5 Tips for Surviving the Holidays Far From Home

One of the most difficult parts of adjusting to life abroad can be spending the holidays far away from family. Whether your family traditions revolve around Diwali, Christmas, or Hanukkah, being on the other side of the world while your loved ones celebrate without you can be an extremely tough reality of expat life. Don’t let the expat blues get you down though; there are plenty of ways to deal with spending the holiday season overseas. They may not be a replacement for celebrating with your friends and family back home, but these five tips will help ease that longing for the familiar just a teensy bit. Maybe spending the holidays abroad needn’t be that bad after all!

Photo via Flickr

1. Don’t spend it alone

It can be extremely tempting during the holidays to isolate yourself from the outside world, but this will only serve to increase those expat blues tenfold. Perhaps the most important rule to surviving the holidays overseas is to make sure you celebrate with local friends. Early on in my expat years I used to think that if I couldn’t celebrate back home, it was better to not celebrate at all. Until I found myself sitting alone in a Subway in Taipei on Christmas Eve feeling all the more depressed because of it. Since then, I have always made sure to pull my friends into the Christmas spirit, whether it’s a part of their cultural traditions or not. In the same vein, I’ve had Indian expat friends invite me over to celebrate Diwali with them, and Chinese friends who have recruited me for Chinese New Year revelries. It’s almost more fun because I am being introduced to new traditions and am showing them my own as well!

2. Don’t lose your traditions

It’s important to keep the traditions you love if you want to have a good holiday season abroad. I’m sure there are many customs that have been a part of your life since you were a young child, and probably a few that have been passed down for generations! While maintaining these traditions overseas is great, it’s important to remember that you may need to be flexible to small changes. For me this has meant giving up one of my favourite Christmas drinks, wassail, because finding apple cider in most Asian countries is extremely difficult. Still, you’ll catch me every year without fail trying to make wassail with apple juice. It’s not quite the same, but it’s the tradition that matters most to me. Depending on where you live in the world, you’ll probably experience similar setbacks. Just be open to tweaking your customs so you can keep them close to you – even on the other side of the globe!

Photo via Flickr

3. Don’t make it all about you

One particularly excellent manner of dealing with the expat blues during the holidays is to shift the focus away from how lonely you might be feeling and instead give back a little to the community. It’s important to remember that there are plenty of people out there much less fortunate than you who would love to be able to celebrate the holidays but simply can’t. Find a local organisation that champions a cause you care about and lend them a hand. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or animal shelter will go a long way towards taking your mind off the holidays, and you’ll be helping others in the process!

Learning a new language? Check out our free placement test to see how your level measures up!

4. Don’t stay home

If going all out during the holidays isn’t an option and all your friends are leaving town, treating yourself to something special during those days can be a great way to boost your mood. Instead of staying home and feeling sad, go on an adventure! Taking a solo trip isn’t a lonely activity, it’s a solitary one, and the best part is you can do it on your own terms. Choose a place you’ve wanted to visit for a long time and hit the road. If a lengthy trip isn’t an option, try for short day trips near the city where you live, or pamper yourself and splurge on a spa day. Make yourself feel special so the expat blues don’t get the best of you.

Photo via Flickr

5. Don’t lose touch

Staying in touch with friends and family is a vital part of living a healthy expat life, and even more so during the holidays. It’s so easy these days to stay in touch that there’s really no excuse to avoid giving your parents, siblings, or friends a call when those festive days roll around. One of my favourite memories as an expat is the year I called my mom and kept her on speaker while she gave me cooking instructions as I prepared a Christmas dinner. It’s a bittersweet experience because you’re far away, but technology definitely makes expat life a whole lot easier!

Do you have any tips for surviving the holidays abroad? Share them with us!