Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year. Or it can be the worst. Especially if you are a million miles away from your family, country, customs and traditions. Personally I am most homesick at Christmas. So while everyone else around you is full of Christmas cheer you can easily end up as an expat – feeling like a weepy Grinch.
My top tips for surviving the Christmas season as an expat are.
- Embrace the Christmas traditions of your new country. But keep a few traditions from your own country also. For example most Austrians buy a Christmas tree the 23rd & 24th of December. While in Australia we have been known to put that sucker up December 1st. I always try to get my tree as early as I can as it reminds me of home. Any little customs from home you can incorporate into the festivities abroad will make Christmas a little less alien and more comforting.
- With today’s technology you can almost be there. Set up a video Skype or face time chat with your family on Christmas day. This can help you feel part of your family even when you are not physically there. Ask family members to send you photos. Or whatsapp messages in realtime. This will help you to feel less forgotten and connected back home.
- Be social. Christmas can be exhausting. It’s full of parties, events, christmas meals and drinks. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and just decide to just stay at home and wallow. But getting out, meeting friends will make you feel comforted and distract you. When you live overseas your friends become a defacto family. Spend time with them and feel loved and supported. Austrians always celebrate Christmas Eve. But in Australia the 25th is the big day. Every year on the 25th I meet friends at the pub for beers as this reminds me of an Australian Christmas.
- Be grateful. Even if this is your 5th Christmas as an expat. And the newness of your experience has lost its magic or shine. Try to remind yourself how blessed you are to be here. Not many people get to fully live and embrace a Christmas abroad and truly experience the culture behind it. Remind yourself you are lucky.
- My last tip is also to consider the flip side of escaping your own families dysfunctional Christmas yearly bonanza. The annual fight. The relative that always gets drunk. The parental guilt. The sibling rivalry. And the duty. The crazy Aunty. The board games that end in tears and resentment. You get to escape the crazy!
And on a final end of year vibe. 2016 – not my greatest year ever. I have a feeling 2017 will be way awesome. I like the number 7 better than 6. So that’s a good start already.