Living overseas can be an amazing experience, but most ex-pats and travelers feel pangs of loneliness at times, especially during special occasions like Christmas. If you are spending the holidays far away from home, here are some helpful tips on how to celebrate Christmas overseas.
The Christmas holidays overseas can be a really difficult time. Everywhere you look there are families spending time together and people will inevitably ask what your plans are for Christmas and whether you are going home…even if home is far away.
There are countless family and cultural traditions at Christmas so living overseas could mean a very different Christmas experience for you. But Christmas abroad doesn’t have to be a completely lonely, miserable time.
This year will be my seventh Christmas abroad away from my family and closest friends. Over the years I’ve learned that it is possible to survive, and even enjoy the Christmas period if you manage your expectations and try to find positive activities. These are my top tips for making Christmas a little brighter if you are alone overseas.
Keep Existing Traditions
You are away from home but you can still keep some of your familiar traditions…in fact, I encourage it and find that it is the easiest way to get into the Christmas spirit.
I knew that Christmas could be challenging, especially being on my own. I am a sentimental person with a healthy stash of pretty Christmas decorations so I brought all of the ones that I love with me to Canada. Although it took up precious space in my shipping boxes it was one of the best decisions I made regarding what to bring with me to Canada because especially during that first year it was comforting having so many festive things from England. Plus I saved a lot of money on Christmas decor that I would have had to buy.
I have also kept a few other traditions like certain festive treats, Christmas movies, and music so that I still experience elements of a British Christmas in Canada.
Create New Traditions
From experience, I also think it helps to embrace where you are in the world. You can make Christmas entirely your own when you are overseas on your own. So I’d recommend adding some new traditions, treats, or decor to your festive celebrations. It might help you to feel excited rather than sad about missing Christmas at home if you discover some local traditions. It may also make your current location feel more like home.
For instance, is there a parade, any special local foods, nice decor, songs or traditions that you could adopt from the country you are in.
Here in Vancouver, I always buy at least one new decoration every year, watch Hallmark movies that I didn’t get in England, and mix up British treats with Canadian ones to help make Christmas my own in Canada. There’s also lots of festive events that I can go to on my own to pass the time, and make the season more enjoyable.
Buy Yourself A Gift Or Two
It’s Christmas time after all so buy yourself a gift or two! Whether you are likely to get many gifts or not (like me) treat yourself to at least one or two things that are on your wish list.
Catch Up With Friends & Family Virtually
Skype, Messenger, and WhatsApp are all great ways to call or video chat with your family and friends. Take the time to schedule phone or video calls or surprise your loved ones with an impromptu hello. Hearing the voices of loved ones will fill you with holiday cheer, help you to feel part of the festivities from afar, and remind you that you are loved.
If you don’t really have loved ones to catch up with, use the quiet time over the holidays to just focus on yourself
Shop Online To Exchange Gifts
Just because you are overseas doesn’t mean that you can’t exchange presents with your family and friends. Although I’ve tried to buy local gifts and post them I’ve always found it to be expensive and time restrictive. Not only do you need to ensure that you do not miss the postal deadline, but you also need to think about any customs fees that you or they might be hit with.
So I usually do the bulk of my Christmas shopping online. Simply go to sites that are based in the country where your recipients live – this way you will save on postage and you can post closer to the big day. Shopping online means that even if you miss the last post deadlines you can still order gifts.
Websites like Amazon have an amazing range of goods and you can get most things gift-wrapped and sent over.
Request A Care Package From Home
Decorating your new home and filling it with treats from home will help you to feel festive. I have received a couple of care packages full of festive goodies from home since living in Vancouver and it instantly puts a smile on my face and perks me up.
So think about what you miss most from home and ask your family and friends if they can pull together some goodies for you for instant cheer.
Celebrate An Orphan Christmas
One of the best things about living overseas has been meeting so many new people from all around the world. When you are overseas, there is no shortage of people who are alone at Christmas.
Facebook groups are a great way to find like-minded travelers to spend Christmas with. You may also find people at the hostel you are staying at, couch surfing, or through meetup.
I have enjoyed a couple of orphan Christmases since moving to Vancouver; one at a pub and bar in the city and one potluck style where everyone brought a dish or two to someone’s home. and would highly recommend it.
Get Creative Over The Festive Season
If you’re on a tight budget, or you are just feeling down over Christmas, do something creative to keep your mind busy. One of my favourite things to do over the holidays when I’m feeling lonely and sad is to get some creative project ideas from Pinterest. I pick some projects, or a Christmas decor theme and then go to places like the dollar store to get supplies.
Doing creative things can really help with mental health issues, or just feeling sad in general. Choose a project that will make you smile or feel good when you’ve completed it.
Treat & Pamper Yourself
You can still go all out and give yourself some treats and extra pampering if you are spending Christmas abroad alone.
Go get a Christmas tree, decorate your home, stock up on treats, and buy some beauty and self-care products to pamper yourself with. stuff and s is a time for giving, so give something to yourself!
Basically, treat yourself to whatever it is that you really enjoy but don’t normally take time to do.
Watch Christmas Movies
Binge-watching your favorite Christmas movies is a great way to get into the festive spirit. Gather some simple holiday treats like hot chocolate, biscuits (cookies), and snacks which are easy to source or make and create your own at-home movie experience.
Have A Day To Yourself
If you do find yourself alone on Christmas like I have in recent years, take this day to yourself. Go ahead and turn off your communication devices and/or log out of your social accounts. Plan a day that is just for you.
Do you want to go out to dinner somewhere that is offering a Christmas meal or do you want to stay home and either cook a delicious meal or order whatever takeout is open?
Whether a perfect day for you is staying indoors, relaxing and pampering yourself with music and movies, or going out for a walk and some exploring, you get to design your entire day. You may have to spend Christmas overseas alone but it’s just one day and you can spend it however you want to.
Volunteer Your Time
Tis the season giving after all so why not find out about local volunteer opportunities over Christmas? Whether at home or abroad, helping others is rewarding and a great way to meet new people.
Even non-holiday-themed projects, like assisting at an animal shelter, could bring you joy, and it’s a meaningful way to avoid being alone at Christmas. will bring a special joy. You may even get an invite to someone’s home for Christmas dinner!
Giving back at Christmas is also a way for you to bring back some balance to your life and remember what you have to be thankful for.
Find Your Christmas Spirit
Last but not least Christmas whether abroad or not is really all about attitude and getting into the festive spirit. If you focus on the negatives of the things that are missing this year, or wallow in feeling sad or lonely then it won’t be a pleasant day for you.
So try and put your energy into embracing what you have and how you can create a fun memorable day filled with your favorite festive things whether you are all alone or with other people on Christmas day.
Are you planning your first Christmas abroad? Or have you ever spent Christmas abroad? I’d love to hear about your experiences and any plans that you have!