You truly live an expat life when you spend Christmas abroad. Most of us probably prefer travelling home over the holidays, but sometimes work or travel distance might stop us from spending it with our family; or maybe we just love to live an expat life to the fullest and stay at our new home. I personally quite like to travel over Christmas and discover new parts of the world.
Here are 8 tips how to make the best out of any Christmas away from home:
- For stress relief order and send Christmas presents online. Amazon is great for that, now that you can have a billing address and a delivery address in different countries. Believe me I have had a few years of trying to send personal parcels myself across borders – post restrictions are a pain in most countries and you always end up paying much more postage even if you are just 10g over the limit.
- Make yourself cosy. Get a Christmas tree or what else may be part of your traditions such as certain foods or decorations that help you make it feel Christmassy and enjoy a relaxing time. I also like to cook something special out of my favourite cooking book (currently: Raymond Blanc – Cooking for friends).
- Spend quality time with your partner, friends or expat family.
- Invite friends for Christmas dinner or even to stay with you for a few days. This is an awesome opportunity to catch up when you live far away from each other.
- Take advantage of your freedom on Christmas Day to do anything you like. There are no family obligations of who to see, where to drive or what to eat! Truly relaxing 😉 I spent my first Christmas away from Germany in Oxford in my mid 20’s and I remember exactly that amazing sensation of freedom. Organising Christmas at my own (expat) home has been my favourite ever since.
- Make the best out of what’s different. Climate and food might be totally different to what you are used to. So why not spend Christmas at the beach in Australia or at the Icehotel in Sweden chasing Northern Lights on a dog sledge…
- Plan an adventure. When living in Australia I spent quite some time deciding what to do for Christmas after having arrived only 2 months earlier. In the end I invited my now partner over to join me on a 3 week road trip to New Zealand. Quite unexpectedly, we ended up spending Christmas in Auckland at the Hilton (I swear my first and only time, and yes, they do have telephones in the bathroom within an arms length of reach from the place of action. Does anyone ever use the phone on the loo?!…) Anyway, I remember great sunny weather and day trips to Waiheke Island before making our way towards South Island. Definitely a memorable Christmas.
Another memorable one was last Christmas, when I moved to Spain over the holidays. What a trip… The idea was to make it fun and turn the move into a road trip in a white van and stop at friends’ places such as Grenoble and Provence in France. Since it was impossible to rent a van one way from Germany to Spain, we decided to rent it in Spain and to meet in Germany. We knew we had to change vans at the German border because winter tires are required by law in Germany (and impossible to get in Spain). This part went strangely smooth. We spent Christmas Eve in an awesome little hotel in cute Dijon and headed for Grenoble to have an amazing Christmas lunch in Grenoble with my old landlord from my Erasmus times in France. All great fun. We left late afternoon towards Aix-in-Provence to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in years, but unfortunately the van didn’t take the hills too well and the gear box said goodbye forever, leaving us stranded on a French motorway. Emergency services rescued us and after a marathon wait and and rushed repacking at midnight 30 hours later, we finally made it to Barcelona.
- If you are travelling alone, stop and meet people a few days in advance, so you won’t spend it all alone getting homesick which was always my biggest worry. There are plenty of people in the same boat and looking for company. Use Meetup.com or other networking sites to meet other expats.
- For how to avoid the homesick blues, check out my post Homesick on your birthday when traveling?