For many expatriates, the Christmas period can be a tough time, being away from friends and family and sometimes even in a completely different culture. If you can’t (or don’t want to) go home, here are some tips for how to combat loneliness during ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ overseas as an expatriate.
Why can Christmas be a tough time for expats?
Christmas, according to the traditions of many, is a time for family members to get together. It lands during standard school holidays in most countries, meaning we usually have the opportunity to travel home and spend some quality time with our loved ones.
However, if you’re stuck or staying abroad for Christmas, it can be difficult to know that you won’t be there on the day and that everyone will be getting on without you. While you’ll no doubt be missed, it’s still a bitter pill to swallow, knowing that everyone else might be getting together while you’re gone.
How expatriates can manage a lonely Christmas overseas
How Christmas works out for you is all about spirit and attitude. Too many people put far too much pressure on themselves for Christmas. It could be that until now, you’ve been organising a Christmas that doesn’t fit in with your life, particularly based on your current reality of living overseas in a global pandemic.
This could be your chance to rip up the rule book and do something completely different. Here are our top tips.
1. Take up the local culture as an expat
One great way to prevent homesickness is to get stuck into local cultural experiences and take advantage of the different ways people celebrate the holiday period while also sharing with new friends how you would celebrate back home. This may also help you with your culture shock.
Whether they simply celebrate in a different way or don’t celebrate Christmas at all, take it as a learning opportunity and a chance to experience new traditions. Check out what events might be going on around you and get stuck in.
2. Enjoy the festivities with other expats
If you’re an expat, there will undeniably be many other expatriates around you who may also be feeling a little lonely at the prospect of spending Christmas day far from home, so why not organise to spend it together!
This is a great way to keep busy on the day and even make new friends by asking your existing friends to invite other expats they know to come along and join the fun.
3. Do something that reminds you of your home country
Do you always eat something specific for Christmas Lunch? Then get to the supermarket and see what you can find to cook up. You may not be able to gather exactly what you’re used to, but perhaps you could put a twist on it by taking elements of the Christmas Lunch you know and love and adding in some local ingredients or delicacies to make up for it.
Are you always the one to organise a Secret Santa? Then get together a small group of new friends or colleagues to do the same.
Although it’s important to celebrate the way the locals do, there’s nothing wrong with doing something that’s your tradition.
Volunteering at a local homeless shelter, care home, or even animal shelter can be a great way to keep busy while giving back to your new community.
Check out what’s in your local area and if any groups need help.
5. Treat yourself to a present this Christmas
Purchase yourself a nice gift, it is Christmas after all! Maybe get yourself something you can do on the day and give yourself the time to relax and enjoy the break. Why not even wrap it up and open with your family on facetime so you don’t feel as though you are missing out!
On the whole, Christmas is traditionally about spending time with friends and family, so, for expats living abroad, the festive period can be difficult. While most expats may feel pangs of loneliness at times, the Christmas holidays abroad can be the worst, especially if you’re in a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas.
Yes, Christmas is all about family, and yes it can be hard being away from your home comforts but if you are living abroad for Christmas, make the most of it and create some new traditions for yourself that allow you to honour the holiday, whilst making the most of your new environment.