Dos and Don’ts for Surviving the Holidays Abroad

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That time of year is rolling around again: stores are putting up decorations, restaurants are offering special deals for office Christmas parties, and everyone seems just a bit cheerier than normal. However, if you’re an expat who, for one reason or another, won’t be able to return home for the holidays this year, the looming approach of the festive season probably doesn’t have the same positive vibes it does for most other people. Missing out on celebrating Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or any other holiday with your family can be hard, which is why we’re here with a few great tips to help you survive this holiday season abroad!

Don’t isolate yourself.

Aching nostalgia tends to strike particularly hard around the festive season, and it can be very tempting to just hole up in your room with a bottle of Scotch and your favorite Christmas movies. Most long-term expats agree that spending the holidays alone is a big no-no. Usually you develop a sort of expat-family once you move overseas, and these are the people you should be passing the time with. After all, your fellow expats are probably feeling just as lonely and will be more than happy to create some festive cheer with you! And if you’ve got local friends, all the better. You’ll certainly receive an invitation or two to a nice holiday meal.

Do celebrate.

Surrounding yourself with familiar things is a key part of avoiding the holiday blues. If you live in a Western country this should be relatively easy, but even other nations tend to celebrate the typical Western holidays such as Christmas. In countries like Singapore and Taiwan you can even find restaurants that cater to American clientele by offering Thanksgiving-themed meals! If you can’t find a place to head to celebrate, how about hosting a party of your own? Whether or not I’m able to return home for Christmas, I enjoy inviting my friends over once a year so I can make them a holiday meal. There’s something oddly comforting about baking an apple pie using the exact same recipe my mom did when I was a kid.

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Don’t refuse to change.

Let’s face it: even if you gather your overseas family and celebrate in style it will never be quite the same as spending the holidays at home. Whether you’re faced with struggling to get the ingredients together for your perfect festive dinner, or don’t have any friends who celebrate the same holidays you do, it can be a tough prospect to pull off the holiday season. But it’s important that you learn to roll with it and even create some new traditions of your own. For years my group of friends was comprised of people from non-Western households—but in a lot of ways that made celebrating Christmas with them even more special because it gave me the opportunity to show them some of my customs and traditions. Be sure to incorporate local traditions in with your own and don’t be afraid to change how you celebrate. You’ll have some new and enriched experiences!

Photo via Flickr

Do treat yourself.

Sometimes, no matter how busy you keep yourself with holiday parties and get-togethers, the loneliness still tends to set in—especially when you start looking at social media and seeing your friends and family back home celebrating together. Photos of your mom cooking, or your siblings and cousins drinking cider can be hard reminders that, no matter what, at the end of the day you are on the other side of the world. Try avoiding getting bummed out by planning creative ways to treat yourself when those festive days roll around. Unplug from social media and pamper yourself a little bit! Plan a trip for those days where you know the angst will be particularly strong, or book a spa day for some serious me time. And if both these prospects are a bit outside your budget, splurge instead on a gift for yourself!

Don’t stop communicating.

While phoning home during the holidays may sound like a terrible idea (after all, it’s sure to make you feel even lonelier and more nostalgic, right?) don’t miss out on giving your family and loved ones a call. It’ll help remind you that they’re thinking of you too, and is a good emotional salve for the soul.

Do you have any good tips for surviving the holidays abroad? Share them with us in the comments section!

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