and makes all the small annoyances that build up to culture shock seem much more trivial.

Another factor here that helped ease the culture shock was a dinner held for all the American exchange students and their families at the Ambassadors house. Very few things help you forget what you’re missing at home faster than a personal invitation to dinner at the United States ambassadorial residence.  I introduced my host family to the wonders of stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. And although I didn’t try the turkey and gravy they reported to me that it was delicious.

Although it is still kind of sad to be away from home during this time of year, it is also a privilege to be able to spend it here with people who ordinarily would have no idea there was something special going on. Nothing will ever replace Thanksgiving at home (I did miss the ToFurkey that we usually have) but there is something very special about being able to share it with people who have never experienced it before.

At the dinner we sat with my friend’s host family and one of her sisters who, to our dismay, had up until now insisted that pie was nothing more than “stuffed cake”. To see her try apple pie and shyly admit that it was maybe “a little bit better” was absolutely priceless, and very nearly made up for the fact that there was no pecan pie.

My host sister, Zuwaina and me with Ambassador Holtz

My host sister, Zuwaina and me with Ambassador Holtz


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rena
    Dec 01, 2013 @ 17:18:54

    Glad you ended up with a nice thanksgiving anyway.

    The hectic pace of the lead-up to Christmas has already begun all around us… something to be grateful you are missing! It would be fascinating to be somewhere in December that doesn’t celebrate Christmas — it is so pervasive in the States. I’ll have to travel then sometime.

    I’m glad they prepped you for the Culture Shock. Hang in there!
    Happy Chanukah!


    • msi8509
      Dec 09, 2013 @ 09:44:35

      Actually Christmas has even reached the Gulf! There are decorations all over the mall. But I haven’t heard any Christmas music on the radio so it does have its limits. Its interesting to see how the culture has manifested itself over here. But a few of my Christian friends were so happy that they were able to find advent calendars! Love you!


  2. Amy Israel
    Dec 02, 2013 @ 02:30:05

    My favorite one yet! Love you precious young woman! You know me.. acknowleding gratitude the way you have is priceless! Continue enjoying where you are.. we are all here when you get back! Much love!!! Aunt Amy


  3. Trackback: Holiday Cheer | Miriam's Omani Adventures
  4. Poppa
    Dec 02, 2013 @ 14:21:22

    Miriam, Your Thanksgiving was pretty special. And let me tell you something: over at David and Debbie’s, you were definitely the topic of conversation.
    I mean, how many of our family has had Thanksgiving with an Ambassador from the United States!!??


    • msi8509
      Dec 09, 2013 @ 09:41:28

      Haha I have to admit, it was pretty cool. Definitely not a Thanksgiving I’ll forget. And I’m glad I could provide some conversation. 🙂 I missed you guys though!!


  5. harold brightman
    Dec 03, 2013 @ 15:43:48

    love being with you on your journey


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