Expat Festive Cheer

If you are an expat, unless you’d rather visit Guantanamo than your family during the festive season, chances are you’ll be feeling a little glum come late December. It’s always a little weird when everyone you know disappears for a couple of weeks to “go home” and “home” is not a concept you handle often anymore (as you have been traveling for so long) or maybe you are an exchange student and couldn’t afford to go back. It’s only natural that the holidays make expats feel a little lonely; First, your family is not around, and second, the large amount of traditions that are not belonging to you, yet pushed on your face can be a bit daunting.

Here’s how to lift your Christmas spirits when you’re thousands of miles from the people you love and your peeps at your second home are not around.

1. Host an “orphans” Christmas
If you haven’t got anywhere to be on the 25th, take matters into your own hands. Put the word out your expat clan that you’re roasting a bird and any local stragglers are welcome to join you. With a nice group of expat friends you can do thins like splitting the preparation of each meal and sharing a bunch of international traditions. This work wonders in our dorm in The Netherlands, and my cousins in Toronto make a yearly event that everyone talks about out of this.

2. Skype the folks back home
Check in with your family at key Christmas day moments – the present opening, the carving of the turkey, and when your uncle starts snoring erratically in his armchair as long as time differences allow.

3. Order in your festive favs
It can be minced pies, duck with ham or whatever you do in your land. If you don’t have any, make something of your own with what you have. My family was always close to turkey before my grandfather passed away. Now I take my grandma’s recipe to meet cake, just because I love it even if it may freak the hell out of Germans to find a dish made out of meat with meat and a side and topping of… Yes, you guessed it: Meat.

4. Volunteer
If you can’t host and you’re not exactly awash with invitations, don’t wallow. Check out which charities, local churches and soup kitchens need help serving up Christmas dinner to the needy. This should put your own misery into perspective and it’s a great way to meet people in a similar situation.

5. Go on holiday
Pack your bags, head somewhere sunny and forget all about Christmas. There are plenty of last minute deals available for anyone with the will – and funds – to escape a home alone Christmas. Or, spend the money importing a friend from a neighboring country. There must be someone in your life who’d appreciate a free trip, not to mention the pleasure of your company.

6. Treat yourself
Faced with a Christmas spent away from home, feel better by treating yourself to all your favorite things. Book a massage for Christmas Eve, spend the day itself in bed surrounded by booze and chocolate and, on Boxing Day, sleep, sleep like you don’t have time enough for the rest of the year.

7. Buy or borrow a pet
A little – preferably furry – companion will cheer your right up.  So many of your friends are looking for someone to leave their with  cat I bet. My rabbits have their own little Christmas cheers. A Santa hat could do, an elf costume works just as well. Note: don’t try this with a goldfish.

8. Watch heart-warming Christmas movies
This seems a bit like masochism to me, but it is important for many. Thousands of films have been made with the express purpose of cheering up lonely, miserable people at this time of year. Choose some to get you through the festive period and combine with any of the above.

9. Hit the pub
As I moved to Europe I thought this was mad. As I heard it was almost a tradition for my Irish in-laws at the time, I could barely believe it, but now I must say I like it. Do you know what is weirder than hitting the pub in Christmas? Hitting the pub in New Year’s eve to realize they are all closed for some weird law. Yes, that’s what happens here. You will be surprised of how many neighbors will be there.

10. Start a Christmas Home fund
Ensure you can get back home next year by sorting the stuff we all hate doing. Get your taxes straight, plan how to pay all your bills and fix a monthly amount to save up to go home or do any or all of the ones above!

Have a good end of the year folks, next year we’ll be back to biz.

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