Spending the holidays far away from home can be a lonely time for expats. Mark Williams’s team is a multi-cultural melting pot of different nationalities: English, Scottish, Emirati, South African, Phillipino, Indian, Spanish and American; and most of us will be on the other side of the world from our families this Christmas.
As an expat living abroad it’s important to try to recreate holiday traditions to make Christmas abroad feel like Christmas at home. But it is also important to see an opportunity to create new traditions to use in years to come - taking a little piece of each country into your heart!
So how can you to stave off feelings of homesickness this holiday season?
Keep Your Own Traditions Alive
Whilst you might not be able to do everything you would normally do at home this Christmas, try to recreate the traditions that mean the world to you and that bring back the best memories. Maybe it’s baking your mothers Christmas cookie recipe, hanging ornaments from your home country on your tree (yes – I have a mini bagpiper that I hang on mine!) or watching Home Alone for the 100th time! It’s the small things that bring that feeling of home.
Make New Traditions
Embrace where you are right now and enjoy the different experiences that your host country has to offer. Creating new traditions will help you adapt to life in your new country, making you feel grounded & at home. Revel in the novelty of Santa arriving on a camel or building a snowman out of sand at the beach!!
Share Your Culture
The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity for intercultural understanding and exchange. Invite other expats and locals to enjoy the festivities in your home and take the time to learn what traditions they have in their own country. For instance: I’ve learnt that in Spain you will have a seafood celebration dinner on the 24th December followed by desserts that are very similar to Arabic sweets! Celebrating the holidays together helps you connect with the people around you and will give you an automatic support group.
Connect With Home
Christmas is a time when we want to be with our loved ones, even if you can’t be with them physically you can still connect with them on Skype, Facetime or through video messages. Organise a time in advance to speak – as everyone has busy schedules over the holiday season - you can even open presents together over Skype! But do be mindful that connecting can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, so don’t overdo the Skype calls – make sure you save time to cherish the people you can actually spend the day with.
Sending Gifts from Overseas
Posting gifts from overseas can be expensive, or very difficult. You can save on postage costs by ordering gifts online from a local retailer or calling a local florist to arrange for a bouquet of flowers to be delivered. I go one step further and when I am home each summer, I wrap Christmas gifts and write Christmas cards to leave with my family for them to open in December. It takes some forward planning but it is now part of my summer schedule!!
Ultimately Christmas abroad is all about your mindset – have the attitude that you’re going to make the most of the holiday season and enjoy what you do have rather than being miserable focusing on what you don’t have! Life abroad is an adventure and an amazing chance to create new traditions and memories.
Mark Williams wishes you a very happy Christmas! We’d love to hear what your Christmas traditions are in the comments box below!