Spending Christmas Abroad for the First Time?
Your first Christmas abroad can be exciting, even exhilarating. It’s a time to make new traditions, try new foods, and see your new home in a brand new way. But there are also moments of loneliness, even homesickness. Perhaps more than ever you really feel just how far you are from friends and family. Overall, it’s a roller coaster of emotions. Here’s how to spend Christmas abroad with a maximum of good cheer.
A Great Christmas Abroad Starts With New Friends
Expat Tanisha Townsend loves Meetup.com as a starting point for connecting with other expats. It’s a fantastic website for year round activities and at Christmas and other holidays, you’ll see an increase in expat gatherings. There’s more people than you imagine who are seeking to celebrate Christmas abroad. Other great resources include the international students’ center at a university, the bulletin board at an international grocery store, and houses of worship.
Celebrate Like the Locals Do
Europe is famous for its beautiful and festive Christmas markets, complete with hot mulled wine and heavenly spiced cookies. It’s an experience not to be missed! But even warm weather destinations can be rich with Christmas traditions. While it may feel strange to spend Christmas day gathered around a barbecue, chances are the combination of friendship, presents, and wine will feel very familiar.
Volunteer Your Time
At home or abroad, helping others is a rewarding part of holiday traditions. Even non-holiday themed projects, like volunteering to be part of a beach clean up or assisting at an animal shelter, will bring a special joy. And you’ll be among a great group of people who will help you feel at home. You may just find yourself invited to someone’s house for dinner!
Request a Care Package
Shipping fragile glass ornaments is a recipe for disaster but many other Christmas classics are lightweight and durable. Fabric ornaments, window decals, and your favourite seasonal tea all easily slide into an envelope – and fluffy garland makes for the perfect bubble wrap substitute. Even more substantial items, like scented candles, sturdy pewter ornaments, and baking supplies can be cleverly packed so they don’t take up much room. Decorating your new home and filling it with the smells and tastes of Christmas will help you feel festive.
Aim for Closer Contact
Social media and email are superb for maintaining casual connections but, at Christmas time, more personal contact is required. Take the time to schedule phone calls. Skype with your old office during their annual holiday party and say hello to former colleagues – and make fun of their Christmas sweaters. Pick up the phone to pass along your best wishes to your aunt and uncle. Hearing the voices of loved ones will fill you with holiday cheer.
Christmas Movies Bring Cheer
Is Die Hard really a Christmas movie? Time to watch it again and cast your vote! Streaming your favourite holiday movie or cartoon is a great way to get into the festive spirit. Soundtracks with classic holiday tunes and beautiful shots of decorated homes and trees will turn your expat home into a temporary winter wonderland. Simple holiday treats, like hot chocolate and sugar cookies, are easy to source or make in just about every country in the world. Together with Elf or Home Alone, it makes for a wonderfully snug tradition.
There’s No Avoiding the Mall
No matter the traditions of you new country, you can sure that if there’s a shopping center, there’s holiday cheer. Nobody embraces Christmas quite like retail! Ridiculous, oversized fake Christmas trees, Styrofoam snowmen, and specialty confections will all be waiting for you. While you’re there, take the time to treat yourself to an affordable Christmas gift. A bouquet of all red flowers, a cozy shirt, or some gourmet snacks will all feel very festive.
Hosting Makes for a Happy Home
Homesick expat friends and your new colleagues and neighbors won’t care that your decorations aren’t perfect or that you never did find cranberry sauce. They’ll just be thrilled to be a part of the festivities. Inexperienced hosts can make it a potluck and even new expats with tiny apartments can manage a standing-room-only soiree with gourmet coffee and fancy sweets. After all, the holidays aren’t really about gifts or side dishes or trees. They’re about people coming together and that’s something that works in every country.
Don’t forget to purchase a good Holiday Insurance plan!