November 23, 2011

Being Thankful

When I celebrated Thanksgiving last year with La Maman and FBF I explained to them a family tradition. Every year before my family digs in to the delicious Thanksgiving feast, we go around the table and say 5 things we are thankful for.

I was not prepared for how difficult it would be to explain to French people what “to be thankful for” means.

Despite using words like bonheur (happiness), apprécier (to appreciate), and aimer (to like/love), the message wasn’t getting across.

Eventually they did come up with 5 things they wanted to say merci for having in their lives, even if they didn't fully grasp the concept.

Thanksgiving classics Frenchified: La Purée Americaine, Le Stuffing, and Les Hauricots Verts. Recipes here.

I’m going to make Thanksgiving dinner again this year (check out my France friendly recipes), and thought I’d share with you 5 things I’m thankful for in my French life.

1. FBF. Without him so much of France’s culture would have stayed a mystery, and I would have felt even more of an outsider. I’m also grateful that he’s able to listen to me complain about France sans arrêt, be my translator, endlessly explain cultural quirks, and still love me. It’s amazing.

2. La Belle Famille (FBF's family). They are my family in France. I’m so thankful that they invite me to all family gatherings (birthdays and holidays) not just for the exclusive access to real French family life it gives me, but especially because they are all so nice, welcoming, and generous.

3. Mes amis. One of my goals when I came out here as an assistant was to make French friends. I feel like I have accomplished that goal with flying colors, and am so thankful for the French friends in my life. But my life out here wouldn’t be complete without my fellow American expat friends who share my love-hate relationship with this beautiful, yet frustrating country.

4. Tigrou. FBF’s cat has filled the pet-less void I was living in before meeting him. I love cuddling le chaton (kitten, but he doesn't really qualify anymore as he's 11. We still call him that, though) and am so thankful that I can have a cat without actually having a cat.

Me with Tigrou. He's named after Winnie the Pooh's companion, Tigger, only en français.

5. Lille. I’m so glad I got placed in this city. It has opened my eyes to just how diverse a country France is and helped me realize that Paris isn’t France, it’s in France. There are many things that differentiate each region from one another, and I love all the things that are particular to les ch’tis: une culture de la bière, les grands places, les baraques à frites, l’accent, les beffrois, et les briques rouges (the beer culture, the big squares, the French fry caravans, the accent, the bell towers, and the red bricks) among other things.

What about you? What are you thankful for this year? Are you going to use my awesome Thanksgiving-in-France recipes?


  1. That's a great cat. You can see it in his eyes.

    I was thankful to not be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my house, except that now I'm cooking mac & cheese, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and baking bread to transport to my in-laws. However, I'm really thankful that The Wife is braving Toys R Us on Thursday night when they open at 9 instead of me. Just the thought of all those people in one place makes my heart palpitate.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Laura.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving Laura! This post made me feel homesick and happy all at once. Hope you enjoy the day tomorrow!

  3. A very lovely photo of you and Tigger. There is much to be thankful health, a place to lay my head down at night, good food, family and friends, my grandchildren...the list goes on and on.

    I hope you have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving Laura. Thank you so much for you're lovely and informative posts writing about your experiences and the culture of France. It is always interesting and informative.


  4. French fry caravans!! Love those and am definitely thankful :-)
    Happy Thanksgiving Laura! gros bisous xxx

  5. I really like the concept of Thanksgiving. Setting aside the historical meaning, i think it's great to have a day when people can gather, have a nice meal and be thankful for all the good things in life. We never do that in France, of course. Christmas could be an appropriate occasion to be grateful but making a list of all the things that are ok is not part of any French tradition whatsoever, lol! Anyway, have a happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Having a boyfriend who is a native is nice, isn't it? I kind of hate saying it that way because it sounds like I'm using him, but I'm sure you know I'm not. :)

  7. I'm a reader of your blog. I'm French and learn a lot with you. I learn from my own country with your expat view. Thank you for these great moments you share with us Thank you !
    ( and sorry for my bad English, school is far away !)

  8. After debating whether or not to celebrate here in Vienna, we decided to for it and I'm really glad we did. Happy Thanksgiving from one expat to another!

  9. I'm thankful you have such a wonderful French family! And so many great French experiences.

  10. LOL wow, there are SO many things for me to be thankful for. Everything around me seems deserving of my thanks xD Lol is good. It sounds so amazing that you're living in France! How long have you stayed there??

  11. Joshua: Happy Thanksgiving! Yes, Tigrou is an amazing cat. And I guess this mac-n-cheese at Thanksgiving thing is southern, as I hadn't heard of it before this year, and three Southern people told me that mac-n-cheese is their favorite part of the meal, haha. Sorry you ended up having to do all the cooking!

    Kris: Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you so much for being one of my faithful readers/commenters, I'm very thankful for that and glad to hear you have so much to be thankful for as well.

    Sara Louise: Happy Thanksgiving! I hope it wasn't too homesick filled :)

    Emilie: Happy Thanksgiving to you too! I do have qualms with the historical side of it (after all Americans did kill lots of Native American Indians), but I love this holiday for exactly the reasons you said. It's nice that we have one day a year to be with family and think about all we should be grateful for.

    Kaley: Happy Thanksgiving! And yes, having a native boyfriend makes everything more enjoyable! I totally agree with you :) I think of it more as a perk than as using.. haha

    Anonymous: Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for your comment and I'm glad that I can help you learn about your own culture :) Also your English is great!

    Claire: Happy Thanksgiving Clairey Fairy! I hope it was a good one and that you didn't have too much trouble finding good replacement ingredients out there in Vienna.

    Marianne: Happy Thanksgiving! I'm grateful that I have a really great family at home, too :) Love you mom!

    Punk Chopsticks: Happy Thanksgiving! I am definitely thankful to be living in France (if not 100% of the time). I've been living here for 2 and a half years now (plus a semester abroad in Paris).

  12. Hey, I think we have a lot in common! I'm married to Frenchman and living just east of Bordeaux. I understand the explaining "thankful for" tradition - we had a hard time explaining to Mamie that she couldn't just start eating, that we were going to say what we were thankful for first! I love trying to do Thanksgiving recipes here - translating cranberry as, uh, cranberry! We've had fun different years with finding a whole turkey (avant Noël?!). Anywho, nice to meet you and bon courage!

  13. Laura, I forgot. Once in Bordeaux FBF told you " Ouais c'est pas mal" ( it's not bad) , remember , when a french says " it's not bad" or " it's not too bad" it means " it is good !"
    Hope it will help next time. Best regards.

  14. love it, especially the Lille part. I want to come. :)

  15. Hey, I feel touched reading your post. Be sure your French family is thankful to have you.

  16. Great Blog love the comments - Laura's Dad

  17. JennaQuentin: I'm always happy to meet people in a similar situation! How'd you and your Frenchman meet? As for the Turkey, I've never had that problem as I'm a vegetarian! At least now there is cranberry juice at the store so French people have heard of the fruit, haha.

    Anonymous: I know that it means "it's good" but it all comes back to the American vs. French culture. In America, we are more positive and are very much like cheerleaders (oh this is amazing! Oh this is so wonderful!), and my example in the post is me going on and on about how great everything was, and the French are very critical and hardly ever say that things are good, hence FBF saying "c'est pas mal." I felt like it was a classic example of a cultural clash! But thanks for trying to help out, I actually just burst out laughing when we were in Bordeaux and he responded like that.

    Maddy: Do it! Come!

    Adeline: I'm glad to hear it :)

    Mike: Thanks, and I'm sure I wouldn't be wrong in saying that my commenters say thank you as well!

  18. Ari-who is cuddling with me as I catch up on blogs!

  19. Happy Thanksgiving (un peu en retard - j'etais 'en vacances') Laura! I am thankful for your Thanksgiving recipes! A little late.. but will try for next year! Actually I am thinking of trying in this winter with me fellow USA friends here who also missed out on the feast. I ended up in Provence for Turkey Day; enjoying the sunshine.

    I am glad that cream cheese exists in France now.. and sour cream is basically creme fraiche. They do have American measurement cups/spoons here too (I believe I got mine in Carrefour).

    So glad to hear that you're enjoying la vie francaise in Lille! I still have to make 'French friends'... I don't know when that's gonna' happen. And when I say French friends I mean close girlfriends, and on my own, not through my bf's friends!

    You're lucky to have a cat. :-) With all the traveling we do, and our delicate apartment, we will probably never have pets.

  20. Jenna: I'm grateful for Ari too! When is he going to teach me another life lesson on your blog?

    genobloise: Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you had a good time on vacation. Thanksgiving food is delicious all year round, but it all takes a long time to make. I imagine that's why we only do it once a year... but one recipe for one night might be okay.

    I didn't know that about sour cream, I'll try that next time I make my twiced mashed potatoes. Thanks for the tip :) It's hard to make French friends and to be honest all my French friends come from FBF, but that doesn't mean that they aren't my friends too. As for the cat, it's actually just FBFs. We don't live together so I just get all the good stuff (cuddling) without having to do any of the work. It's the best.


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