By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Thanksgiving in Florida and on Facebook

My Thanksgiving experiences this year tell a story. Several stories, actually.

One story is of how America continues to become more globalized and influenced by people and cultures from outside the United States. Another is of how U.S. culture continues to influence immigrants who have come to the U.S. And yet another is how the nation has an influence on other countries.

I spent Thanksgiving in South Florida. First stop after arrival was a Cuban-style restaurant, which I had actually seen recommended in an article in The Financial Times of London (!!!). The article featured a bunch of family-owned restaurants with surprisingly good cuisine located in a stretch of strip-mall desolation west of Coral Gables, a theme-park like community itself originally developed by a Bostonian in the 1920s and now virtually all Cuban.

Since it is relatively hard to find Latin American cuisine in Boston, I like to try it in South Florida. Despite the strange location, this was indeed by far the best Cuban food I'd ever eaten. We were the only people in the restaurant speaking English. At the Westin Diplomat near Fort Lauderdale, it seemed that about half the guests were foreign tourists, not just Spanish-speaking ones, but also a mix of Russians, Hungarians, Brits, etc. There is no surer prediction than that, assuming the world economy continues to grow and terrorism is kept in check, foreign tourism will be a booming industry in the United States for the foreseeable future -- foreigners want to see the locations they've viewed in Hollywood films, experience the uniquely American from Las Vegas to Disneyland to the national parks and take advantage of our low prices to shop.

But we are influencing immigrants to our shores, just as non-Americans are influencing us. The daily special for Thanksgiving Day at a Haitian restaurant in South Beach in Miami (which I had also learned about from The Financial Times!) was….turkey. My Chinese teacher, from Sichuan Province in China, told me that her Filipino landlord made his family turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

And Facebook signals the continued spread of the Thanksgiving holiday itself outside the United States, not the least in Chinese culture. I received a number of Thanksgiving greetings from Chinese and Taiwanese Facebook friends, and a Chinese student spending her first year studying in the United States wrote on my wall about how nice she found the holiday. And a young public relations professional in Beijing with whom I periodically correspond on MSN made her MSN handle a statement of "thanks" to the "mighty Communist Party of China." When I asked her why she was doing this, she said that Thanksgiving gave her an occasion to make a sarcastic statement about "gong chan dang" (the Chinese name of the party).

BTW, on another note, I was amazed and gladdened while driving to the airport just a bit after 6 am to see a large number of elderly people, including one lady with a walker, out on early morning walks. Nice weather for it, and nice to see people so active.

Posted on Nov 30, 2010 at 7:26 PM

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