Expats living abroad often feel especially lonely during the holiday season. Spending the year’s end in a foreign place makes us miss family, friends, traditions, and even that painfully cheerful, all-too-familiar holiday music. The best remedy for this is to get festive. That’s right folks — throw up some Christmas lights, get decorative, break out grandma’s recipes and rejoice in the holiday spirit. If you’re not feeling very creative, we have you covered. Here are some quick tips on how to feel festive while spending Christmas abroad.
Bring Your Traditions With You
Traditions — they’re portable. Just because you’re living in a foreign country doesn’t mean you can’t have a fully-fledged gingerbread house competition, and it doesn’t mean you can’t make that obligatory batch of sugar cookies either. Taking up your family’s traditions is one of the best ways to feel festive while traveling or living abroad. If you come from a line of avid carolers, gather some friends and start singing in the streets. Go down the street to the local plant store and buy a tree — or a bush, or a palm, depending on your climate — and throw some gifts under it. Construct a makeshift nativity scene and keep it in the living room. The more you can make your temporary home feel like your real home, the more festive your season will feel.
Embrace the Local Traditions
The whole point of traveling and living abroad is to embrace the local culture, right? The holiday season is a time of year where many countries celebrate in their own unique way, so you should try to make the most of it. Things like the Krampus parade in Austria (where terrifying masked figures walk the streets scaring children), Roller Skate in Venezuela, Befana the Witch in Italy, Fried Caterpillars in South Africa, and the Poop Log in Catalonia are all wild traditions that you wouldn’t want to miss out on. Thinking about heading to Japan? Discover how to celebrate the holidays in the land of the rising sun.
Many travellers and fresh expats will be surprised to learn that the holiday season lasts significantly longer in other parts of the world. In much of Latin America, the entire month of December is just as festive as Christmas day, and in the Philippines, the Christmas season technically starts on September 1st.
In 2018, all you need is a good WiFi connection to stay close with friends and family. Call your loved ones and have them pass you around the table, or coordinate to watch the same classic holiday movie at the same time. You can even schedule an entire online holiday party. Agree to dress up (or break out the ugly sweater), put on the same playlist, and cook the same meal. For most people, the holidays are about family, so staying connected will help you feel festive.
Do Something Fun
If the thought of staying “home” in your house or apartment abroad feels too lonely, consider putting a trip together for yourself. Who says you snorkeling somewhere tropical doesn’t scream Christmas? Why not hike a mountain to ring in the new year? Check out this quick itinerary on how to spend 48 hours in Hong Kong for some inspiration.
Connect With Other Expats
Depending on where you are, many big cities have thriving expat communities that are very active on social media. A quick search will likely yield some results and get you connected with other estranged foreigners who are looking to feel festive. Put together a holiday party with people you know and don’t know, or organize a secret Santa or a potluck.
There’s something extremely rewarding about volunteering during the holidays. If you’re having trouble feeling festive or feeling disconnected, putting yourself in the shoes of the less fortunate is a great way to get grounded. Volunteering at a local homeless shelter or food shelter is a great way to give a little back and feel good about doing your part in the season of giving.
It’s the Little Things
If all fails, sometimes the little things are what make you feel most festive. The pumpkin chai latte, scrolling through old photos, watching Elf for the thousandth time — treating yourself doesn’t take much effort, but it often goes a long way.
Dillon is a travel-hungry outdoor enthusiast originally from Encinitas, California. He recently moved to Medellín to begin his next chapter as a content writer for AllTheRooms. Besides writing, Dillon enjoys live music, fútbol, cooking, and backpacking.