How to Celebrate the Holidays When You Live Abroad

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The expat life is exciting because it can make all the mundane things a person does seem suddenly more interesting. (I am not drinking in a bar. I am drinking in a bar on the other side of the world.) But when the holidays come around, it's hard not to feel a bit bummed about missing out on old traditions. Here are some tips for how to have an excellent expat holiday.

Decorate - The amount of decorating that can be done in an expat abode varies wildly, but there's usually a little something that can be done. If you would usually get a tree, go ahead and do that if you can. (A rosemary bush makes a decent substitute.) Bring in lights, scented candles, and novelty plates to fill with cookies. As a bonus, your decorated place will likely draw in more friends with no place to go for the holidays, which will make everything even cheerier.

Know who is in town - You likely are not the only person in town for the holidays. Reach out to your friends and acquaintances to learn who all will be around during the holidays. Keep your list handy, and no one will ever lack for company.

Cook something - Food is a big part of celebrating the holidays. Bring out your cookbook and try your hand at grandma's cookies, Aunt Helen's roast chicken, or mom's hot buttered rum.

Have a big holiday dinner - In any expat group, there is almost always at least one person organized enough to put together a big holiday dinner for everyone who is around during the holidays. Find that person and be friends with them, or become that person yourself. Having everyone bring a dish or contribution is a good way to get everyone involved and take some of the pressure off the host.

Do tourist stuff - When we live abroad, we can miss a lot of the noteworthy tourist stuff. Why deal with the big tourist spot crowds when your locale is right around the corner? But during the holidays tourist numbers can be low, so get your map, your camera, and head over to your area's biggest, most famous attractions.

Do something for someone else - Nothing makes a person appreciate what they have like doing something for someone else. Volunteer your time for a good cause, and everything else you do during the holidays will seem brighter.

Do something for you - If you are spending the holidays alone in another country, it's a perfect time to indulge yourself. Go to a spa for some pampering, get yourself a nice treat (I like the kind with bubbles), or just deep-condition your hair and binge watch Charmed on Netflix.

Have you ever spent the holidays abroad? Share your tips in the comments.

(Image credits: Elizabeth Licata)

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