I’m not an American, and I’ve never celebrated Thanksgiving – so I cannot write from my cultural perspective about this holiday, but I do feel the act of giving thanks applies to us all. I think internationals, regardless of nationality, should take the opportunity to express gratitude in a meaningful manner in their host country.
Text: Lyndsay Jensen
Being grateful, in collaboration with giving back, is good for human beings. So, I encourage you to give back to your community, regardless of what country you’re from and what country you are presently living in.
The act of giving thanks and gratitude is universal
As you can expect, there is a privilege that accompanies living, working, and thriving in another country. That privilege often comes with financial, emotional, professional, and physical well-being. One of the things I think is essential in our journeys from country to country is to contribute intentionally and personally to our environment — by giving back.
Thanksgiving is a friendly reminder to everyone to “give thanks” for the many things we have in life. In that same fashion, I think it is appropriate for us when we are abroad - we should incorporate a sense of thankfulness and gratitude to those around us, such as our local friends, colleagues, and the general population. Expressing thankfulness for what your host country has given you can be returned in pleasant and heartwarming ways.
Here are my three top ways to give back now and in the future as an international:
#1 Community volunteer
Understanding the local needs allows you to give back in an area that will use your qualified skills in your community to create an impact. First, determine your capacity (time, resources, effort), find an area in need in your community and offer your assistance. Remember to volunteer in an area where you have a purpose, passion, or both - your service could be more long-term than a once-off. It could be tutoring (Danes love to learn new languages), rescuing abandoned animals, working in the local charity shop (great for practising your Danish) or volunteering at the local kommune (municipality).
#2 Share your knowledge
You are working in your host country primarily because of your expertise, or your spouse has a job here. During your downtime, share your insights and help build skills and capacity. Offer skill development to members of the population who might not otherwise have access. What is the missing knowledge gap in your community? Provide workshops, webinars, or services to improve local community needs. Offering intro-level knowledge and practical applications on subject matters like leadership development, business development, global digitalisation, and trending technology are all insights that help small business owners (I know many international entrepreneurs who have started this way). Also, if you are creative and have teachable and fun hobbies, share those too. Arts and crafts, music, painting, sports, and physical wellness are all valuable experiences for all ages. Your knowledge and expertise, free of charge, go a long way in building capacity and relationships.
#3 Become an anchor for others
Do you remember how nervous and overwhelmed you felt when you first moved to Denmark? I do, and that was 16 years ago. Luckily Denmark has gotten used to the idea of internationals now and is more inclusive than ever before – you newbies have it so much easier! Most internationals rely on the knowledge and support of others to find their feet - what a great position to be in to return the favour! Ask that new mom or dad at the local folkeskole (public school) or that new colleague at work how they’re settling in. If you hear someone speaking English in your local supermarket, ask them if they need help (that’s how I met one of my friends). Become a Social Media Ambassador with The International to share, explore and meet others in your local area, or reach out to other ambassadors when you visit their town! Granted, you’re not going to help everyone – some people don’t need it or require it, but knowing you have that support and talking to someone who has been through the ups and downs is invaluable!
#4 Shop and support local business
Not technically volunteering, but it is an immense act of giving back and supporting the local economy. Buying local is one of the biggest things we can always do to help the community in which we live. Shop at the local grocery store, local farmer, and other small businesses – but also remember to support other internationals with small businesses. Supporting local businesses helps to grow the economic infrastructure, which can lead to long-term investment in the country.
Additionally, we must bring the best of ourselves into the local community - part of that is showing our expression of gratitude and respect for their culture to those we live around daily. Giving back in this respect is not an act of charity but demonstrating care by fulfilling a need in the community to which you belong. Giving back to your local community in any way possible shows you care for your host country and its people. There are so many more ways to give back – I’ve only suggested my top 4 – add to the list, and find one that fits you.
If you have family, ensure your children and spouse do the same. The adage is true from my perspective — the more we give, the more we gain. Happy Thanksgiving, not just for November, but every day.