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Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and gathering together in gratitude. And that doesn't have to change if you're an American living overseas.

As the unofficial kickoff of the "holiday season," Thanksgiving is a celebration of all things American: food, family, football, and colonialism. And the pull of cozy traditions and comfort food can be mighty this time of year — even for those who've left the United States behind to live abroad.

I wanted to find out how U.S. expats celebrate the most American holiday of them all, so I connected with a few women who live overseas with their families. They told me about some of the more, well, surprising challenges they've faced — including a potato embargo! — along with new customs they couldn't wait to try.


Whether you're living abroad or you're missing someone who is, here are five ways Americans are throwing an expat Thanksgiving in 2017.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

1. It's hard not to get a little sentimental about Thanksgiving foods and flavors — but experimenting with ingredients from a new place is half the fun.

Ashley Lunde moved from Madison, Wisconsin, to her husband's home country of Oslo, Norway, two and a half years ago. At first, she insisted on bringing the spices and foods she was familiar with to Oslo. But now, she blends the traditions and flavor profiles she's learned from her Norwegian family into the typical American Thanksgiving dishes.

"The turkey is baked with celery, carrots, and onions (was our tradition at home), but [I] have added grapes, apples, and pears as well to the mix. Food in Norway tends to be sweeter, (mixing meat and berries for example, is very common)," she writes in an interview over Facebook Messenger. "We also use lingonberry instead of cranberry, and rømme (a Norwegian version of sour cream) on 'grove rundstykker,' which is whole grain Norwegian bread made into dinner rolls."

[rebelmouse-image 19475300 dam="1" original_size="750x562" caption="Lingonberry sauce. Photo by Helena Jacoba/Flickr " expand=1]Lingonberry sauce. Photo by Helena Jacoba/Flickr

Rachel Watson lives with her husband and daughter on a Marine Corps Base in Iwakuni, Japan. While the base has many comforts of home, there's an embargo on certain types of American produce including potatoes and apples.

"So, we will be using Satsuma sweet potatoes, which have  purple-ish skin and whiter flesh than an American sweet potato," Watson writes via email. "There are no Granny Smith apples here either, so for apple pies and other apple dishes, I'll be experimenting with some Japanese apple varieties."

Rachel Watson with husband Zach and daughter Maeve. Photo via Rachel Watson, used with permission.

2. This holiday is all about family — and no matter how you feel about social media in your day-to-day life, it makes it easy to stay in touch with loved ones.

Shelley Strelluf and her husband, Chris, decided to look for opportunities overseas following the presidential election. Her husband accepted a position in Coventry, England, and the couple and their two young children arrived earlier this year from Kansas City, Missouri. Staying connected with friends and family literally an ocean away is challenging but doable.

"We video call via Messenger with my mom about three times a week (same difference as Skype, the app was just slightly easier for her to use)," Strelluf writes via e-mail. "Sometimes we talk, sometimes she just likes to watch the kids play for a little while... So it's not the same as having her around, but it could be a lot worse. I'm grateful for the technology."

Shelley's husband Chris, with their two children, William and Emily. Photo via Shelley Strelluf, used with permission.

3. It's hard to make friends when you're in a strange country — so play an active role in building your new community.

Making friends as an adult doesn't come as naturally as it used to. But making friends as an adult in a new country, where there can be different social norms along with a language barrier, is flat out tough.

For Watson, she's made a concerted effort to seek out new friends — especially important, as her husband is currently deployed with the Navy. He won't be back in Iwakuni for Thanksgiving, so she's celebrating with her infant daughter, Maeve, and a new community on-base.

Lunde is part of a group in Oslo called the American Women's Club, that hosts a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The women were invited to discuss their experiences living abroad as well as some of the traditional foods from their part of the states. The U.S. Ambassador to Norway even addressed the group.

"It was really nice to spend the evening with other Americans, sharing a home cooked meal."

[rebelmouse-image 19475303 dam="1" original_size="750x562" caption="Photo by Phil Denton/Flickr. " expand=1]Photo by Phil Denton/Flickr.

4. But continuing to celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving is about more than being homesick or missing turkey. It's about honoring cultural identity and tradition.

Lunde and her husband welcomed a son, Espen, last year. Raising him to know and appreciate the many facets of his heritage is of the utmost importance.

"We really want to bring him up incorporating traditions from both our home countries, regardless of where we may be living at the time," she writes. "I think weaving a few Norwegian details into Thanksgiving is a creative way to do that. Hopefully celebrating in this way is something he'll grow to appreciate and enjoy."

[rebelmouse-image 19475304 dam="1" original_size="750x500" caption="Ashley Lunde, holding Espen beside her husband Paal and her in-laws. Her mother-in-law is wearing her traditional Norwegian "bunad." Photo via Ashley Lunde, used with permission." expand=1]Ashley Lunde, holding Espen beside her husband Paal and her in-laws. Her mother-in-law is wearing her traditional Norwegian "bunad." Photo via Ashley Lunde, used with permission.

5. No matter where you are in the world, or how much you've decided to embrace your new home, nothing beats pumpkin pie. But be prepared to accept substitutes.

In the states, pumpkin pies and canned pumpkin are sold everywhere from gas stations to department stores this time of year, but good luck finding one in other parts of the world.

Says Strelluf, "Something that is NOT a thing is pumpkin pie, so I guess if I want that, I'll have to figure out how to make it." Here's one blogger's idea for making that happen (with sweet potatoes — as long as they aren't embargoed, too).

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

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Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.