Surviving your first Christmas as an expat


Christmas is one of the hardest times of year to be away from your family.

Christmas time has an undefinable magic about it; whether it be the decorations, time spent with family or nostalgia for your youth when the magic shone brighter, it’s a special time of year.

For these reasons, it’s also arguably the hardest time of year to be away from your loved ones, especially if you are living on the other side of the world.

If you are spending your first Christmas abroad, it can be a lonely time, especially if you don’t know many people. Don’t worry, you will be surprised how many people are in the same position as you, so there is no need to feel alone; you never know, this Christmas may end up being the most memorable one in your life!

Torn between embracing the new, and clinging to the old

One of the hardest things about spending a Christmas outside your home country are the differences in traditions. This can range from who traditionally brings the presents, the day celebrated to what you eat for Christmas dinner. These traditions can all seem very alien and strange because it’s not what you are used to.

The best thing to do is to embrace these new traditions as much as you can. You may even have the chance to spend it with a native family meaning your experience will be all the more authentic. Share your traditions with new friends, and take back new ones to your family at home. In time, your traditions will evolve depending on where life takes you.

Forget chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

If you’re used to walking in a winter wonderland or dream of a white (or off-white) Christmas, spending the festive season on the other side of the world where summer is in full bloom can be a shock to the system, and vice versa.

Think of this as an adventure, swap your roast dinner for a barbecue on the beach or an evening wrapped up in front of the TV with a walk in the sunshine with international friends.

Don’t spend Christmas alone

decoration-690232_1280If you are anything like me, the schedule for Christmas day never really changes, there’s always a great heap of food to devour, drink on tap and comfy sofas to rest my full belly. There is no pre-planning, we know how the day is going to pan out.

If you are spending Christmas far away from your family this year, it’s time to get proactive. You need to organise how you plan to spend the Christmas period, and now is the perfect time to do it.

Do you want to spend your Christmas with other expats in the same position as you? Join some groups on social media and start reaching out to them. This is a great opportunity to make new friends and share traditions. Alternatively, why not spend the holidays with a native family? Try putting out an advert in forums or on social media platforms, there’s no shame in asking.

Contact your friends and family

The beauty of the modern age means that we can speak to our loved ones, even when we are on the other side of the world. Organise with your family beforehand a good time to speak to each other to avoid any time difference difficulties. Even though you are far away, it doesn’t mean you cannot share the magic with your family.

Will you be celebrating your first expat Christmas this year? Or can you remember your first Christmas away from home and you have some advice to share – we would love to hear from you!

Image: [Kevin Dooley, Unsplash]