While there are certainly many occasions when you feel homesick while living abroad, there’s something about spending your holidays abroad, especially the first time, that can make you feel really isolated.
This is normal; everywhere you look families and friends are joining together, acting as a constant reminder that you are far away from home.
The best thing to do is to try and turn your holiday blues into something positive – this is a new and exciting time for you and your family. Your first Christmas abroad should be an exciting time, a time to welcome new traditions, cultures and contacting your loved ones back at home.
Travel somewhere new
You’re in a new country, far from home, and although you’d love to jump on the next flight home, you know you can’t do it. But don’t limit yourself; there are plenty of new places to explore. Pack your bags and take your family for a week-long trip to the other end of the country, or even to the neighbouring one. Travelling and seeing new places reduces the feeling of homesickness. You’re experiencing new adventures as a family and discovering new traditions. Perhaps from now on you can visit somewhere new every winter break.
Besides, travelling gives you the perfect opportunity for meeting and making new friends just in time for the big Christmas dinner or New Year’s party. Everyone at your hotel is most likely away from home and their families, so you’ll fit right in.
Don’t forget your traditions
Just because you’re in a new country – whether they celebrate the same holidays as you or not – doesn’t mean you need to stop celebrating the holidays the way you used to back home. If you’re good in the kitchen then whip up that special dish you serve every year, or play your usual Christmas carols in your native language.
If there is a specific thing you do – like opening presents before dinner – keep doing it. Your children will feel more at home and so will you. Better yet, if you’ve made some good friends abroad, invite them over for dinner and let them learn about your customs, just like you do with theirs.
Join the locals
Part of the idea of living abroad is to engage in local festivities and traditions. If you live in a country that celebrates Hanukkah (if you usually don’t) or Chinese New Year, this is the perfect time to learn and have fun in the processes. Talk to your new friends or families in your children’s schools about what their plans are, you never know, you might be invited to tag along to a dinner party or celebration where you can learn about the new culture and traditions.
The working spouse might also be invited to a specific celebration by a work colleague or something organised by the company they work at. Expats that are relocated by work are often included in these plans to avoid the holiday homesickness feeling. If this is the case, don’t turn down the invitation.
Check with your embassy
More often than not, embassies organise events for those living abroad from their respective countries. Call your embassy a couple of weeks in advance to find out if they will be putting together a dinner, event or party for nationals from your country and what the requirements are for attending (usually showing your passport is enough to get you tickets).
Embrace the differences
Say you’ve moved from the northern hemisphere to the southern one and you’re suddenly celebrating Christmas during the summer. Look at this as an opportunity to do and experience new things. If you’ve moved to a country that does not celebrate Christmas, or whose New Year celebration takes place another month instead of December, then absorb the differences and take it as an opportunity to open your family’s view of the world.
Convince your family and friends to visit
While you may not be able to fly home because of work / school or whatever other reason, you could always convince your family or friends to visit. Most people jump at the opportunity of travelling if they know there’s someone to receive them on the other end. That way you’ll have a piece of home with you and you can share your new culture and traditions with your family, as well.
Opportunities to learn new things and meet new people are easy to stumble upon when living abroad. Surviving the holidays away from home and your usual customs is hard, but there is no reason to spend the holidays down in the dumps when you and your family could be having an amazing time celebrating in different ways, in a country that you now call home.
Make this one a Christmas to remember; happy holidays!