I’ve been living overseas 5 years now.

And it’s that time of the year again. “The Holidays.”  

I don’t usually talk about it, because is that time of the year when we expats inevitably – no matter how happy are in our new foreign home – are a bit nostalgic of being far from family and loved ones. Without mentioning that if you plan to spend Christmas alone is, to most Europeans, symptom to a terminal illness.

I am not going to lie – it can feel strange waking up alone on Christmas Day with no pressing reason to get out of bed. I have been working hard the entire year and honestly, I have been waiting for Christmas, but not for the the real meaning of Christmas, but just to take a deep breath to look behind me and realize what I’ve done all this time.

But like in everything there are inevitable ups and downs, highs and lows. This year I wasn’t home for Christmas. Neither last year. Nor do I had any fun trips planned for Christmas. Long story short, all my plans fell through and I have been far too busy to plan a spectacular alternative.

As the festive season is going to end, my expat guide may be useful to you for the next year or another.

So step 1 to being awesome at Christmas when you’re abroad:

1. Don’t be alone.

Christmas in Brussels

No matter where you are living, there’s sure to be something for you in a Christmas Market or event. Personally I spent my entire evening on photographing the awesome Brussels Christmas Market, drinking spiced mulled wine, eating roasted chestnuts and enjoying a beautiful view in a big wheel. I took my camera, GoPro, smartphone anything I could, and just went out.

2. Remain positive.

It might sound cliché, but it’s Christmas after all! The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by positivism and enthusiasm of people.

3. Be thankful.

Christmas Market in Verona

I look back and I know that squeezing my life into (only one) suitcase and leaving my native country Romania was the best decision that I could have possibly made. Because when I moved away, when I turned my life into a journey filled with uncertainty, I finally grew up in some unexpected ways that I’m proud of.

I may not spending the holidays with my family back home, but I am thankful to be here and have an opportunity of living my dreams, and that’s what counts! I was working hard for this and I finally have the chance to do something ‘different’.

I still think having a traditional Christmas with family is the ‘right’ way do spend it, but when it’s not possible I’m just thankful for what I have.

4. Take your time. 

Is it strange that I have never felt to be home for Christmas?

For an expat, going home can be like speed-dating – everything goes by so fast that, when you look back, you’re not really sure what happened.  This might be the only period of the year when you can sit down and chill, so why to ruin this period by being stressed when you can simply avoid the rush by booking yourself a flight home at other, less costly times of year.

Christmas Market in Verona

5. You win some, you lose some

And I’ve accepted this. Nothing is going to be perfect in this life. Christmas abroad can be lonely, sure, and I have struggled with that. Spending it without family may not be perfect, but there are awful things in the world than this.

What about you? Have you ever spent Christmas abroad? Share your experience in the comments bellow 🙂

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, no matter where you’re spending them!