Written by Katie Savage
Most expats feel pangs of loneliness at times, but the holidays can be the worst, especially if you’re in a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Having a Christmas abroad can be a lonely time for people.
My first Christmas abroad i tried to recreate the Christmas i was familiar with, which just made me lonely and miss home more. I have created some Christmas tips for a Merry Christmas in Eindhoven. They are not survival tips, but tips to start to make Christmas in Eindhoven extra special and beat the Christmas Blues. I hope you find them useful. I would love to hear your ideas!
- Start New Traditions
Christmas without loads of family didn’t really feel like Christmas to me. It felt like just any other old day! Where was the special, magical feeling!? My husband and I decided we needed to start a few traditions of our own that we could continue in the future years and still have the day feel “different.”
It’s fun to choose things that you have never done back home, but decide to do on your own to help make the day feel more “special” and would be something you could recreate each year , as your own Christmas Traditions.
- Choose Traditions from Home Wisely
I didn’t realize that by trying to do some of my family’s traditions by myself would only amplify the fact that I WASN’T home and spending that time with family. What was supposed to be a way to bring home closer to me, only made me sadder. I quickly learned that some traditions only make it harder and therefore, should be left for the years that I could be home.
The point here is that some traditions are just too much of a trigger for us, so maybe we should readjust to meet our needs.
- Embrace your Current Situation
Find something that the locals do where you currently live and dive in. I now can’t imagine future Christmas seasons WITHOUT a Christmas Market! We try to go to as many as possible each season and fully partake in all the local fun and traditions.
Find something that is unique to the culture and location of where you will be over the Holidays and try to incorporate that into your home and Holidays.
No matter how busy I kept myself or how many Christmas Markets I attended, it is always Christmas Eve and Day that are the hardest for me.
For me, it had more to do with the fact that I would see all my friends on Facebook posting about heading to our local (In Irish terms that means your local pub) or sharing a picture of them with their families. All the while, I would get constant “dings” from my own family’s WhatsApp showing all the small things they were doing together. Each time I saw my nephews and nieces playing together, my sisters in the middle of an intense game of monopoly, my sister holding my new niece in an adorable Christmas outfit or my mom baking something delicious in the kitchen, it was just another reminder that I wasn’t there with them.
I finally learned to unplug from about the 23rd until the day after Christmas. I didn’t log into Facebook. I turned off my WhatsApp messenger and stayed away. I could still call and Skype home for a bit to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, but not CONSTANTLY getting those notifications and reminders from all forms of social media really helped to keep my mind off the fact that I wasn’t with family and friends.
— I know, I know this is probably a lot to ask for a lot of you, but you don’t have to turn off completely but maybe choose a time to look instead of the constant pinging of messages the whole day.
- Find a Local “Family”
No family can replace your own. However, we found that having an extremely close-knit group of friends that also were sticking around for the holidays helped. We could share holiday dinners together and, even just for a few hours, take our minds off the distance of us and home. Sure, someone may make a pie differently than your family would or maybe have a completely different kind of meal than you are used to, so it just may not “feel the same.” However, having others who are going through the same thing as you and having a support system to spend your day with can make all the difference in making your Holiday less painful.
If you are super new here, and do not yet have a group of friends, maybe connect with the international community in Eindhoven Lots of international restaurants often have thanksgiving or Christmas dinners around the holidays, which can satisfy some of your seasonal cravings. Also, see if your city or town has a local international market, where you could pick up some holiday food items to remind you of home. Check out “The Global Village” and “The Hub” …. just to name a few.
Find an organisation that are looking for volunteers. After all it is Christmas and sharing yourself with people in need, can also have a positive effect on your wellbeing.
- Treat yourself (self-care treats)
Go do something fun! Make SURE to take time to do things that you like on the day of the holiday, whether it’s eating at your favorite restaurant or getting a manicure or going shopping. You could even spend the day sight-seeing or going to one of your favorite spots in your town. There are a few activates happening around Eindhoven, plan to attend some of them to help combat the holiday blues. I have included some links at the end for you to check out.
Whatever you do, GET THE HECK OUT OF YOUR ROOM AND OFF YOUR COMPUTER. Being alone only seems to intensify homesickness, especially if you’re bored.
Being away from home, for whatever reason, can be terribly difficult. However, that doesn’t mean you need to go into Scrooge-mode and be miserable!
What are some of the ways that you have been able to survive the Holidays while you have been away from home?
Some useful links:
https://www.dinnersite.nl/kerst/?mc=header (Dutch) eating out
https://www.mamyloe.nl/eindhoven/kindvriendelijk-restaurant (Dutch Restaurants with kids)