6 ways to enjoy the holidays while living abroad

by Mr Mike
6 ways to enjoy the holidays while living abroad

Here are 6 simple ways to brighten your holidays if you are a long way from home!

This year I’ll be celebrating my holidays outside of the United States for the first time.  Heck its my first time really being away from home!   Yeah, sure I was away from home at college near Boston I always managed to get back to New Jersey before the last decorations were hung.

I first realized how different the holidays would be in Seoul during Thanksgiving.  Okay, so maybe I ate Turkey three times that weekend but it wasn’t as good as my family’s usual feast and what REALLY makes the holiday is of course, family.  That being said I am grateful for my work family and friends here for helping me feel at home while living nearly 7000 miles away from my folks.


1) Celebrate and spend time with fellow expats.  

Chances are they are in the same situation as you and missing their family too.  If you are from the same country you can bond over traditions that you share.  If you are from different countries than you get even more insight into how the world celebrates a particular holiday.  I brought dreidels to all my Thanksgiving celebrations turning it into Thanksgivukkah and was surprised at how many Americans had never played before!

2) Celebrate and spend time with the locals.  

Chances are they have heard of your holiday; especially if its Christmas.  I was surprised to learn how few Koreans knew about Hanukkah but didn’t let it get me down.  I took it as an opportunity to reciprocate all they have taught me about their culture.  Every country celebrates holidays differently and it can be fun to experience the traditions and notice similarities.  You’ll be surprised at how many of the locals want to show you the way they celebrate. I’m excited to see how Koreans get into the holiday cheer even though they don’t decorate or have nearly the same shopping craze as Americans.

3) Continue your old traditions

Even if its just listening to Little Drummer Boy or Last Christmas on repeat, play your favorite songs and games.  It will keep your spirits up even if you are homesick.  You can email mom for grandma’s recipe and share it with all your new friends too. (she may even get the hint and send you a care package)  If you always donate to the needy then keep it up!  There are needy folks everywhere.  If you usually volunteer at the local food bank to help the hungry then talk to your local friends and find one at your new locale.  Whatever it is you do to bring the holiday spirit out in yourself I’m confident you can find a way to make it happen around the world.

4) Presents! 

Lets be honest, for many of us the holidays are about one thing.  PRESENTS!  Okay, so maybe I didn’t grow out of my 5 year old phase and am actually less mature than my students.  But, at least I enjoy giving presents as much as getting them.  Find small trinkets to give your coworkers and friends; they’ll appreciate the thought and it will make you feel like Santa!  More importantly find something lightweight to send back home.  A good idea is snack food!  Chances are its unique to your country and anyone back home who gets it will first be grossed out at the concept of “shrimp chips” but then try it and maybe even enjoy it as much as you!  Don’t worry, I won’t be shipping any “dried squid.”   Or will I?  

(shout out to my coworker Susan for giving me the snack idea)

5) Holiday Music!

Play it all day.  Everyday.  I don’t mean the stuff you hear on repeat at Starbucks.  I mean the new age versions of old songs like this phenomenal a Capella rendition of Little Drummer Boy or these Piano guys that will blow your mind with Angels we Have Heard on High.  I guess if you prefer the traditional songs you can always go to Pandora.com or Jango.com if your country doesn’t allow Pandora.  If you are a teacher in a foreign country (like me) then show all the music that you love to your classroom.  The kids will enjoy it and it will bring you into the holiday spirit!

5) Write Holiday Greeting Cards

Not everyone can keep a blog or emails their family regularly.  That doesn’t mean your friends and family aren’t interested!  Use the holidays as an opportunity to brag about all the crazy adventures you are having or take a moment to complain about the awful habits of your foreign friends.  Make it funny, make it sentimental but most importantly make it happen!

6) Don’t forget about Skype!

The most important part of my holidays is family.  Its rough not being close to your loved ones but technology makes the world seem a much smaller place.  If you  haven’t already figured out how to deal with time zones check out this easy to use website with a graphic for what time it is wherever you need it!  (In case you’re wondering I’m in Seoul which is the same time zone as Tokyo at UTC +9.)

How will you celebrate this year?  Has anyone ever invited an international friend to their celebration or tried celebrating while adding some foreign flair?

Mr Mike

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1 comment

elleninedmonton December 9, 2013 - 6:18 am

Reblogged this on ellen's esl teaching blog and commented:
Many of my students are away from their families and homes this year for the first time over Christmas. Christmas may not be a festival that they celebrate, but it’s hard to be away from your loved ones during a holiday season and these are good ideas! My favourite custom when I lived in Viet nam was buying a fully cooked and prepared turkey dinner from a hotel to share with as many people as possible. It was just over $100, with all of the fixings and a bottle of wine, and over 20 of us shared it one year.


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