How to Handle Holidays Abroad (+ A Special Announcement)

Can’t fly home for the holidays? Being away from home during the holidays can be rough. Everyone is bound to deal with homesickness at some point while traveling and it’ll usually sneak up on you during the holiday time. Here are some ways I’ve found helpful to handle spending holidays abroad.

Keep Things Familiar

Do you have certain traditions you like to do each year during the holidays? Whether it’s baking cookies, decorating a Christmas tree or just enjoying a meal while watching your favorite holiday movies, try your best to do these things abroad. You’ll appreciate the familiarity even though you may be in an unfamiliar place.

Our Christmas tree all decorated!

Our Christmas tree all decorated!

Celebrate Like a Local

You may find that many countries celebrate the same holiday– just differently. Take advantage of the new culture you may find yourself in by trying to celebrate like a local. Maybe you’ll leave a shoe out if you’re in Germany or be visited by “Babushka” in Russia. It can be a fun new experience that’ll help you appreciate your time in a new country and you might just adopt some new holiday traditions!

Singing Christmas carols with my host sisters ... in Japanese

Singing Christmas carols with my host sisters … in Japanese

Find a Celebration Where You Are

Many cities hold large holiday celebrations that you can take part in. Go view Christmas decorations, join people who are caroling or some countries even set off fireworks for you to enjoy. If you’re in a country that doesn’t normally celebrate Christmas, call your local embassy. A lot of embassies will organize holiday events for foreigners living in that country.

Bring the Party to Yourself

If you can’t find a celebration in the city you’re in, hold your own party. If you know locals or other expats, see if people would want to get together to celebrate. Even if your apartment is too small to hold guests, people could still get together and enjoy a nice meal out somewhere.

Secret Santa in Japan

Secret Santa in Japan

Share Your Traditions With Locals

If you’re living with a local family or have local friends, share your traditions with them. They’ll enjoy learning more about you and your culture, and it’ll give you nice memories of holidays abroad. And who knows, next time there’s a local celebration going on, they might invite you in return!

Teaching my students about Christmas

Teaching my students about Christmas

Utilize Skype

Skype has helped to make cross-global communication easy and affordable. Even if you can’t be physically with your friends and family during the holidays, you can still enjoy hearing their voice over Skype– all you need is at least one internet connection. And if you have a webcam, you could even watch as they get to open your presents or talk with all your family members as they eat their holiday meal.

Treat Yourself

If you’ve got no plans for the holidays, you can always plan something special on your own. Maybe take a dinner cruise, or see do some sightseeing of the location you’re in. Even if it’s something as simple as splurging on a nice meal, do something you normally wouldn’t do to make the day more special than usual.

Sightseeing at "The Peak" on Christmas 2011

Sightseeing at “The Peak” on Christmas 2011

Go Someplace You’ve Always Wanted

People love traveling during the holidays, and you can too. Why not use the time off to go some place you’ve always wanted to go?  It’ll feel less like you’re spending the holidays alone abroad and more like you’re on an enjoyable vacation. Besides battling homesickness, it can help make the holiday extra memorable. For me, it was traveling to Thailand for Thanksgiving. And for you, who knows, but who wouldn’t want to say they spent Christmas surfing the warm beaches of Hawaii or sipping a hot mug of eierpunsch in Germany?

Not your typical Thanksgiving

Not your typical Thanksgiving

Talk Your Loved Ones Into Visiting

So you may not be able to fly home for the holidays, but if all else fails you could try to talk your family into visiting you abroad. Many friends and family members will say that they want to visit you some point during your time abroad. While it’s awesome to have visitors at any point, it would be even more awesome if you had visitors during the holiday season to cure your homesickness.

Traveling during the holidays is never easy for anyone, even if you’re on the trip of a lifetime or living with a host family. While you may never be able to recreate the exact celebration you’d be having at home, there are many ways to still enjoy holidays abroad.

Being a traveler during the holidays often means no decorations, no formal celebrations, and no gifts. It becomes solely about the day, the people you spend it with and the food you eat. Which in my opinion is how holidays should be. 

A Special Announcement…

In honor of the holidays, I’ll be celebrating by posting every day during the next 12 days of Christmas. So check back often for more posts from yours truly!
Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

How do you cope with spending holidays abroad?


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