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Making the Most of Spending the Holidays Abroad

There are many words in the German language that don’t easily translate into English. At this time of year, the one that comes to mind is “Heimat”. As international airports bustle with people returning home for the holidays, the word is apt to describe that intangible feeling of social belonging and home that comes with the season; seeing family and friends, visiting old places, indulging in home comforts.

However, December and the turn of the year is often a tricky time for expats. If you’re not traveling back to your homeland, spending the festive season abroad can be a daunting experience, especially if it’s for the first time. We’re no strangers to that ourselves at InterNations HQ, with our colleagues coming from all corners of the globe. This is also why it is our mission to make expats feel at home in a new country; to recreate their “Heimat” abroad.

That said, there are ways to banish the blues if you are staying put. Here, some of our volunteers and InterNations team members reflect on what they do when away from home at this time of year.

Reach Out to Those in the Same Boat

If you are staying put, don’t be shy, reach out to those who are in the same position as you! For whatever reason, be it work, money, family, there will always be someone staying put, too. The platform is a great way to find like-minded folks to celebrate with, by either posting an activity or asking on the forum. You can check out these Christmas activities in Tashkent and Montreal for inspiration. Or perhaps you’d like to do something more creative! This year the Lima writers Group are sharing Christmas stories to get in the festive mood.

Create a Piece of Home

Often at this time of year, we see lots of groups getting together to celebrate the festive season. Often, our members introduce their own Christmas and New Year’s Eve traditions to each other. Food is often the main focus and a great reason to meet up. Many group members use this opportunity to share the culinary festive delights of their home country. Check out this Russian Christmas Dinner in Rome for inspiration! Gabriela Roschinsky, InterNations Ambassador and Consul in Amman, went one further this year and created her own Austrian winter wonderland in the Jordanian capital.

Throw Yourself into the Local Culture

Michael Rawson, Community Manager for Eastern Europe and Switzerland, hails from Yorkshire, England but now lives in Nuremberg, Germany. His advice: Be open to the local culture. “The first time it was a shock, not staying in England, and you miss the little things. Ale in the pub with friends, watching the Boxing Day football, and of course family.” Now however, he’s a German Christmas convert. “I decided to just throw myself into the experience, meeting people and asking them to share their customs with me. Goose for dinner, not turkey, presents on Christmas Eve, and of course the world famous Christmas markets.” You can get a taste of the famous Nuremburg Christmas market with the Nuremberg Book Group.

Mix It up a Little

If you’ve got time on your hands, but aren’t making a big journey back, how about going off the beaten track for some quiet reflection? Laura Bulluss, Consul of the Munich Australian Group has been away for four years now, and is spending her second Christmas in Europe. She said “It was strange at first, not watching cricket, and not spending the day sheltering in the shade — I actually saw real snow for the first time!” But for Laura, Christmas is about discovering something new. “The first time I spent the holidays in Toulouse in France, but this year I’m spending my Christmas near Bologna. I’m using the chance to explore Europe while I can, and by traveling to new places, it makes Christmas that extra bit special for different reasons.” 

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