Going ‘home’ for Christmas as an expat can be a thrilling and daunting experience. It’s a rush of catching up, rose-tinted views of life ‘back home’, extended family and the ever-present dilemma of how much to share about your life in distant climes…
Heading home can indeed be wonderful. Family and friends, cosy chats, familiarity and festivity. On the other hand it can be very hard work too. Jet-lag, living out of a suitcase, trying to spread your finite time between everyone you want to see and everything you want to do. And presents? Last minute shopping locally, or pay the excess baggage and risk presents in your suitcase? And if you have kids in tow, do relatives ever listen when you politely ask them NOT to get massive, heavy gifts for the children?
On the other hand, staying in your country of residence for the festive break also has pros and cons. The joy of no international travel. A home you are familiar with, an equipped kitchen to cook and you get to enjoy the tree you probably put up on December 1st, instead of rushing off and leaving it behind. And missing family and friends, and vowing that next year we’ll go ‘home’…
However you’ll be spending the holidays, there are a couple of things that are important.
Whilst I virtually never heed my own advice here, and whilst it does sound corny, Christmas should be about the presence, not the presents…especially if you’ve just flown halfway around the world, its about being with those who are special to you, not about what you bought for them. (Otherwise we’d just use Amazon and stay put, right?)
Traditions matter. Whether it’s the homemade Advent calendar, that cake recipe or a film you simply have to watch together, try to maintain traditions, or build new ones. Especially if you are with your children, they will remember a Christmas tradition in years to come, though they’ll struggle to recall that present they REALLY wanted.
And above all, remember to be gentle with yourself. You may be frazzled, exhausted, trying to please everyone and feeling guilty all at the same time. Take time for you, as well.