5 Tips for Surviving the Holiday Season Abroad

The holiday season is nigh, which means food, family and revelry.  Regrettably, a life abroad can sometimes mean not being home for the holidays with loved ones and familiar traditions; tickets home could be out of budget or time constraints could keep you grounded. So what happens if you can’t be in your home country during the most wonderful time of the year? Here are some suggestions on how to make the most of the holidays when you’re far from home.


Keep a Piece of Home with You

Despite our best efforts, sometimes homesickness will rear its ugly head around the holidays and you’ll want to feel a connection to home. Schedule a Skype date with family while they’re all together if it’ll make you feel like you’re there with them. Have loved ones send care packages with hard to find holiday treats.  Play your favorite holiday movie and reminisce. Do whatever allows you to feel the love from afar.


Celebrate with Friends

If you can’t celebrate your favorite holiday with your family, why not celebrate with friends instead? This is especially true for a holiday like Thanksgiving, a huge deal in North America, not so much elsewhere. If your friends are from the same country and also unable to travel home, band together for a bit of fun. And don’t be afraid to invite locals too; they’ll get insight about where you’re from. Throw a potluck, gift exchange, ugly sweater party, whatever will make you feel some holiday cheer.



The Christmas season means a few days off from work or school for many people, so why not use that time to see somewhere new? If you’re in Europe, there are a plethora of magical Christmas markets that can be quickly (and cheaply) reached in countries like Germany, Belgium, France and more. They typically run from late November through the New Year and are guaranteed to delight your senses. On the other hand you could explore your newly adopted country by planning a day trip or overnight to a new region. Be sure to check out what days are bank holidays while making any travel plans as businesses could be closed and some services may be unavailable.


Create New Traditions

We all love our family traditions, whether that be watching the game on TV with the fam or gorging yourself on your Mom’s holiday roast. It can be hard to be away from those familiar sights and smells, but being away from the norm can also serve as a catalyst for new ideas. If you usually open gifts on Christmas morning, why not do it on Christmas Eve? No turkeys in sight for Thanksgiving? Roast a chicken or quail for a twist on your holiday dinner. Being flexible and adapting to your circumstances will guarantee that the holiday spirit will be present no matter how you celebrate!


Do as the Locals Do

When in Rome…go with the flow! You’re living in a different country to be exposed the new and different and the holidays are the prime season for viewing another countries’ culture and customs. Probably like in your home country, specialty foods make appearances for the holidays. Song and dance abounds. There may even be costumes involved. You may also have the opportunity to experience holidays that are unique to the country or city. In the end, you’ll be glad you got to discover a new facet of your new country!

This post was originally published on December 19, 2016

How are you spending the holidays this year?

Christine is a native New Yorker who moved to Madrid, Spain in 2011 and hasn’t looked back since. She’s always on the hunt for something beautiful, whether she’s exploring Spain, country hopping or seeking the next culinary delight. Follow her adventures @xsteene88 on Instagram.