Christmas As An Expat: the ups and the downs

things to do in Whistler in winter

We all have our Christmas traditions. Some are a little weirder than others, but whether you’re a Christmas lover or a massive Grinch, there’ll be something you do that brings back those festive memories.

My Christmas traditions are fairly…well, traditional. By UK standards at least. Wake up, exchange gifts, play the best Christmas classics on repeat and spend the day and night drinking copious amounts of alcohol, overeating roast potatoes and juicy turkey, and eventually passing out in front of the TV with the Christmas tree lights twinkling softly in the background.

expat life
Christmas orphans

As the years have passed, my love for Christmas has only grown. Being an expat for the past 3 years does mean my traditions have changed, though.

Instead of spending the day with loved ones, I now arrange my day of festivities around early morning and late night FaceTime and Skype calls. Trying to fit everyone in can be a bit of a pain but it’s worth it to see their faces, warmed by the roaring fire and alcohol flush. 

To be completely honest, Christmas has been a little bit of let down for me since leaving the UK because I’m not with family. Christmas time is for spending time with family and friends. It certainly doesn’t feel like Christmas time unless that’s happening.

It also didn’t help that the first year away I was busy with work, the next I was sick as a dog, and the third I was melting in the Australian sun, too hot to really enjoy it!

Having said that, I do have some magical wintry memories from my time spent in Canada. I’m a sucker for a white Christmas and that was exactly what I got. I spent 2 years snowboarding my favourite runs with my new favourite people, even when I was ill! 

I did get to play in the pow on Christmas Day during my ski season in Canada though!

This year, I’m spending Christmas with friends in Tasmania, where it will, with any luck, be closer in temperature to my beloved UK winter. 

These are friends we met in Canada, where we bonded over a love of powdery days of snow, the rock of a snowboard and tree runs. And booze – you can’t forget the booze!

I am definitely excited to spend it with friends this year, but it still won’t feel like Christmas to me. The other major difference for me is that the day happens to fall in the middle of summer in Australia. I cannot get my head around this Southern Hemisphere nonsense. Christmas is not Christmas if it’s even remotely above 10 degrees. It just doesn’t work for me.

Spending the day on the beach is incredible, but it’s like spending any other summer’s day at the seaside. 

There are ups and downs to being an expat, or even just a nomad, but people rarely think of these. And we rarely talk about them. It can be lonely, isolating and emotionally draining. 

Over the years I’ve learned more and more about the importance of everyday little things (both at Christmas and year-round) – smells, sounds and crappy cracker jokes.

expat life
How good is living?!

I am no longer interested in material possessions, I have never been driven by money, and I still don’t give a flying f*ck what anyone thinks of me.

Being an expat has changed many things for me but the one thing that will never change is the magic of Christmas spent with family and friends. 

Where will you be this Christmas? What are your traditions? 


What do you reckon?

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