Global Citizen

An Expat Christmas: The Up-side Of Both Heading Home & Staying Put

The Christmas holiday is right around the corner.  Many of you, myself included, are getting ready to make the trip home to spend the festive season with family.  Some of us live abroad, and making this trip is a much-needed break from the sometimes difficult reality of living in another country with different traditions.

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I haven’t always considered myself a true expat since I live in a country that neighbours my own.  It feels too close to call myself an expat since I live a short drive away from the border and regularly make trips to my homeland to shop and take care of admin.  But, the city where my family lives is on the opposite coast from where I currently reside, so even though I often find myself ‘at home’ in my country, I’m still about 2000km away from my home city.

It’s a strange feeling, knowing you can take a quick trip and be back home where people speak your language and you can buy all the goodies you love and miss but still be very far away from your family and friends.  The reality is that it’s not the physical distance that makes you an expat, it’s the distance from the familiar.

Like many expats, I can’t always make it home for Christmas.  Sometimes I have to stay put and do Christmas differently; eat different foods and take part in different traditions.  These experiences are lovely, but they also serve to highlight, often starkly, what you’re missing at home.

These adopted Christmases make going home so much sweeter.  You anticipate all the food, traditions, and merriment that is a Christmas at home with family – the Christmas you’ve done since you were a child.  You look forward to the closeness and familiarity of being with your loved ones, the people who know you and know your story.  They do Christmas the way you do Christmas, they look forward to the same food and traditions as you, and you all get to keep old memories alive as you create new ones.  It’s a special thing.

This year I get to go home for Christmas.  I’m merrily closing up shop, as they say, in my adopted country and getting ready for a return to familiarity and comfort.  For those of you who, like me, are heading home this year, enjoy it.  Drink it in, take photos, sing along to that old Christmas CD, and indulge in your loved ones.  Appreciate being at home surrounded by memories and the proximity of loved ones.  Make the most of it.

For those of you who are staying in adopted lands and cultures for Christmas, enjoy it.  Take in the new experiences and food.  Try out new traditions and see the holiday with new eyes.   If you’re feeling blue, remember that it makes going home that much sweeter when you do.  Try starting a tradition or two of your own, be open, let people around you share their version of Christmas with you and, hey, why not contribute a little something from home.  Make the most of it.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

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