GUEST POST: Surviving the Festive Season as an Expat

As part of the Expat Series I have started on my blog, I am proud to present you with the first guest post by Emma of The Adventures of a London Kiwia popular lifestyle and travel blog. Emma is originally from New Zealand and now lives in London. 

Having lived in our (both mine and Colleen’s) adoptive home of London for nearly a decade now, the festive season can be bittersweet. I can find myself simultaneously in love with Christmas festivities and also sad at not being able to celebrate with my family back home as often as I would like to (one of the problems with being born on the other side of the world).

I’ve developed a few different ways to survive the sad days of Christmas. homesickness doesn’t bloom too often now but occasionally it can creep up at the most unexpected of times.

Create new traditions

Each year I’ve trialled something new to celebrate the season with my adoptive family – from throwing an indulgent ladies afternoon tea (the boys were only allowed to nibble on the sandwich crusts before being banished) to baking a time-honoured Christmas cake in honour of the Stir Up Sunday tradition (baked in November, the cakes/puddings are drizzled with brandy until the week before Christmas.)

Last year was no exception when my husband and I both travelled home to New Zealand for his first properly summer Christmas. In the sunshine we went to the beach and swam in the Pacific Ocean, managed to discard our shoes for an entire fortnight and ate honey-glazed Christmas Ham followed by steamed fruit pudding replete with coins for the lucky recipients.

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Having a slice of home

Over the years my lovely family have sent us Christmas care boxes that contain both tidings of joy and local ornaments (including Santa wearing shorts and jandals) to decorate our home, but most importantly they have sent over classic recipe books containing my favourite flavours of Christmas. Whilst (usually due to my cooking) the dishes aren’t always up to scratch with my childhood memories, they often come close enough to dispel any gossamer strands of homesickness.

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Celebrating old traditions

These include arranging the family Christmas lunch to coincide with toasting the Queen’s speech (quickly followed by the alternative speech), spending Christmas eve listening to soaring carols by candlelight, dodging the shopping crowds under Oxford Street lights and hauling a Christmas Tree on the train (#londonproblems) for decoration whilst we nibble on Mince Pies dabbed with brandy butter. All the deliciousness of winter festivities basically.

Oh, and not to mention the beautifully spicy scent of mulled wine that trickles out of historic pubs with roaring fires which definitely help with being able to cope away from pouring sunshine…

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Communicating

How on earth did travellers cope before the advent of video calling? We usually start our Christmas day opening presents sent from abroad live on camera, cheers cups of libations (usually alcoholic with their evening, and tea or mimosas for our morning) and giggle at the family members who drift past the camera at home only to turn around and see us in Christmas jumpers and festive pyjamas.

The most memorable year was when London last had snow and I raced out with joy, only to slip over whilst showing my Dad through our genuinely frosty windows. From his lounge bathed in sunshine, he bent over doubled with laughter almost Ho Ho Ho-ing in true Santa style.

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Embrace friends

Both literally and figuratively. Most expats are in the same boat so I always try utilise the excuse for catching up both at Christmas and past the New Year – and one of the joys of being adopted by a plethora of Americans here in the UK, has been rediscovering the simple joy of Thanksgiving feasts

My first year here in the UK, I even went to an orphans Christmas where as a group of expats we all gathered around an international feast of steaming dishes, glasses of bubbly in hand and thoughts of home banished with the laughter of good friends.

And, when all else fails, glitter.

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If you are an expat and would like to contribute an article, please get in touch by emailing: colleen@blondeacrossthepond.com.