Christmas away from home can be very difficult for many expats.
For those lucky enough to have their families with them, the festive season can continue as normal, although it might seem slightly bizarre eating your turkey in blazing sun and thirty degree heat as opposed to drizzle and a bracing north-west wind. For those who have their families in another country and even another continent, Christmas can be an emotional struggle, or go far too quickly if they can visit for the holiday.
Decades ago, trying to celebrate the traditional British Christmas in another country and culture was almost impossible yet, with increased globalization and a huge mobile workforce, this isn’t so much of a problem anymore. Even if the mince pies and cranberry sauce can’t be found at the local supermarket or Christmas market, online stores such as the British Corner Shop deliver British favourites all over the world.
Yet, often Christmas abroad can be made better by embracing the local traditions and cultures rather than just imposing a British Christmas on a very non-British landscape. Many expats have found that embracing these new cultures can actually make the holidays easier if they are away from family as it reduces the nostalgia and homesickness. So, for example, in Germany there may be side dishes of sauerkraut, dessert of stollen and a drink of gluhwein. In France on Christmas Eve there may be a large fish dinner. In Australia it’s a seafood barbeque. All over the world people celebrate Christmas in their own unique way. And if you can’t let go of home, why not combine the two?
Not all countries can be so tolerant, however. This year on just 23rd December, two days before Christmas, Brunei moved towards hard-line Islamic law and banned excessive and open Christmas celebrations. Hats or clothes to resemble Santa Claus, religious symbols like crosses, candles and Christmas trees and even Christmas decorations could all now lead to severe punishment.
Ultimately, wherever in the world you might be as an expat, the best way to spend Christmas is in the company of others. It’s unlikely you’ll be the only expat in your area so why not get everyone together for a big celebration? If you’re away from your families there’s nothing to stop you from setting up something like Skype to witness the key Christmas moments such as present opening. Most important is to make sure you look after yourself and make the holiday best for you. Treat yourself to your favourite meal, a spa day or even some retail therapy and then share everything with your loved ones back home.