While Christianity is not the main religion across most of Asia, Christmas is still celebrated as a secular event these days

Famously, the Philippines boasts the longest Christmas celebration in the world, starting their countdown from September 1st.

Everything from decorations, gifts, Christmas trees and Santas will most likely be on show wherever you are in Asia, of course all with a unique Asian twist.

That is why we have created this helpful guide on what to expect this Christmas and how to make the most of it as an expat living in Asia.

Customs and traditions

The more unusual traditions include giving apples on Christmas Eve in China, South Korea dressing Santa Claus in blue, Sri Lanka setting off firecrackers at dawn on December 1st and Vietnamese children placing their shoes outside the door on Christmas Eve for Santa to fill with presents.

Alternatively, Singapore, Hong Kong and other places with a strong Western influence will appear more familiar to expats at Christmas time.

These countries celebrate Christmas in a manner more traditional with the US, UK and the Western world. Expect to see Christmas lights wherever you go, as well as decorated Christmas trees and public appearances of Father Christmas himself.

You can also be sure of some much-needed rest from work on the big day, as both Singapore and Hong Kong celebrate Christmas as a public holiday.

Decorations and food

Christmas trees will be on display in a number of public areas, with both Hong Kong and Singapore now famous for their shopping mall displays and giant trees.

However, in China very few people have a Christmas tree themselves, while the decorations differ slightly, with paper lanterns and flowers ornaments of choice for the tree. Anyone after their own tree will of course be able to find one to buy for their own home, however you should expect the choices of baubles and tinsel to be a bit more limited as opposed to in shops in Britain and might need to order some decorations online in plenty of time for December.

While you will more than likely be able to find your traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings on offer at a local restaurant or international hotel, there are also a number of Christmas foods with a more Asian twist that could take your fancy.

Gift giving etiquette

Numerous traditions exist regarding gift giving in China and the rest of Asia, and also ring true around Christmas time as well.

It’s worth nothing that it’s common practice to refuse a gift a couple of times before accepting it. This means that you shouldn’t be offended if you give a gift to a Chinese friend or relative that isn’t immediately jumped on.

Gifts to avoid include towels, knives, sharp objects, umbrellas and clocks, while if you are giving flowers as a gift, you should be sure to steer clear of white or yellow flowers as they are often used for funerals.

Other than that, the general rules of thumb are the same as for any other country. Gifts that go down well include thoughtful gifts, fun gifts and gifts that show you know the recipient well and know what they like.

Send money home instead of gifts

Last but not least, we couldn’t forget about your friends and family back home. If you’re not heading back to your home country for the holidays, you might be in the awkward position of having to post a lot of gifts back home.

While this takes a bit of time and places a lot of trust in both Asian and UK postal services collaborating smoothly, sending lots of gifts in the post will also incur huge postal fees. In some cases, you might find that the cost of the shipping label is more than the cost of the present itself!

Avoid all the postal hassle and transfer money overseas to friends and family this Christmas. As well as often working out cheaper, and ensuring all of the money goes on a gift for your loved ones, they will also be able to pick a gift they love.

Set up an account with moneycorp today to enjoy competitive exchange rates, often cheaper than high-street banks, and low fees on international payments.

Speak to one of our foreign exchange specialists today and find out how you can set up quick and convenient payments to friends and family for Christmas.

Register for a free account today.


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